With Pol Lirola’s official departure just a matter of time, it seems that his replacement is Milan’s Andrea Conti, who is reportedly set to sign on loan this week. Alfredo Pedulla’s pinned this specific rumor on his Twitter feed, so it’s pretty safe to say it’s getting done. All outlets agree that the player has agreed on personal terms, but it remains unclear whether the loan would have a buy option or an obligation, as well as the amount of said purchase. Current rumors place that value at anywhere from €6 to €10 million.
Who is Conti? You might remember him as a breakout star with Atalanta during Gian Piero Gasperini’s first season with La Dea back in 2016, where he scored eight goals and added five assists as a right wingback. Conti’s form was impressive enough to earn both a callup to the senior Italian national team as well as a €24 million move to AC Milan (with Matteo Pessina going in the other direction), but that’s where his success sadly stopped. He tore his ACL in September after playing just two Serie A matches for the Rossoneri, then after returning in mid-March, retore the same ACL just a couple of weeks later. Afterward, he was relatively injury-free but had a tough time breaking into the lineup, notching just 37 Serie A appearances in the 2.5 years since. This season, Conti has fallen behind both Davide Calabria and Diego Dalot in the pecking order, playing just 130 minutes in total, although he did Captain the side and play 90 minutes in Milan’s final Europa League group stage match against David Hancko’s Sparta Prague.
As a player, Conti is hard to judge. He was probably the best wingback in Serie A in his breakout season, but since then has not even played enough, much less performed, to warrant being considered in a season’s best XI. At his best, Conti was very reminiscent of what his replacement Hans Hateboer brings to the Nerazzuri right now. Tall, strong, direct, with the ability to get on the end of crosses and dribble past a defender, while not being a liability defensively. There’s a reason Conti was bought for such a high price tag. But the type of player he is today is another story, and the stats don’t point to anything special.
What would Conti offer for Fiorentina? It’s hard to tell. Assuming he can stay healthy, Conti has the potential to have a major impact on both sides of the ball, which is something that none of Fiorentina’s current options (including Lirola) can say. And as Hesanka pointed out, with Milan Conti has not played in the three-back system he thrived in with Atalanta, instead focusing on his defensive duties as a fullback. Maybe putting him back in that position is what he needs to start playing more like his old self. All in all, if this deal is an option to buy, I’m in for a high-reward, low-risk signing who has the potential to be a clear upgrade in quality on the right-hand side. But with the poor record of Gian Piero Gasperini’s sales and his injury history, if it’s an obligation to buy I don’t understand this move, especially if Marseille does not pick up Pol Lirola’s €12 million option. By all accounts, Fiorentina is looking to lock down the signing soon to have him in the squad against Napoli, so it won’t take long to get a good idea of what quality he still has.