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Fiorentina won’t stop chasing mediocre strikers

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Daniele Pradé rules out some names in Fiorentina’s #9 search, and the current rumors aren’t inspiring

2019 CFA Cup Final - Shanghai Greenland Shenhua v Shandong Luneng Taishan Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images

After my article on Fiorentina’s pursuit of Felipe Caicedo a couple of weeks ago, many of you in the comments section were... not impressed. As Fiorentina’s search for a #9 continues, several high-profile names have been ruled out by Daniele Pradé, and the Italian rumor mill is dredging up some names which may make you all wish for Caicedo instead.

Speaking ahead of Fiorentina’s match against Verona, Daniele Pradé was to-the-point with the prospect of bringing either Krzysztof Piątek or Arkadiusz Milik to Florence this winter. “They are useless discussions,” Pradé said of Piątek and Milik. “We tried to buy them in July, now they are not players we’re taking into consideration”.

Pradé’s words end months of speculations about both players, especially Piątek. While Milik would have been the top-quality striker fans have been demanding, it’s seemed pretty obvious for months now that he has no interest in joining a mid-table Fiorentina team. I’d put my money on a free transfer to Juventus.

The Piątek news, on the other hand, gives me a sigh of relief. The asking price of €18 million from Hertha Berlin was far too much for a striker who hasn’t scored consistently for close to two years.

On the Felipe Caicedo front, Lazio Sporting Director Igli Tare spoke about the Fiorentina rumors yesterday at a press conference. Tare said the club had purchased Vedat Muriqi as Caicedo’s replacement, but Caicedo stayed in Rome after a transfer to Qatar fell through. Tare said that he is happy that Caicedo didn’t leave, and that “it’s not true that there is contact with Fiorentina”.

Given that Caicedo’s rumored price tag is less than a third of Piąteks’, I’m not very invested in whether this transfer goes through or not. As I’ve already said, Caicedo is a cheap and better alternative than Fiorentina’s other strikers, so I’d be fine with his arrival. Additionally, this is a deal that has Daniele Pradé written all over it. A 32-year-old average Serie A player? Consider Pradé sold.

Tare’s words could mean nothing or everything. There’s too much smoke to this rumor for me to believe that no discussions at all have taken place between the clubs, but talks could have broken down in recent days. After all, depth is the Bianceleste’s greatest weakness, and Caicedo is one of the only solid bench options they have. As for the player, if he wants to win he should stay in Rome. When else could he play in the knockout stages of the Champions League? And if he wants money, I’m sure those offers from the Middle East will still exist in six months.

However, this move makes too much sense to me, and Caicedo’s itch for more playing time in a top league may get this over the line. I’ll make an unnecessary prediction: Felipe Caicedo will be a Fiorentina player a month from now.

Of course, should Caicedo not arrive, Fiorentina still need a #9. Rumors have popped up that Fiorentina is considering former Italy International Graziano Pelle as an option. Pelle would be available on a free transfer, as his contract with Shandong Luneng in China expires in two weeks.

If you don’t remember Pelle, he’s the guy who flopped with Lecce, AZ Alkmaar, and Parma until a loan move to Feyenoord in 2012 changed his career. There, he tore apart the Eredivise, scoring 27 goals in 29 matches in his first season. After the move was made permanent, Pelle notched 23 goals in the 2013-14 season, then secured a €10 million movie in the summer of 2014 to Southampton. Pelle notched 23 goals in two seasons at Saint Mary’s, then moved to China and became the seventh-highest paid player in the world. In 126 appearances Pelle scored 63 goals but is now looking to return to Italy for the twilight of his career.

As someone who isn’t against bringing in an older striker on the cheap to help our young guys, this rumor isn’t an immediate turn-off. Pelle’s greatest strength has always been his aerial ability. Fiorentina averages just 10.5 shots per game, good for 16th in Serie A. Yet, 2.6 of those are headers, sixth in Serie A. Fiorentina’s high rate of headed attempts and crosses suggests that a striker of Pelle’s skill set would be useful.

However, Pelle was never the most mobile of strikers, and at age 35 I have little faith in him holding his own athletically in a top-5 league. Cesare Prandelli wants this team to play quick-passing and vertical Calcio, and an aging target-man doesn’t fit into that equation. Add in the fact that Pelle doesn’t have much experience playing in a top 5 league, and I’m out. Simply put, Pelle doesn’t bring enough pedigree, skill, or tactical fit to warrant being Fiorentina’s major winter attacking signing.

I’ll add this to wrap up. We all want Fiorentina to be better than they are right now, to challenge for Europe and eventually return to the Champions League. That’s not going to happen overnight, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned since Rocco Commisso took over, money is not the only answer. Watching Fiorentina spend over a hundred million euros on players the last three mercatos with no improvement shows that Fiorentina needs recruitment which isn’t just focused on adding the biggest names available.

Given the current rumors, the additions this January will likely be underwhelming. However, it’s important to remember that Danielé Prade is still in charge. At this point, he should not be trusted with Rocco’s money. Given his track record, any expensive Pradé purchases next month will be on the bench come six months and a new mister. If spending less this winter means more investment next summer by a new sporting director and manager which fits Rocco’s long-term vision for Fiorentina, then this short-term pain will be worth it.