Following a rough stretch at Genoa to start the year, Fiorentina have worked with the Grifoni to move Riccardo Saponara to Lecce on loan; it’s believed that there’s no option to buy and that he’ll end up back in Florence at season’s end. It’s another lost stretch for the undeniably talented trequartista, and another reminder that players with his skillset have been left behind by the modern game.
The bigger problem for our beloved Cheese this year is that he’s been injured for much of the season; in fact, he’s made just 4 appearances in the league (although he did score off the bench in the Coppa Italia). He’s dealt with hamstring, head, and ankle problems this year, as well as a red card received from the bench. Too, he simply didn’t fit the tactics of former Genoa boss Thiago Motta (the fabled 2-7-2, which was really more of a 4-4-2) or of current manager Davide Nicola (strictly a 3-5-2 man).
At Lecce (assuming he can stay healthy), he should find a more congenial atmosphere. Manager Fabio Liverani also plays a 3-5-2, but it frequently looks more like a 3-4-1-2. Marco Mancosu is the usual starter in that spot behind the strikers, but Saponara could well displace him on talent, given that Liverani knows a thing or two about making intelligent but athletically limited players work. There’s also a strong ex-Viola component to the squad, with Liverani, Jacopo Petriccione, and Khouma Babacar all there.
Look, we’ve made our feelings on Ricky clear over the years. He’s a beautiful player whose ability to find creases in the defense and exploit them with perfectly weighted passes is breathtaking, and also belongs to an era before fitness and pressing took over the game. He also seems like a genuinely wonderful person, toggling between heartfelt (his discussions about Davide Astori) and antic (he’s maybe the funniest and most understated social media presence the Viola have ever had). It’s stunning that he’s still just 27, theoretically entering his prime; we hope that he stays healthy, stays on the pitch, and shows his undeniable class for the next several months.