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OFFICIAL: Fiorentina re-enlists Badelj

After a year in the hinterlands at Lazio, the Croatian midfielder’s return should stabilize the Viola engine room.

ACF Fiorentina v Benevento Calcio - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Well, that didn’t take long. About 12 hours after we published the news that Milan Badelj’s return to Fiorentina was looming, Joe Barone and Daniele Pradè announced his arrival in a surprise press conference this morning; it’s the sort of quick-fire, out-of-left-field move we tend to associate more with Pantaleo Corvino than Pradè, which makes it a good reminder that the Skinny Ninja is just as capable of working in the shadows as his predecessor.

Badelj, as you may recall, left Fiorentina on a Bosman to Lazio after refusing to sign an extension for a couple of years; his former agent Dejan Joksimović, who raised such a fuss about his client wanting out, was often at the forefront of the trouble. Milan himself, however, was never anything but polite and professional, continuing to give his all for the team even when it became clear that he’d be leaving at season’s end. He even took over Davide Astori’s armband for a bit when Germán Pezzella went down injured at the end of the 2017-2018 season.

While the old saw about reheated soup may apply here, Badelj is a massive upgrade to the Fiorentina midfield. His calm, unfussy work in the middle will free up the likes of Marco Benassi, Gaetano Castrovilli, and Szymon Żurkowski to drive forward, safe in the knowledge that Milan is putting out fires behind them and moving the ball into positive spaces. Still just 30 years old, he has plenty of years left as a top player; after all, this is a guy who’s earned 47 caps in a Croatia midfield brimming with its golden generation’s talent.

The formula of the deal, according to Gianluca di Marzio, is a year-long loan with a €1 million fee and a €4 million payment due at year’s end to keep him. Barring catastrophe, that’s a no-brainer; Badelj provides an obvious upgrade at a position of desperate need and will provide a stabilizing influence on the entire side. This is a bargain deal for an excellent player who seems happy to be back in Florence. Sometimes, things just work themselves out.