In an announcement that really came out of nowhere, Fiorentina have squeaked under the deadline for the signing of winger Rachid Ghezzal. The 27-year old French-born Algerian international joins on what we’re hearing is a year-long loan with a €300,000 fee and an option to buy for another €9.7 million, with the Foxes offering to pay part of his €2.5 million salary.
After coming of age at the Lyon academy, Ghezzal broke out with the senior side in 2015, scoring 10 goals and adding 9 assists across 37 appearances. Playing alongside Alexandre Lacazzette and Maxwel Cornet, he terrorized defenses across Ligue 1 with his close control, dribbling, and clever passing. A move to Monaco in 2017 on a free transfer saw him stuck on the bench for much of the year behind Keita Baldé Diao, Thomas Lemar, and Rony Lopes.
That’s when Leicester City struck, shelling out €14 million for him in the hopes that he’d help offset the loss of Riyad Mahrez. That, uh, didn’t happen, and he finished the season watching from the stands. He scored once in the Premier League but was so underwhelming that our friends at Fosse Posse nearly forgot he was on the team. That’s not great, Bob.
In fairness to Ghezzal, Ligue 1 and the EPL are very different animals, and sometimes things just don’t work out for a player at a time. Leicester will be thrilled to get him (partially) off the books for another year. It does make you a bit anxious, though, that they’re already willing to take a loss on him after just a year.
Capable of playing on either wing, Ghezzal’s not a burner. He’s more of a tricky wide player who likes to receive the ball to his feet before ghosting past his defender or picking a forward pass. He’s pretty good at link-up play, what with his one-touch passing and movement, but he can drift in and out of games and, outside of that 2015-2016 season, has never scored more than twice in the league. If this sounds a bit like Valentin Eysseric, well, uh, yeah.
It’s hard to imagine him being an upgrade over Riccardo Sottil, and even Tòfol Montiel, who’s dripping with upside, may be an improvement, to say nothing of Federico Chiesa and Franck Ribery. The best case scenario is that Daniele Pradè has found a cheap bench option in case Ribery’s injury issues rear their head and another winger is unavailable too. At worst, though, Ghezzal is redundant and never sees the pitch, or gobbles up substitute opportunities that would be better spent on younger options so Fiorentina, who aren’t competing for trophies this year, can see what they can bring.
After hearing promises for guys like Rodrigo de Paul, Raphinha, Matteo Politano, and Diego Rossi, it’s hard not to feel let down by the arrival of Rachid Ghezzal. Let’s try to remember to judge him on his own merits, though, rather than on comparisons to other players we might have preferred. Welcome and good luck, Rachid.