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Report: Leeds want Pulgar

The Chilean midfielder could be the odd man out of the Viola engine room, but it’s going to take a good offer to pry him away.

ACF Fiorentina v Bologna FC - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

From the purchase of Soyan Amrabat to the ongoing rumors about Lucas Torreira to Alfred Duncan’s starring role as the holding midfielder against Torino to the chatter about Borja Valero working as a regista in training, it sure seems like Fiorentina are preparing for life without Erick Pulgar. We’ve heard whispers about Atletico Madrid interest that never came to anything, but now it sounds like Leeds United see him as a €15 million solution to their midfield. That makes sense at face value but gets a little bit hinky the deeper you go. So let’s go deep.

Leeds, as you’ve probably heard, have really wanted to sign Udinese star Rodrigo de Paul. As usual, the Zebrette have rebuffed interest for the Argentina international, so Marcelo Bielsa has turned his attention to Pulgar. That’s logical in that both Pulgar and de Paul can play in central midfield, but that’s about where any similarity ends.

Pulgar does create a lot of chances for a deep-lying destroyer, but that’s almost entirely due to his dead ball delivery. While he’s one of the best set piece takers in Italy (he created more chances from them than anyone in Serie A last year, per Football Reference), he’s a lot clunkier in open play and doesn’t really seem to have the fluidity you’d expect from a Bielsa midfielder. De Paul, on the other hand, has the versatility and technique to be devastating for Bielsa.

We’re not ruling out the possibility that Pulgar moves on after just a year in Florence. It seems odd for Fiorentina to keep all of him, Amrabat, and Duncan, to say nothing of Valero, Castrovilli, and Giacomo Bonaventura. That’s 6 very good players for just 3 places, and the Viola don’t have any European competition to satisfy everyone’s requirements for playing time. Pulgar enjoyed a tremendous year and is, after Castrovilli, the most valuable salable asset in the engine room. Shuffling him along would give the other guys more minutes while adding to Daniele Pradè’s ledgers.

But €15 million probably isn’t going to cut it. He cost €10 million (plus 10% of any future sales) from Bologna, so that €15 million wouldn’t represent much of a profit. In fact, it’d only be about a million after paying off the Felsinei, considering how amortization works. That’d be fine if he was the sort of guy the Viola were actively trying to trim from the roster, but he’s a really good 26-year-old with 24 caps for Chile. That’s not who you sell for minimal gain.

If Leeds are serious, that offer will probably have to be above €20 million to have any chance of working. On the other hand, this could just be an effort to convince Udinese to lower de Paul’s price. Right now, we’re leaning towards the latter option. Expect Erick to keep suiting up for Fiorentina unless Bielsa’s ready to go a little bit higher.