As we grind through another interminable international break, the main story for most Fiorentina fans has been the fate of Dušan Vlahović. The club announced that it’s done trying to extend the striker’s contract, which means it’s now a race to sell him before 2023, when he’ll be a free agent.
Because having your best player being desperate to leave is a pretty uncomfortable situation, it’s likely in everyone’s best interest to get a deal done sooner rather than later. Given the particulars of the situation and the profile of the man himself, it’s no surprise that his list of potential suitors is largely drawn from the final rounds of the Champions League. Let’s catch up on the teams that are supposedly interested.
We’ll start with the gross one, which, of course, is Juventus. We’ve heard whispers that Vlahovic’s agent Darko Ristić has agreed to a deal with the Notts County cosplayers that will see the Serbia international sign to a big money deal, possibly with Dejan Kulusevski and cash (likely not much more than €25 million and likely spread out) moving the other way.
Needless to say, this wouldn’t be popular with a fan base that already Federico Chiesa force his way to Turin under Rocco Commisso’s watch. To his credit, Rocco has been very upfront about the situation, but has also reportedly vowed to never do business with Ristić again. That could be evidence that the agent is pushing his star client exactly where the Viola don’t want to see him go. The only positive here is that pairing Kulusevski with Nico González in the attack would make Fiorentina even more entertaining for fans of outrageous dribblers.
As you’d expect, the Premier League offers a more interesting option. The absurd wealth those clubs wield means they could meet likely €70 million price tag without too much trouble. Manchester City may be the likeliest landing spot, as they were linked to him over the summer and still have a gaping hole at center forward. If they don’t grab Erling Haaland, Vlahović looks like the next best thing, and some corners of the internet believe that the UAE-backed giants have already reached out.
The problem here is that Dušan is miles from being a Pep Guardiola player. While he’s shown some improved playmaking this year, his off-ball movement is still a bit shaky at times. He also lacks the technical proficiency that Pep wants, as he won’t really beat a man with the ball at his feet and isn’t the sort of player who can drift wide or drop deep to pull opponents out of shape so much as a pure number nine.
Liverpool have also popped up as a candidate in the past few days. Jürgen Klopp has clearly been trying to retool his attack—hence last year’s purchase of Diogo Jota—but Vlahović would add an entirely new dimension. While he’s not as good at linking play and pressing as Roberto Firmino, his gravity would likely create more space for Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané and keep opponents guessing.
The issue here is the return. The Pool Boys would likely want to send some players back in return as well as cash. Divock Origi is the likeliest name; would manager Vincenzo Italiano want the Belgian as his starter? And if not, would the Fenway Sports Group pony up the requisite money?
Tottenham Hotspur are another possibility, especially if Harry Kane forces his way out. They were heavily linked with Vlahović over the summer, but you’d have to think that any move would rely on Kane leaving, especially without the influx of European cash to keep them in the black; Fabio Paratici’s insistence that they’re not interested could mean anything or nothing.
Atletico Madrid were another suitor during the previous window, when Viola sporting director Daniele Pradè reportedly shot down a €60 million offer. With Luis Suárez likely nearing the end of his career, Dušan looks like a perfect Diego Simeone player, especially paired with Antoine Griezmann or João Felix. Whether Atleti will make an improved offer, though, is up for debate.
There are probably another dozen or so teams that have the financial power to sign Vlahović, and they’re all certainly doing their homework at the moment as well. Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal look like the most logical fits in terms of philosophy and need, but newly-rich Newcastle could pour some of that sweet Saudi money into a statement move as well.
Was that exhausting? Congratulations, friend. We’ve got at least another two months of this. Welcome to hell.