In a statement posted on the club website this morning, Fiorentina announced that last year’s starting goalkeeper Alban Lafont has been loaned to Nantes. The Canaries will have an option (rumored to be €7 million) to make the move permanent, while the Viola will have an option to buy him back for an undisclosed amount. In a weird coincidence, he’ll replace former Fiorentina goalie Ciprian Tătărușanu, who’s en route to Lyon.
It’s a rather ignominious conclusion to Lafont’s career in Florence despite promising early signs. Touted as the best teenage goalkeeper in France when Pantaleo Corvino engineered an unexpected €8 million move from Toulouse last summer, expectations were (perhaps unrealistically) high for the youngster.
He didn’t settle in immediately and showed a few worrying habits early that he never shook off: overconfidence with the ball at his feet, trouble claiming crosses, and a knack for punching the ball straight back down the middle. He also made several saves that defied physics and won his side crucial points; all in all, he was probably a neutral addition to the team when all was said and done.
In an interview with FirenzeViola.it, Lafont explained that he decided months ago to move on, citing the chaos at the end of the Della Valle era as a reason he never got comfortable. He took full responsibility for his departure and complimented the city and the fans. For someone too young to buy a bottle of wine in the US, he sounded mature and professional, explaining that it was basically a case of wrong place at the wrong time.
It’s a bit fishy that the club would give up on the France U20 starter and putative future starter after just a year, but perhaps Daniele Pradè doesn’t err him as highly as Corvino does. There could be other, unpublished aspects to the deal as well, given that Fiorentina and Nantes are working on a loan for the second consecutive transfer window—Valentin Eysseric made the switch last January. Perhaps the Tuscans will get a slice of any future sales. Perhaps they’re considering a move for some other Canary and using this formula for esoteric financial reasons. Perhaps there’s something else entirely that we aren’t currently and may never be privy to.
This means, of course, that Bartłomiej Drągowski is the presumptive number one for Fiorentina next season on the back of his outstanding work at Empoli over the back half of last year. However, he reportedly has numerous admirers in England and could leave for big money, opening the door for Pradè to sign Mattia Perin, who’s been linked with the Viola after Gianluigi Buffon rejoined Juventus.
It’s enough to make your head spin and this is probably just the first step of a big shakeup between the posts, given that Emiliano Viviano also seems a candidate to return to Florence as the backup. For now, all we can say is goodbye, good luck, and thanks for your work, Alban.