As we brace ourselves for yet another rebuilding effort this summer, it’s clear that the biggest changes will come in the midfield. Jordan Veretout has been heavily linked to Napoli, while Gerson and Edimilson Fernandes are likely to return to AS Roma and West Ham, respectively. That leaves the yikes-inducing group of Marco Benassi, Bryan Dabo, and Christian Nørgaard returning; Szymon Żurkowski, Hamed Junior Traorè (health permitting), and Gaetano Castrovilli will all be arriving as well, but none are exactly sure things at this point.
Clearly, the engine room desperately needs reinforcement with players who possess some technical quality. And that’s where Eljif Elmas comes into the conversation. The 19-year-old Macedonian of Turkish descent currently plays for Istanbul giants Fenerbahçe, but is expected to leave for a sum of around €15 million this summer. Despite interest from Leicester City, TuttoMercatoWeb (in fairness, not the most reliable source on the internet) claims that Fiorentina are currently frontrunners for his services.
So let’s break this down a little bit. That’s a whole pile of money to shell out on a teenager who’s got a fair amount of growing to do before he’s the finished article. On the plus side, he’s got quick feet, both the desire and ability to carry the ball forward from deep, a wicked shot with either foot, and the vision and technique to switch play to the wings. He needs to get stronger, however, and he doesn’t add a whole lot defensively yet. He also drifts in and out of games sometimes, and also wears the number 99, which is just a shame.
He’s already got 10 caps for North Macedonia, too, and will have reached a much wider audience over this international break after scoring a brace after replacing the injured Ferhan Hasani against Latvia last Thursday, including this piece of utterly disrespectful skill to put it away late.
In terms of skill set, he looks like he might overlap considerably with Benassi, Żurkowski, and Traorè: all three are box-to-box runners more than passers or destroyers. Elmas, at least, looks like he’d do well in a Eusebio di Francesco midfield. But for €15 million, that’s a substantial gamble, especially for a team that so desperately needs passers, rather than ball-carriers, in the middle.