Any team’s roster is in a state of flux, but Fiorentina sure seems pretty set at holding midfield. Sofyan Amrabat and Erick Pulgar are both more than competent in that role, so much so that figuring out how to squeeze them into the same XI (a double pivot in front of a back five means could lead to an even more anemic attack than last year’s) is one of Giuseppe Iachini’s top priorities. That’s why the recent rumors linking the Viola to a move for Bayern Munich star Javi Martínez sound so odd.
Martínez is one of the finest holding midfielders of his generation and, even at his age—he’ll turn 32 on 2 September—remains an excellent footballer due to his intelligence. Never the fleetest of foot, his superb reading of the game meant that he’s usually where he needs to be well before the ball arrives, and his intelligence in possession allows the rest of the team to orbit around him. He’s a marvelous operator in the engine room and would bring something useful to any team he played for.
But with Amrabat and Pulgar both in the squad (and Alfred Duncan also capable of playing that deep role), Martínez would be redundant in a squad that still needs to trim some fat. If you think that he could be brought in as a defender rather than a midfielder, you’re forgetting that Germán Pezzella just renewed his contract and has to play in the middle of a back three, just as Martínez does.
With the competition for that defensive midfield spot looking quite robust, Martínez probably wouldn’t see Florence as an ideal destination if he wants to play significant minutes. If he’d rather take a more peripheral role somewhere in search of trophies or a big salary (he makes €4 million a year and would probably demand at least half of that) Fiorentina remains similarly unlikely. And if he wants to take on a mentoring role, boyhood club Athletic Bilbao makes a lot more sense.
The only way this works is if Daniele Pradè flips Pulgar for a massive pile of cash (€20 million feels about right) and Bayern are willing to let Martínez go for fairly cheap. With a deal that expires in 2021, he shouldn’t cost too much, but he’d likely set the Viola back at least €9 million. That’s a lot of money to spend for a guy who does the same job as Amrabat, who’s the record January signing.
Combined with the whispers about Mario Mandzukić landing in Florence, this feels like some sort of joke to create Bayerntina more than it does an effort to build a coherent squad. Martínez’ ability on the pitch isn’t in question and his experience—8 Bundesliga titles, 5 German cups, a Champions League trophy, a World Cup, a European Championship—is unrivaled, and he remains one of the handsomest players in the world.
But his likely salary request, his lengthy injury history, and his redundancy within the Viola squad mean that, despite his class on the pitch and perfume-model features, he simply isn’t a good fit for this Viola squad. That doesn’t mean that Pradè won’t move for him; it means that he shouldn’t unless a lot of things change about Fiorentina in a very short time.