As Fiorentina ponder some much-needed midfield reinforcements, one name that keeps popping up is Ismaël Bennacer. The Empoli and Algeria playmaker was recently the subject of a radio interview between Azzurri president Fabrizio Corsi and tmwradio.com (as transcribed by firenzeviola.it), and the outspoken fashion designer confirmed the Viola’s interest in his number 10.
“There is interest from Fiorentina,” stayed the Empoli owner, “But the question is in stand-by because the player doesn’t want to distract himself from the African Cup. The agents, however, are speaking with various clubs.”
While Corsi didn’t mention a fee, he did call out David Hancko as the sort of player Empoli are interested in, opening the way for a swap of some kind of swap (a loan, possibly with an option to buy and counter-buy, seems the most likely scenario). He did add, though, that the Slovakian defender would have to be amenable, as he doesn’t want to force anyone to play for his team.
Corsi added that Bennacer prefers a certain French team that played in the Champions League last year—probably Lyon—but that this anonymous Ligue 1 outfit hasn’t registered any interest yet; it’s probably an attempt to inflate the price of one of his most valuable assets, but could spur Lyon into an offer.
Arsenal are also reportedly keen on the 21-year-old (or at least on the 30% of any fee paid for him they’d receive), as are Napoli, AS Roma, and Genoa (as reported by the ever-reliable Gianluca di Marzio), but Fiorentina seem like the best possible destination for a young player ready for a bigger club that will offer a surefire starting role.
Bennacer is worth the hype, too. An assured figure on the ball, he’s a creative passer and clever in possession while offering a threat with his set piece delivery and shooting. He’s more of a registered than a destroyer from his usual spot in front of the back line, although he can easily slot in farther up the pitch as well. While he’s adequate at best defensively, he certainly has the look of a Vincenzo Montella player.
Although Empoli, bound for Serie B, will feel some pressure to sell talent and reinvest, an Algeria international with 11 caps at the age of 21 doesn’t come cheap. We’d expect an offer around €15 million, possibly with Hancko on loan, to suffice for his services, but only time and Daniele Pradè will tell if this whole thing has any truth to it.