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Fiorentina shouldn’t look to the World Cup for reinforcements

With head scout Nicolás Burdisso in Qatar, transfer speculation is running rampant over common sense.

FC Internazionale v ACF Fiorentina - Primavera 1 Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

The news that Fiorentina’s head scout Nicolás Burdisso is currently watching games in Qatar naturally excited speculation among fans. After all, there’s very little news about the club right now aside from Sofyan Amrabat’s continued heroics for Morocco. Even the Viola friendlies haven’t elicited much response, partly because they’re casual walkthroughs (9-0 against Always Ready of Bolivia doesn’t scream intrigue) and partly because there’s nowhere to watch them except the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Naturally, everyone wants to know who Burdisso’s watching. The guesses have ranged from Americans Yunus Musah, Josh Sargent, and Timothy Weah to Moroccans Sofiane Boufal and Azzedine Ounahi (but not Abdelhamid Sabiri), although he’s also taken in games from Argentina, Belgium, Cameroon, Germany, Iran, Mexico, Poland, Serbia, and Spain. Jamal Musiala? Pedri? Gavi? Enzo Fernández? Why not?

But let’s be real here. Even if Fiorentina was the type of team to buy World Cup stars (usually the reserve of the megaclubs), the World Cup would be a terrible place to scout them. Evaluating a player based on, at most, 7 matches veers between malfeasance and idiocy, especially since those players operate so differently than they do at club level. It’s like comparing apples and quasars, with the inherent noise of a small sample size thrown in.

Add to that little soup that holding an incredibly intense tournament compressed to fit a small window in the middle of the domestic season means that the guys participating will be at an exponentially greater risk of physical injury or psychological burnout. As if that weren’t enough, having the eyes of the footballing world on the World Cup means that everyone sees the star performances, resulting in a corresponding price inflation. I don’t think that the Viola have the facilities for that.

Fiorentina has, for the past decade and more, avoided buying players off the back of international tournaments. The only one I can think of is José María Basanta in 2014, who cost a whopping €2.6 million after having a couple of decent performances in the group stage for Argentina. Even then, the deal was more about snapping up a veteran who was nearing the end of his contract than grabbing a World Cup star.

AS Roma v ACF Fiorentina - UEFA Europa League Round of 16 Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

And that’s fine. Frankly, I’d rather that Burdisso and Daniele Pradè didn’t send scouts to senior international tournaments, because they should already have a very good idea of the players featuring. The rise of analytics means that it’s easy to keep tabs on players from leagues all over the world, and services like Wyscout mean that scouts can watch them from the comfy confines of Florence. This isn’t 1978, where the only way you’ll know anything about another nation’s or continent’s players is by spending 90 minutes in the stands to watch them.

That’s why I really hope that Burdisso’s just on vacation to watch his native Argentina try to win the World Cup for former teammate Lionel Messi and is just taking in some other games for fun as well. Given his job, he may flag up a couple of interesting players and check their files when he gets back home, but he seems too cagey to assume that a single match is enough to evaluate some dude’s suitability for Fiorentina.

Or at least that’s what I desperately hope. From what I can tell, Fiorentina aren’t among the Serie A clubs using data to help inform their recruitment choices, even though an analytics-focused approach helped AC Milan win the scudetto last year while decreasing payroll. If this is actually a full, or even a partial, work trip, then Fiorentina have already ignored the assignment and are desperately scribbling something as the teacher walks around the room to collect the homework.