Remember 2016? Fun year. Heady times. Paulo Sousa briefly looked like the best manager in the world. Fiorentina got a fun mug that aged brilliantly. Fiorentina were in Europe (What’s that? No, no clue what a Tottenham Hotspur is.). And Daniele Pradè had just identified 21-year-old Dennis Praet as the midfielder to inherit Borja Valero’s mantle.
Like all the other things in that previous paragraph, Praet’s transfer from Anderlecht didn’t work out. In this case, it was because his agent/dad decided that Florence was no place to raise a young talent, and he wasn’t entirely wrong with Sousa faffing about the Franchi. Instead, the young Belgian moved to Sampdoria, where he helped Marco Giampaolo look like the sharpest coach in Italy for a year or two.
His performances in Liguria earned him a €20 million move to Leicester City last year, and he’s been aggressively mediocre there. This last year, he managed a goal and 3 assists in 36 appearances, mostly working as an alternate to Youri Tielemans and James Maddison rather than establishing himself as one of Europe’s premier creative forces.
Given the optimal relationship between the Foxes and the Gigliati at the moment—Rachid Ghezzal waves hello before slowly working the ball onto his left foot and running into four defenders—it’s not out of the question that Pradè could finally bring the evasive Belgian to Florence. But it’s safe to ask how Praet would fit into the Viola XI, as he’s not exactly a disciplined midfield grinder and doesn’t offer the dynamism that Gaetano Castrovilli possesses in abundance.
Don’t get me wrong; Praet would immediately become the most incisive passer in the Fiorentina engine room were he to sign. He tends to occupy spaces similar to those that Franck Ribery works in, though, and his wage (reportedly €3 million) is substantial. Leicester would also want to turn a profit on him, so a fee around €20 million would probably be necessary. Since Giuseppe Iachini is likely to prefer the defensive solidity of Sofyan Amrabat and Erick Pulgar, and since Castrovilli is undroppable, that means that the Viola would be dropping a whole lot of money on a bench player.
If (and since it’s coming from Tuttosport, we’re talking a Nikola Milenković-sized if) this rumor is true, it’s a little bit concerning. Praet showed endless promise as a teenager back at Anderlecht and flashed interesting potential with Samp, but he’s 26 now and is more or less the player he’s going to be. If (and we’ll reiterate that it’s a big if because Tuttosport) this is true, it’s a rather damning indictment of Pradè’s inability to shake his fascination with a player he liked half a decade ago despite signs indicating that the dude is now a competent but mostly unremarkable professional.
But hey, at least we could take Praet off the list of nearly signings. That would leave, what, Sergej Milinković-Savić, Dimitar Berbatov, and I don’t know Leo Messi. So that’d be nice.