Following a makeover of the forwards at Fiorentina this past year—Giovanni Simeone, Luis Muriel, Marko Pjaca, and Kevin Mirallas out with Patrick Cutrone, Franck Ribery, Christian Kouamé, and Kevin-Prince Boateng in and Dušan Vlahović promoted—Daniele Pradè has turned his attention to the midfield. With an engine room set to feature Gaetano Castrovilli, Sofyan Amrabat, Alfred Duncan, Erick Pulgar, and Kevin Agudelo (with Marco Benassi and Szymon Żurkowski on the fringes) next year and more changes possibly coming, it’s a foregone conclusion that Milan Badelj wouldn’t see his loan deal redeemed.
According to Gianluca di Marzio, the 31-year-old Croatian’s future lies with Lokomotiv Moscow, who rather curiously see him as a replacement for João Mário despite their obvious stylistic differences. With the redoubtable Grzegorz Krychowiak and the ascendant Dmitri Barinov already in the fold, Badelj is likely looking at a rotational role. He’ll at least join compatriot and club captain Vedran Ćorluka, but it’s hard to see him earning a starting job.
It’s especially surprising as Badelj has looked, if not washed, then considerably diminished to the player he was just two years ago. While he was never the fastest or strongest, his legs seem to have betrayed him a bit, leaving him unable to wiggle away from opponents or close down as effectively. It’s no great coincidence that the Viola’s resurgent form coincided with his move to the bench. That said, he still offers a disciplined presence to shield the back line and an excellent range of passing.
Lokomotiv seem set to purchase him outright, but as he’s still a Lazio player, Fiorentina won’t see any money from the deal. While his swan song in Florence hasn’t been as brilliant as his previous 4-year stint in the city, let’s not forget that at his peak, he was one of the best holding midfielders in Italy: positionally impeccable, occasionally magnificent on the ball, but usually the sort of figure who does the heavy lifting so others can shine. If this one happens, we wish Milan nothing but the best.