It feels like we’ve been saying this for years (and it’s because we have been), but the Fiorentina roster is overstuffed. Between guys who ride the bench and guys who bounce from loan to loan because they aren’t going to stick with the first team, this squad is too large by a dozen or so players. Successive sporting directors haven’t been able to solve the problem, with Daniele Pradè even commenting last year that he wanted to move several players who ended up sticking around.
There are two caveats here. The first is that these guys can still be more than useful players; Valentin Eysseric, for example, became the best player in the world for 45 minutes despite being obviously surplus to requirements. The second is that it can be tough to sell them because they aren’t going to accept a smaller contract elsewhere just to help Fiorentina, and nor should they. When you have a 10-15 year earning window, you don’t leave money on the table.
The likely result here is that the Viola will either have to keep loaning these guys out for the next couple of years or just sell them for way below market value to clear the books. From what I can glean, these are the candidates to be shuffled elsewhere, although the new manager (99% sure that’s Vincenzo Italiano) may see one or more of them as useful pieces.
CM Marco Benassi
Somehow still only 26, he’s on the books until next year. Considering that he didn’t make an appearance for Hellas Verona this year (mostly due to injury), it’s hard to see the Mastini exercising their option to buy him. While he’s certainly got some useful qualities—don’t forget that he was the team’s leading scorer in 2018-2019—he’s probably not going to cut it in Florence this year. While that €12 million to bring him in from Torino feels a bit absurd now, a €2.4 million fee would see the club at least break even on him this year due to the magic of amortization, and that should be enough for someone to make an offer.
RW José Callejón
Maybe a switch to a 4-3-3 will completely revitalize him, but it’s hard to imagine the 34-year-old Napoli legend providing any value close to his massive wage. We’ve heard rumors that the club’s trying to sever ties with him and his utter disinterest last year makes him seem like a great candidate to move on from, even though he’s only got another year on his deal. What a swing and a miss.
GK Michele Cerofolini
The 22-year-old from Arezzo is in a tricky spot. While he’s obviously quite talented (currently with the Italy U21s, albeit as third choice), he’s not anywhere near unseating Bartłomiej Drągowski, and probably isn’t much closer to usurping Pietro Terracciano either. He’s under contract until 2023 and looked sharp enough at Reggiana last year, but it’s time to figure out if he’s in the Viola’s long-term plans or not. If he isn’t, he’s one of the few guys on this list who could make the club a quick profit, especially with Simone Ghidotti and Federico Brancolini lined up behind him.
CF Gabriele Gori
The heir to Saverio Madrigali as Fiorentina’s handsomest youth prospect, the big striker just hasn’t put it together outside of the Primavera. He’s only got 15 goals over the past 3 years, including 4 in nearly 1200 minutes at Vicenza last season. As a teenager, he was just so much bigger and stronger than everyone else that he could bully his way into scoring at will, but against other adults, that advantage has evaporated. Target men often take longer to develop for this exact reason, so he could well be your stereotypical late bloomer, but it might be best to move on before his deal’s up in 2023.
CB Petko Hristov
It may sound crazy to sell a 22-year-old full international centerback, but Hristov’s contract is up in 2022 and he’s been loaned out to Serie C sides for the past few years, which indicates that he’s miles from featuring for the first team. While he’s strong as an ox and good in the air, he’s rather slow on the turn and he occasionally switches off when marking forwards. It may make more sense to move him on now rather than wait until next summer and see him walk away for nothing, although Spezia may have something to say about that.
AM Tòfol Montiel
It breaks my heart to put him on this list, but what’s the point in keeping him around if he’s not going to play? 3 different managers left him to rot on the bench this year despite his outrageous per-minute contributions (strike one) and he’s a Pantaleo Corvino and Fali Ramadani guy (strike two). While it’s madness not to give him a look on the wing this year, it’s also probably what’ll happen. If you’re not going to play him, sell him. It’s that simple.
LB Luca Ranieri
Another Azzurrini staple, he’s been loaned out to Serie B outfits the past couple of years and has earned strong reviews. The problem is that he’s very similar to a couple players in the setup as a left-footed defender: fits Igor, Christian Dalle Mura, and Aleksa Terzić can all do some or most of what Ranieri does, which could leave him as the odd man out. He’s also spoken in the past about wanting regular playing time so his career doesn’t stagnate, which shows real maturity. He may be the most valuable asset on this list but that won’t mean anything if he never plays for the first team.
AM Riccardo Saponara
I’m not going to write another elegy for the Cheese, who’s back from his loan at Spezia. We all know that he’s a lovely passer of the ball who doesn’t have the fitness to play in central midfield or the quickness to operate out wide, although Italiano did find room for him on the wing last year. There’ve been a few rumors that the new mister wants Ricky to reprise his role from last year, which could keep him around, but that feels like the sort of off-season optimism that surrounds every player before camp starts. His contract expires this year, so this is Pradè’s final chance to get some sort of financial return from him.
LW Rafik Zekhnini
The Big (or Little) Z has spent the past 3 years on loan in the Netherlands and Switzerland. While he’s doubtless going to enjoy a good career as a pro, he’s not at the level to threaten Fiorentina’s starters, even with the dearth of bodies out wide. It’s not the trajectory we expected from the guy who turned Mats Hummels into a meme, but that’s just what happens some time. He’s another with a contract up at season’s end, so he’ll likely take a loan move somewhere before riding off into the sunset, but it’d be nice to get back something for him.
17 yaşındayken Dortmund'a karşı oynadığı maçta kendisine hayran kalan Hummels, Zekhnini'nin 17 yaşında olduğuna inanamamıştı. pic.twitter.com/J7CzHyPXln— Tribun Dergi (@tribundergi) July 16, 2017
CM Szymon Żurkowksi
It’s been a tough couple of years in Tuscany for the Pole. Brought in with the expectation that he’d contribute immediately, he languished on the bench for half a season, and has spent the past year and a half at Empoli. Finally settled into his new country, he missed much of this year with coronavirus concerns but eventually worked his way into a surprisingly strong midfield. A non-stop box-to-box runner, his future likely relies entirely on his performance in preseason training, although as a Pantaleo Corvino purchase, you expect Pradè to ship him out for a discount anyways. If he doesn’t make the cut this year, it’s probably time to move on; Fiorentina’s loss will be someone’s massive gain, as I remain convinced he’s going to come good in a big way.
CF Aleksandr Kokorin