Well, that didn’t take long. Days after the rumors of Pol Lirola’s departure for Olympique Marseille on loan, the fullback has touched down and started training with his new team. The terms of the deal are a 6-month loan deal with €12 million due at season’s end to make the switch permanent.
It was pretty clear that the former Spain U21 international was on his way out when, after initially being named in the squad to face Cagliari, he wasn’t even in the stadium. In some ways, it’s not surprising that he’s been shuffled off after just a single year at Fiorentina; he’d pretty clearly failed to impress Cesare Prandelli and only earned one start under the new manager.
On the other hand, Daniele Pradè splashed €13 million to buy him from Sassuolo after last season’s loan stint; taking a loss on an obviously-talented 23-year-old who plays in the spot that the Viola have been famously unable to fill for a decade or so shows just how badly broken the club’s player recruitment policies really are.
As we said when we initially reported the rumor, Lirola’s path to a starting role with L’Om is pretty clear, with just two aging veterans to leapfrog. His unbelievable athleticism and dynamism with the ball should immediately endear him to Andre Villas-Boas and we fully expect him to make the future fee look like a steal over the back half of the season. He’s likely much closer to the player who showed immense promise with the Neroverdi and on those occasions when Giuseppe Iachini used him on the right than the guy who frustrated us when used on the left or deployed under Vicenzo Montella.
His departure leaves Prandelli with Martín Cáceres and Lorenzo Venuti as his options for right wingback; neither offer the attacking threat to really trouble opponents, and that’s a major area of concern. Pradè, though, isn’t likely to stand pat, with a move for out-of-favor AC Milan man Andrea Conti apparently proceeding at full speed. Whether the injury-ridden former Atalanta wingback has anything left in the tank is the real question, but it’s quite a decision to swap a 23-year-old with star potential for a 26-year-old who’s averaged under 600 league minutes per season since leaving Bergamo.
Either way, it’s probably in Lirola’s best interests to move somewhere where the philosophy better matches his playing style. We wish him the best and, to repeat, fully anticipate him succeeding at his new club. We’ll miss the profanity, the non-stop gaming, and the undeniable promise. Thanks for everything, Pol. We’re sorry it didn’t work out; it’s not you, it’s us.