José Callejón just closed the door on a 7-year stint at Napoli which saw him make 349 appearances and score 82 goals to go with his 78 assists. Those rank 7th, 11th, and 3rd in club history, respectively, and make him an instant legend in Naples. Despite this, the Partenopei elected not to extend the 33-year-old’s contract this summer, letting him walk as a free agent. And since then, there haven’t been all that many reports of his next step.
Gianluca di Marzio claims that Fiorentina are looking at the Spaniard as a Federico Chiesa replacement should the allure (???) of Juventus prove too much to overcome. We are as loath as ever to go against the most reliable transfer reporter in Italy, but we’re hoping this one is more of a tertiary option than a primary one for several reasons.
The first is that Callejón has never served as a wingback before. While he’s obviously a smart player who knows where to be, expecting him to figure out a new role might be asking a lot of a guy his age. The Viola have tried turning experienced wingers into wingbacks before with mixed results (Jakub Błaszczykowski, Joaquín). Callejón could likely do the job but hasn’t ever been tasked with so much defensive responsibility.
Second, even if he does take to the new position, a lot of what made Callejón so deadly for Napoli was his tactical brief at Napoli, which generally saw him stay very high up the pitch and right on the touchline at all times, free to dart in behind the defense at the slightest notice. Giuseppe Iachini’s wingbacks, meanwhile, tend to start much deeper. Callejón is a good ball carrier but lacks Chiesa’s dynamism in possession, so swapping them out would limit what the ex-Real Madrid man does best while not replacing Fede’s outstanding characteristics. Moving Callejón deeper means that he won’t be in position to score the same goal he scored for 7 years in Naples. Literally the same goal, every single time.
Jose Callejon leaves Napoli after 7 years of scoring the exact same goal over and over again...— FIVEYARDS (@FIVE__YARDS) August 10, 2020
The back-post merchant... pic.twitter.com/Jy3wmEAJ1Z
Third, he’s reportedly asking for €3.5 million in salary. That would make him the second-highest earner in the team after Franck Ribery. It’s safe to assume that the Spaniard would want at least a 2-year contract, which means he’d be 36 by the time his time was up. That’s a lot of money to sink into a guy that age; while it’s clearly worth it for Ribery, he’s an absolute freak and an outlier and, with all respect to José Callejón, a superior player. It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of Callejón’s effectiveness relies on his pure pace, which he may be able to maintain even as he ages, but it’s pretty rare for a guy in his mid-thirties to hang onto the foot speed of his younger days.
Finally, there’s the matter of squad building. While Danielè Prade loves to pay low transfer fees for experienced players (that’s pretty much his whole thing), he’s got plenty of veterans in the clubhouse already: Ribery, Martín Cáceres, Borja Valero, and Giacomo Bonaventura have seen and done pretty much everything between them. Adding another 30-something to the mix would prevent younger talent from developing and making a bigger impact, both on the pitch and in the ledger, down the road. That feels very shortsighted.
Of course, that’s not to say that the Viola won’t try for the move. But with a more-than-capable wingback in Pol Lirola already on the roster, splurging on Callejón’s big wages feels unnecessary. Given the talented young core of the current Fiorentina team, it’d be smarter to reinvest in the next generation rather than the past one if the club wants a sustainable return to Europe.