Even if Cristiano Biraghi’s recent injury from the friendly against Reggiana isn’t serious, left wingback has long seemed like the weakest link in the Fiorentina lineup that returns Serie A’s best defense from last year, a dynamite new midfield, and a promising group of forwards. With Dalbert looking unlikely to reprise his role on loan again and Biraghi himself clearly pining for a return to boyhood club Inter Milan (for which we don’t blame him), the recent chatter about Barcelona fullback Junior Firpo has been accompanied by heavenly choruses.
Firpo is a 22-year-old leftback who grew up in Real Betis’ academy before moving to Catalunya last season. Because Barca fans have absurd expectations, they seem to view his debut campaign as deeply underwhelming despite a goal and 2 assists in 23 appearances because he didn’t displace Jordi Alba from the XI.
Setting aside that silliness, Firpo’s a very good player. He has the requisite pace and athleticism to put in 90 minutes of sprinting up and down the touchline, and he’s quite good on the ball, both as a crosser and a dribbler. He’s handy in the air and pretty good in the tackle; the only complaints about him seem to be that his end product can be inconsistent and he occasionally loses focus on the back foot, but again, this is a 22-year-old who just played his first season at Barcelona. Maybe tone down the whinging.
The Catalans paid €18 million (with incentives that could amount to another €12 million) for him and pay him €700,000 annually, so it’s not a financially insurmountable deal. A season-long loan and a fee of around €20 million would likely do the trick, assuming the player himself is willing to give it a shot. The fact that he’s got a Spanish passport and that his agent has gotten familiar with Italy of late (he just closed Brahim Díaz’ move to AC Milan) could grease the wheels even further.
I mentioned on a podcast episode a couple months ago that Firpo was as close to a perfect signing as Fiorentina could make, although I didn’t think there was any chance of it happening. A young, athletic, skillful wingback is exactly what the left side of this team needs; if the Blaugrana are really willing to cut their losses on him already, Daniele Pradè should run, not walk, to close this deal.