Erick Pulgar has been a Fiorentina player for less than a year but has already impressed. The former Bologna standout opened his Viola career with a goal and an assist against Napoli and has 4 goals and 5 assists on the year in 29 appearances; a scoring involvement every 272 minutes from the holding midfield spot is quite impressive, but doesn’t highlight the 26-year-old’s top qualities: fitness and ball-winning. A real midfield terrier, the Chilean ranks 12th among Serie A midfielders in total tackles attempted per 90 minutes and 13th in interceptions.
Those qualities are valuable enough to generate interest anywhere, and according to the Corriere dello Sport, West Ham United and Sevilla are both interested. The latter apparently tried to buy him last summer, but the Viola’s €10 million was too much for the Rossoblù to pass up. With a thin midfield, it makes sense that they’d try to reinforce that department. West Ham, while well stocked in the engine room, have a soft spot for Serie A-tested players—Angelo Ogbonna, Carlos Sánchez, Felipe Anderson—and probably see Pulgar as possessing the sort of physical profile that the Premier League lusts over.
It could be argued, though, despite the big money move and 24 international caps, that Pulgar has underwhelmed this season. After starting the year in a box-to-box role and failing to convince as his passing and decision-making on the ball seemed to slow the team down, his move to the holding role in place of Milan Badelj seemed to solidify his standing, especially once Alfred Duncan arrived to provide some balance to the midfield. Pulgar’s gaudy goalscoring numbers, too, all come from penalties and set pieces, although he’s occasionally struggled with his dead ball deliveries too.
With Sofyan Amrabat ready to join Fiorentina at season’s end, Pulgar’s future in his preferred holding role seems a bit shakier. Amrabat, having cost the club €20 million, will certainly move into that spot just ahead of the defense, and Duncan’s superiority on the ball could see Pulgar relegated to a substitute’s role, although his ability to fill in as a defender could be a fascinating option in a 3-man backline.
Don’t get me wrong: I’d love for Pulgar to stay as a rotational option in midfield. Letting him and Amrabat bulldoze opponents in the middle, giving Gaetano Castrovilli free rein to operate higher up, could provide Giuseppe Iachini with a fantastic alternative to Duncan’s more balanced approach. Too, with no other natural holding midfielders on the roster for next year, keeping him feels particularly necessary, especially since Bologna will get a cut of any profits on future sales. That means anyone trying to buy him would probably have to offer around €20 million for Daniele Pradé to consider a departure, and that seems unlikely. It’s definitely a situation worth monitoring, though.