While it can be tough to pick what Fiorentina’s greatest weakness was last year, the lack of a true defensive midfielder is near, if not at, the top of the list. Despite Jordan Veretout’s best efforts, the engine room was a region of despair; since his departure, it’s gotten worse. This team obviously missed the calming influence of Milan Badelj, so it’s no great surprise that he’s now tapped for a return to Tuscany, with an official announcement expected as early as Monday.
Badelj’s departure was a bit of a bummer—his former agent Dejan Joksimović raised all kinds of ruckus trying to force the Viola into a sale before Badelj fired him prior to leaving on a Bosman—but the Croatia international’s professionalism has never been up for debate. Despite spending the year stuck behind Lucas Leiva on the depth chart and making just 16 starts, he remained publicly committed to Simone Inzaghi’s cause.
According to the rumor mill, the Buancocelestinare willing to loan him for €1 million with a €6 million fee to make the move permanent; it’s a very cheap deal for a 30-year-old whose game doesn’t require too much athleticism, indicating that he could have a few years left at a high level.
The 47-time capped Croatia international first joined Fiorentina from Hamburg for €4 million in 2014. After a season spent as David Pizarro’s understudy, he took that deep midfield role and made it his, earning 140 appearances in his Viola career to date. He scored 6, assisted 10, and earned 37 yellow cards and 2 red cards in that time. More importantly, though, his quiet competence in front of the back line under Vincenzo Montella, Paulo Sousa, and Stefano Pioli provided a platform for the players further up the pitch to build masterpieces on. It’s no coincidence that his departure led to a massive drop across the pitch for everyone else.
Badelj is the station wagon of midfielders: boring, slow, reliable, and able to carry any burden. Adding him would be a big boost for this squad’s still-questionable midfield, so we’re all for it.