In another lost season for Fiorentina, it speaks volumes that, despite Dušan Vlahović’s incredible goalscoring exploits, Bartłomiej Drągowski may well have been the best Viola player from the start to the finish. The Polish international wasn’t perfect but firmly etched his name into the upper tier of Serie A goalkeepers with a string of outrageous reflex saves; for the first couple of months, he was the only thing that kept the team afloat. So why in the name of beard oil is he being linked to a move away?
There are two reasons Saint Bartholomew could be on the way out. The first is contractual: his deal runs out in 2022 and he’s yet to sign an extension. It’s hard not to see this as a massive mistake from Viola sporting director Daniele Pradè, as Drągowski made some absurd and crucial saves this year and, at 23, is only going to improve.
He’s earning just €750,000 per year (22nd among Serie A goalkeepers) and definitely deserves a raise. He signed an extension in 2019, but that was before he was an established starter who’d broken into his international setup. It’s wild that Pradè didn’t try to up his star’s wage over the past couple of years, at least not that we’ve heard, and now risks losing him for a pittance.
For his part, you can see why Bart would be willing to leave. Since being brought aboard as an 18-year-old super prospect, he’s seen the Fiorentina sign (deep breath) Marco Sportiello and Alban Lafont as starters while leaving him stuck to the bench. To his immense credit, he kept his head down and worked like crazy, finally showing his talent on loan at Empoli. If he’s played as well as he has and still not earned a new deal, why wouldn’t he look elsewhere? The Viola have, sadly, done wrong by him all along.
The second reason he might be out is tactical. New boss Gennaro Gattuso favors a sweeper keeper, the sort of custodian who’s excellent with the ball at his feet, can help build moves from deep, and excels at sprinting off the line if defense (usually playing a high line) lets anything through. Bart, for all his tremendous shot stopping ability, is far from being that player.
In open play, he averages the second-longest passing distance and the third-highest launch (think a traditional boot upfield) percentage of any goalie in Serie A. As for defensive actions off his line, he performs fewer per 90 minutes (0.49) than the aged Salvatore Sirigu, which says plenty.
If Gattuso wants to build moves from his own box, it’d make sense that he’d want a goalkeeper who excels in that department. It also explains why David Ospina played for Napoli so much last year despite Alex Meret’s presence: Ringhio wants more from the man with the gloves than a succession of breathtaking saves. He wants a weapon back there.
While that makes sense on a tactical level, it’s hard not to feel very let down, even if the reported replacement (Alessio Cragno’s been a popular name) is quite good. After academy product Lorenzo Venuti—and returnee Borja Valero, if he stays—Drągowski is Fiorentina’s longest-tenured player. He’s been through a lot with this team and has a charisma, both in appearance and playing style, that few goalies possess.
He’s done everything right: waited on the bench, developed in the background, and then excelled when he got his chance. That should be how a guy earns a long-term, lucrative contract; instead it’s this. While management have supposedly set a €30 million price for him, any offer half that is probably enough to pry him away. I really hope that’s not the case and that Bart impresses Gattuso in preseason enough for the mister to approve a big-money extension for him. But I also know how Fiorentina does business, and I’m ready to be very disappointed.