As Fiorentina wind down a deeply disappointing season, it’s natural to gaze out onto the still-nebulous and thus not entirely terrible future. As for most football fans, that means looking to the next transfer window; for the Viola specifically, this upcoming summer market is going to be an important one as the team moves away from Stefano Pioli’s pressure-and-counter tactics to Vincenzo Montella’s more possession-oriented scheme. While the midfield probably requires the biggest overhaul, the attack probably needs some help too, and that’s where a player like Denis Bouanga could help.
According to a host of reports from Italy, the 24-year-old Nimes winger has caught Pantaleo Corvino’s eye. In 32 domestic appearances this year, he’s produced 7 goals (good for the clubhouse lead) and 3 assists, which works out to a goal notched or created every 221 minutes; that’s better than anyone on the Viola roster this year except for Fede Chiesa (198), Luis Muriel (177), and Giovanni Simeone (199) have all been better in that regard, although it’s not the most telling statistic, particularly for a team like Nimes that just achieved promotion.
As a player, Bouanga is clearly talented but still a bit uneven. He’s got the pace and intelligence of movement to offer a threat in behind, which is his primary weapon, but he also can drop deep to receive the ball at his feet and beat his man off the dribble. His knack for finding space in the box and finishing with either foot is impressive. Perhaps most intriguing is his defensive work—he consistently wins the ball both in his own half and by stepping forward into the opponent’s half. What really holds him back right now is his often overambitious passing, which needlessly cedes possession.
If he can tighten up his passing, you can see a manager like Montella turning him into a serious weapon via his off-ball work. With the versatility to play on either wing (or even as a striker in a pinch) and his excellent attitude, he’s clearly an ascendant player; you don’t earn 11 caps, 2 goals, and an assist for Gabon without being quite good, and he’s only getting better, which explains why Atalanta, Genoa, Sampdoria, Wolfsburg, and Hoffenheim are also thought to be in hot pursuit as well.
The rub here is the price. While Nimes snapped him up for just €3 million from Tours this past July, his performances for les Crocodiles (excellent nickname, by the way) have probably ensure that his price has at least doubled, especially since he’s under contract until 2021. Corvino has recently dipped heavily into France for talent—Jordan Veretout, Valentin Eysseric, Bryan Dabo, Alban Lafont—so Bouanga certainly fits the profile. However, given his age (the Crow rarely spends on players over the age of 23) and the hefty price tag Nimes will attach to him, we have trouble believing that Bouanga will wind up wearing purple next year.