As much as we love Lorenzo Venuti, there’s some doubt about his ability to be a full-time starter at rightback this year. With Martín Cáceres now a free agent and Pol Lirola desperate to get out of Tuscany, it’s pretty clear that Fiorentina need to add a player or two on the right side of the defense, especially since new manager Vincenzo Italiano uses a back four.
This isn’t surprising news, of course. The Viola haven’t had a top-notch rightback for at least a decade and maybe longer. Lorenzo de Silvestri was solid enough, but you’d maybe have to go all the way back to Tomáš Ujfaluši to find the last upper-tier player in that position, and even Ujfa was more of a converted centerback. Moreno Torricelli, maybe? It’s dire.
Anyways, that’s why we’re pretty excited to read on TMW that Daniele Pradè and company have made contact for Genk’s Daniel Muñoz. The 25-year-old will wrap up his work at the Copa America in the third place game against Peru tonight, capping off what’s been a very impressive tournament that’s seen him start and finish all but one game for los Cafeteros; considering that he’d played all of 1 minute of international ball before that (getting himself sent off pretty much straight after entering the game), he’s been one of the breakout stars of the competition.
The first thing that jumps out when you watch him is that he’s very solid, possessing good pace and the stamina necessary to get up and down the wing for 90 minutes. More than that, though, he plays with an edge. He loves a crunching tackle, particularly one that can see him take off the other direction with the ball. He’s also a pretty good crosser and knows how to time his runs forward on the overlap.
He’s not perfect, of course: while he can stick tight to an opponent and has good recovery speed if he’s beaten, his ability to stay in front of a quick dribbler is a bit iffy, and he can get a bit, hm, overzealous in the tackle at times. He’s also only had one season in Europe, having joined Genk from Atlético Nacional for €4.5 million just last summer. Before that, he’d only been with the Siempre Verde for a year, having joined from boyhood club Águilas Doradas in 2019.
He’s a bit of a late bloomer, which explains why he made the transatlantic jump at the relatively late age of 24, but he looks like the real deal. Per fbref, he led the league in tackles and came second in interceptions, which bodes well for his defensive abilities. He also chipped in 5 assists, good for runnerup in the clubhouse. Those stats don’t come cheap, of course, especially since he’s under contract until 2024. It would probably take something like €10 million to pry him away from de Smurfen (yeah, Genk’s nicknamed the Smurfs), but he looks like the sort of gamble who could pay off big.
Fiorentina are in a good spot here too. With Venuti joined by (for now) Lirola and highly-rated youngster Gabriele Ferrarini, Italiano can wait until he sees Venuti in training before deciding if he needs a new starter. If that’s the mister’s decision, though, Muñoz looks like a perfect guy to add to the mix: hard as nails, disciplined, professional (he captained Atlético after just 3 months on the team), and able to contribute going forward. If that reminds you of any former rightbacks in Florence, it’s probably because I could’ve written that about Ujfa too, and that’s high praise indeed.