You have to wonder if Rocco Commisso knew all along when acquiring Fiorentina in a deal estimated at €150m, that within six months La Viola would be linked with a nineteen year-old midfielder valued at twice that amount - a move of unquestionable ambition for a player yet to make an appearance in Serie A.
Thankfully for Rocco and a host of Europe’s top sides, transfermarkt’s somewhat conservative €31m valuation is likely to be more pragmatic. In any case it is clear that Brescia’s president Massimo Cellino realises the potential of their star in the making: Sandro Tonali.
Tonali has been extremely impressive so far this season for I Biancazzurri, featuring as a regista while proving to be Brescia’s most important player in possession, justifying the comparisons to maverick compatriot Andrea Pirlo. Di Marzio reported Fiorentina’s interest throughout the Summer transfer window, which considering the level of other teams interested, would have been a coup.
Rondinelle president Cellino’s decision not to part ways with Tonali has so far proved to be a commendable one. This has not only ensured Brescia’s competitiveness in the Serie A, but will likely pay dividends in the form of a higher transfer fee when they decide to move him on. In the goalless draw vs Fiorentina at the Stadio Mario Rigamonti last Monday, he took 5 minutes to introduce himself.
The free kick the other day is getting attention (for good reason), but it's play like this that makes Sandro Tonali special pic.twitter.com/5IKCSt1mx5— SevcOjo (@Pena_Cartel) October 27, 2019
Leaving the sleight of hand to one side, this move showcases Tonali’s unique potential. First the skill to escape the challenge from Erick Pulgar; then the pace and technique to bring the ball towards the box; finally the awareness to anticipate an interception from Nikola Milenkovic, which creates a clear-cut goalscoring opportunity for Brescia. Extended highlights from the game can be seen below.
Milan Badelj, occupying a similar position in Fiorentina’s midfield three, has been a reliable presence for La Viola this season. In a team set up to counter attack effectively by Head Coach Vincenzo Montella, Badelj represents an experienced option in possession and an accomplished defensive anchor — complementing the combative quality of Pulgar and energy of Gaetano Castrovilli.
In the second half vs Brescia however, it was evident that Fiorentina were in desperate need for an alternative solution to help break down the low block that prevented Montella’s side from scoring - Castrovilli’s effectiveness being a fine case study for this. Tonali’s mobility and ability to win the ball high up the pitch would have been perfect for this role. Failing that a moment from a set piece would have worked all the same.
It appears that it is only a matter of time before Tonali will move on from Brescia and reportedly there have already been offers made by teams playing on a higher level than Fiorentina currently. As a prospect, the key footballing considerations for any switch will be; system, minutes and a Head Coach with a track record of improving young players. La Viola then, revitalised by a promising ownership structure and with an exemplary track record of player development, represents a proposition to be taken very seriously.