For the past couple of weeks, the rumor mill has consistently churned out news that Fiorentina was going to sign one more player. Not just any player, though. With the arrivals of Lucas Torreira and Álvaro Odriozola, the holes in central midfield and rightback had been reinforced. While there remains a clear vacuum behind Dušan Vlahović up top that needs to be addressed by someone other than Aleksandr Kokorin, it was the right wing that had everyone excited.
Incumbent José Callejón, while a decorated veteran, is 34 and looked washed in his limited minutes last year. Riccardo Sottil oozes talent but hasn’t quite put it together yet. Riccardo Saponara is, well, our beloved Cheese. Looking at the XI as a whole, it’s pretty clear which position is the weakest, and it’s an accepted truth of team-building that you get stronger by improving your weakest position.
That’s why the stories about Rocco Commisso green-lighting a €30 million move for Sassuolo and Italy star Domenico Berardi got the fan base so excited. Paired with Vlahović and Nicolás González up front, he looked like the missing piece of a tridente that would score 40 league goals.
Bologna’s Riccardo Orsolini was another option. For just €15 million, he would’ve been a fantastic gamble; at 24, some of the shine has worn off him, but he’s still young and still a proven Serie A producer. After stagnating under Siniša Mihajlović over the past couple of years, it was easy to imagine him improving in leaps and bounds under Vincenzo Italiano’s guidance.
Gonzalo Plata of Sporting is only 20 but his searing pace and fantastic dribbling make him look like a future star. Junior Messias of Crotone took a long, strange journey to Serie A but looked like he belonged in the top flight even when playing for a poor Squali side. But the former’s staying put and AC Milan scooped up the latter.
It’s easy to feel frustrated about missing out on all of these guys. Each one of them would have moved the needle to some extent, although grabbing Berardi would’ve been a chance to take this team to a level of prestige unseen since the golden years under Cesare Prandelli. Instead, it’ll be old man Callejón and dreamboat Ricky, at least until January. With respect, that’s a big step down.
Let’s remember, though, that this has still been the best window Fiorentina’s had since at least 2012—David Pizarro, Borja Valero, Gonzalo Rodríguez, Alberto Aquilani, Juan Cuadrado, Stefan Savić, Matías Fernández—and should set Italiano up to compete. Bringing in González for a record €30 million is a huge deal, while Torreira and Odriozola should be immediate starters as well. Hanging onto Vlahović and Nikola Milenković is also a massive accomplishment.
For as much criticism as we dish out to Joe Barone and Daniele Pradè around these parts, we have to be honest when they get things right as well. They fixed numerous problem areas in the team, increased the overall talent level, and found guys who look like excellent fits for Italiano’s system. While it may sting to miss out on that final piece, Fiorentina fans can take comfort in the fact that this team looks better equipped to push for Europe than any we’ve seen since Paulo Sousa was in town. And that should feel very good.