Having closed a huge move to bring Wolverhampton Wanderers’ striker Patrick Cutrone back to Italy, it seems that Daniele Pradè and Joe Barone have turned their attention to Sassuolo midfielder Alfred Duncan. According to TuttoMercatoWeb, the Fiorentina brain trust wants to get the deal done as quickly as possible to head off interest from AC Milan, who are waiting to sell Franck Kessié before opening negotiations for the Ghanaian.
It sounds like Neroverdi boss Roberto de Zerbi is resigned to losing his star midfielder, but that won’t stop the Modena outfit from asking €20 million for him, and it seems that they intend to hold firm on that request. It’s a big pile of money, but given that his contract runs until 2022 and that other clubs are circling, they can play hardball.
In fairness, Duncan’s probably worth it. While he does indeed have the strength and stamina that the media insists every African midfielder possesses, he’s a lot more than a pure destroyer, although he’s an excellent ball-winner as well. He’s at his best when given license to range forward, carrying the ball past an initial defender and deforming a retreating defense, before threading the next pass into a teammate going forward. He’s also got a wicked shot from distance and the technique to dribble a marker, and he’s a fairly creative passer; he can switch play or maintain possession as well as play the killer pass, as evidenced by his club-leading 5 assists this season. All in all, he’s a complete midfielder.
He also looks like an excellent complement to Gaetano Castrovilli and Erick Pulgar in the Viola engine room, as he’ll provide more defensive cover and work on the ball than Marco Benassi and more mobility and verticality than Milan Badelj. Giuseppe Iachini’s familiar with him from their time together at Sassuolo, and so probably knows how to get the best out of him.
De Zerbi has started him in just 10 of 18 matches this year, which seems odd; Pedro Obiang (who is NOT linked to Fiorentina right now) and Manuel Locatelli seem to have the mister’s trust more than Duncan, which is a bit odd but whatever. With a well-stocked midfield—veteran Francesco Magnanelli and youngster Hamed Junior Traorè are also around—this is as good a chance as the Neroverdi will have to cash in on Duncan. That he’s carrying a thigh knock is unlikely to drive his price down, especially because it could be the sort of “injury” that keeps a player off the pitch and out of danger until a deal goes through.
That €20 million is steep, though. An initial loan with a fee of €4 million or so sounds right, with the remainder due next year. We could see a player go the other way as well, either on loan or as a makeweight (Riccardo Sottil, Szymon Żurkowski, and Federico Ceccherini are possibilities), but it sounds like it’s cash or nothing as far as Sassuolo is concerned. Should the deal fall through, expect Pradè Barone to turn their attention to Torino’s Soualiho Meïté or Udinese’s Seko Fofana. But Duncan seems like a decent bet to wear purple this year, and he’d make a great addition to the squad.