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Fiorentina wants to sign an American. But who?

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As Rocco Commisso and co. look to overhaul the roster this summer, we look at potential stateside options for doing so

RB Leipzig v Bayer 04 Leverkusen - Bundesliga Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Back in January, Roma completed the signing of 19-year-old right-back Bryan Reynolds for an initial fee of €6.75 million. Fiorentina was briefly rumored as being interested in the player, which made sense on several levels. First, right-back has been a weak spot at the club for the better part of a decade. Second, since Rocco Commisso took over there have been rumblings of him wanting to sign an American, which FC Dallas technical director Andre Zanotta confirmed to The Athletic.

“But Fiorentina for example was a club that contacted us, didn’t make an offer, but was looking into Reynolds and they have an American owner, and the person who contacted me from there said that the owner is interested in bringing in an American player to Fiorentina.”

In the two years of Rocco Commisso’s reign, the only American player signed has been Fiorentina Femminile’s Abi Kim, who unfortunately left the club earlier this month. The only American to play for the men’s team since World War II is Josh Perez, who made his lone Serie A appearance in November 2016 against Inter Milan.

Reynolds’ transfer marks the second American export to Serie A this year, following fellow FC Dallas academy alum Weston Mckennie’s transfer to Juventus. Mckennie has surprised just about everyone by becoming a key cog in Andrea Pirlo’s midfield as Juve fights to stay in the top four. While some may say that an American signing would just be a marketing ploy to sell more shirts, I don’t buy it. Sure, bringing in a Yankee would draw eyes on Fiorentina that weren’t there before, but certainly not much different than the impact that signing a South Korean, Iranian, or Egyptian would garner. After all, I don’t imagine the number of people willing to watch mid-table Serie A every weekend is particularly high, especially when one could watch Mckennie, Christian Pulisic, or Gio Reyna every week if they wanted to watch an American and high-level footy at the same time.

What the last few transfer windows have shown is that the United States should begin to be taken seriously as a consistent producer of European-quality players. The emergence of Americans at the top levels of Europe has led to clubs beginning to poach talent at younger and younger ages. Just this past January more than half a dozen Yanks, including Reynolds, crossed the Atlantic. Brendan Aaronson and Mark McKenzie were sold from the Philadelphia Union for more than €10 million combined to Red Bull Salzburg and KRC Genk, respectively. By factoring in others such as Joe Scally, Daryl Dike, and Jordan Morris, it’s clear European clubs are looking to exploit this potential market gap. While it will take another few years to see if the USA’s new level of talent production is sustainable, I see no reason why it won’t be given the ever-increasing number of youth players in the country.

With all this in mind, let’s take a look at a handful of American players who if signed, could have an impact with the Viola next season.

Tim Weah (LOSC Lille)

UEFA Europa League”OSC Lille v Ajax Amsterdam” Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images

The son of footy legend George Weah, Tim moved to Paris Saint-Germain from the States in 2017. After failing to find consistent first-team action, he then moved to Lille in the summer of 2019 for €9.5 million. He plays as a second-striker or a winger and has appeared 10 times for the national team, scoring once. Not bad for a player whose 21st birthday is today.

Pros: The most obvious pro with Weah is where he plays. Weah can slot anywhere along the forward line, which is a level of versatility absent from the current Viola setup. For a young player, Weah also has plenty of experience. Besides the aforementioned caps, Weah has Europa League and Ligue 1 experience, where he’s scored five times in less than 700 minutes this season. Also, with Lille’s current financial troubles, it’s easy to see a scenario in which Weah wouldn’t be sold for much more than the amount originally paid for him. That would place him squarely in the financial range in which I expect Fiorentina to operate this summer.

Cons: The downside of his market value staying stagnant is the fact that he just hasn’t been playing very much the last two seasons. His 2019/2020 campaign was marred by injuries, to the point where he appeared just three times. This wasn’t just one injury, but three, which adds worry. While Weah has stayed injury-free this season, that can be partially attributed to the fact that he hasn’t played very much. Weah has played in just 21% of Lille’s total possible minutes. Add in the fact that Weah would be yet another young, unproven forward to the squad, and it’s easy to understand why Fiorentina fans might prefer someone with more experience as the club looks to push for Europe next season.

Antonee Robinson (Fulham)

Burnley v Fulham - Premier League Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Calcio fans may be most familiar with Robinson for his move to AC Milan which collapsed at the 11th hour in January of 2020. The 23-year-old left-back came up in Everton’s youth academy but it was his standout play with Wigan Atheltic in the Championship last season that earned him a move to newly-promoted Fulham. Robinson’s earned eight caps with the USMNT.

Pros: The biggest pro with Robinson is the fact that he is already a pretty damn good player. He’s started 18 matches in the Premier League this season and has been one of Fulham’s better players in a season where the Cottagers have seemed to be a lock for relegation. Robinson’s strengths are his pace and technical ability, and he’s played in both three and four-back formations under Scott Parker. With Cristiano Biraghi’s form having dropped off in recent months, bringing in someone like Robinson to provide true competition (sorry, Antonio Barreca) would be best for both players. I’d expect Robinson to cost somewhere around €10 million, so he’d not be brought in just to warm the bench.

Cons: Purchasing Robinson is only really possible if Fulham is relegated, and his home-grown status in England may inflate his price to the point where purchasing him is not worth the trouble. Even with Biraghi’s poor form, there are also four or five positions that need upgrading before him, so budget-wise left-back should be far from the priority (looking at you, right-back). Aleksa Terzic may also be ready to take the next step to be Biraghi’s backup next season, so spending eight figures on a left-back could be wholly unnecessary. Robinson has also only played at a top-level this season, recently been dropping in and out of the starting XI in recent weeks. So, he’d be far from a lock from providing starting-level Serie A quality for a team looking to return to Europe.

Chris Richards (Hoffenheim, on loan from Bayern Munich)

TSG Hoffenheim v SV Werder Bremen - Bundesliga Photo by Simon Hofmann/Getty Images

Yet another FC Dallas Academy product, the 20-year-old center-back moved to Bayern in the summer of 2018. After playing a season with the U-19’s and then with Bayern Munich II last season, Richards made his Bundesliga debut last summer. Since then he’s made three additional appearances in the Bundesliga as well as his Champions League debut while appearing for the United States for the first time in November. On deadline day (February 1), he moved to Hoffenheim on loan.

Pros: There’s a reason why a club like Bayern was willing to give Richards minutes a such a young age: he’s got loads of potential. His two-footedness allows him to play anywhere along the backline, which also hints at his athletic and passing-ability. Now being used at Hoffenheim in a back three, these next few months will be key to seeing the type of player he could be. I don’t expect him to ever consistently play for Bayern, so he should be on the move at some point in the next year or two. As for Fiorentina, the club will likely require a new center-back or two this summer after at least one of Nikola Milenkovic and German Pezzella leave, and why not bring in a youngster to back up Igor and LMQ?

Cons: As I hinted above, there just isn’t very much tape of him at a high level. While that’s not a bad thing, it does mean that there is a very wide range for which his growth could go. While that’s true for any 20-year-old besides Erling Haaland, it does mean that it’s hard to predict what his price would be, although I’d expect somewhere in the €8-10 million range. Of course, given his age, it only takes two month’s worth of good performances to double or triple that valuation, while a lack of playing time would signal he’s not worth the investment for a club like Fiorentina. One to keep an eye on for the future.

Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig)

RB Leipzig v Liverpool FC - UEFA Champions League Round Of 16 Leg One Photo by Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images

This is the part where I start to dream. Adams is a 22-year-old defensive midfielder for RB Leipzig who came through the New York Red Bulls’ academy. Adams has appeared in 55 competitive matches for Leipzig, with his most famous moment being the winning goal against Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals of the Champion’s League last August.

Pros: Signing Adams would immediately fill one of Fiorentina’s biggest needs, a midfield partner for Sofyan Amrabat. Adams can also fill in at right-back if necessary and offers a skillset which only Amrabat possesses in this Fiorentina team. As a #6 Adams is fairly no-nonsense, with his strengths being his range and ball-winning ability. Signing Adams would free Sofyan Amrabat and Gaetano Castrovilli to focus on their playmaking, which I see as the key for unlocking Fiorentina’s offense more than any attacking player could do. And while Adams isn’t a flashy player, signing him would be a massive statement of intent from Rocco Commisso. He would no doubt break Fiorentina’s transfer record, probably costing around €25-30 million, a fair bit more than Amrabat.

Cons: This isn’t so much a con as much as it is a reality check: why would Adams want to come here? He plays fairly often in Leipzig and started against Liverpool in the Champions League just this week. And while that is a fair point, I wouldn’t have included him on this list if I didn’t believe a club of Fiorentina’s stature had the ability to sign him. Rocco could easily upgrade Adams’ current salary of €2.1 million, and the opportunity to be a penned-in starter for a club with ambition could be enough to sway him. However, there are also potential tactical issues if Adams were to arrive. While Adams is great defensively, his passing (especially long-range) could use some work, which is also a weakness of Amrabat’s game. It may be smarter, given Fiorentina’s budget constraints, to focus on a cheaper option such as Lucas Torreira or Diego Demme who would complement Amrabat while costing less.

Conclusion

While speculating about transfers and the tactical fit is pretty pointless until we know who Fiorentina’s next Sporting Director will be, I think it’s interesting that ownership is looking to bring an American to the club. While any of the four players mentioned above I believe would be good signings, Tim Weah is the one who I see as both the most realistic and could help the team drastically. I’d also like to note that given the high prices of all four, Rocco and co. should be scouting MLS academies for the Primavera, where the best deals of the upcoming generation of national team players will be found. Given the high reputation of Fiorentina’s academy, I’d expect young players to jump at the opportunity to play in Florence. So, that should be the strategy moving forwards when it comes to Fiorentina and American players.