Dušan Vlahović won’t turn 20 until later this month, but he’s already a regular starter in Serie A, just got his first callup for the Serbia U21s, and earned a spot on UEFA’s Fifty for the Future list this year. He’s blessed with outrageous athletic gifts: a massive frame that implies physical power, yes, but also unexpected pace and surprising technique; he’s even begun to take free kicks over seasoned veteran Erick Pulgar at times. You might think that this is his breakout season, and you wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that AS Roma are casting covetous glances at him as a result.
Of course, that would be ignoring his stats and his performance on the pitch, where he’s been, frankly, well off the mark. He’s yet to translate those immense gifts into goals, having scored just 3 goals in the league this year (and 2 of them came after Cagliari had gone up 5-0 and were clearly coasting). His finishing has been woeful, his movement timid, and his confidence absent. While he’s still got gobs of ability, he clearly needs a year or two of seasoning, of starting regularly so he can figure out how to put it all together. He’s simply not ready at this level yet, which is no insult to him: he’s miles ahead of where an overwhelming majority of professionals at similar stages in their respective careers. He’s going to be excellent.
Perhaps that’s why Roma are sniffing around. Fiorentina have been a fertile proving ground for the Lupi before, what with Adem Ljajić, Mohamed Salah, Nicolò Zaniolo, and Jordan Veretout having all moved onto the capitol from Florence. However, Vlahović’s agent Darko Ristić recently snuffed out any chance of a move with a statement to Giallorossi site siamolaroma.net (as reported by ViolaNews), saying, “There are many clubs interested but he’s certainly not changing clubs in January.” Ristić only upped the ante from there, adding, “A goodbye in June? Dušan is very happy in Florence, we’ll probably speak soon about a new contract.”
Vlahović has come in for his fair share of grief this season, both here and elsewhere, for his substandard play up top. However, it would be a huge mistake not to give him a small pay raise. He’s a teenager in his first full year of top-flight football, and he hasn’t looked out of place; all he needs is a bit of time to hone his skills.
The Viola have let too many players go in the recent past before their peaks. Under Rocco Commisso, the team has started to lock up its young talent by extending the likes of Gaetano Castrovilli, Lorenzo Venuti, and Luca Ranieri; getting a big name like Vlahović, who isn’t an academy product, under wraps is the next step.