Fiorentina has done a good job of bringing in some good players this summer. It’s early days, but Luka Jović, Dodô, Rolando Mandragora, and Pierluigi Gollini all look like solid contributors at worst. Combined with the astounding deal to keep Nikola Milenković in town, it’s easy to say that this has been a good transfer window, especially with another creative midfielder looking likely to join soon.
So what’s the holdup? Well, it’s one of Fiorentina’s own making: the squad is, for the umpteenth consecutive year, too large. That’s not just, like, my opinion, man. It’s the league rule. To whit, Serie A requires that teams:
- Register 25 or fewer senior players on the roster (unregistered players aren’t allowed to play in league games),
- Include 4 players trained at the club’s own academy for at least 3 years before between the ages of 15 and 21, and
- Include at least 8 players trained in an Italian academy for at least 3 years between the ages of 15 and 21.
And, as of now, the Viola are having trouble meeting those requirements.
Fiorentina currently have 29 players on the roster. While it’s possible that Aleksandr Kokorin could simply be left unregistered if nobody wants to pay the requisite two sacks of potatoes for him, it’s generally not worth it to leave players unregistered. It creates an awkward situation in the workplace and it also results in paying highly-trained specialists a lot of money to do literally nothing. Especially for a team that’s in Europe and plans to remain there, wasting that salary could foul up Financial Fair Play in a big way.
Since Gaetano Castrovilli is injured and won’t be registered immediately, Daniele Pradè probably has to move on from at least 3 players before the end of the window, and probably more if he wants to make any further additions to the squad (and, full disclosure, I think he will). As of now, the guys who are firmly outside the first-team picture are Kokorin, Matija Nastasić, and Gabriele Ferrarini. It’s not as simple as just selling or loaning them, of course, because they have to agree to the move. For the former pair, it’s unlikely that anyone will pick up their salaries, so it could be tough to shift them elsewhere.
There are also a number of players on the fringes. Luca Ranieri, Aleksa Terzić, Marco Benassi, Szymon Żurkowski, and Christian Kouamé all seem to be on the edge of making the squad. The first two are likely in direct competition to back up Cristiano Biraghi, with the loser leaving on loan. Benassi’s conversion to rightback could see him scrap with Lorenzo Venuti for minutes in the rotation, slightly increasing his odds of sticking with the team. It seems like the brass have been trying to move off Big Z all summer, but he got the nod ahead of Alfred Duncan against Cremonese, so maybe Vincenzo Italiano sees something. And Kouamé was superb against the Grigiorossi and can lead the line (very important with just two real strikers on the roster), so he could be very useful.
Let’s add another layer now. Fiorentina currently has 5 academy graduates on the roster: Michele Cerofolini (now the 3rd goalkeeper after Antonio Rosati’s shock retirement), Venuti, Ranieri, Ferrarini, and Riccardo Sottil. Cerofolini, Venuti, and Sottil are certainly going to stick, as they’re all necessary to the first team.
At that point, it comes down to keeping one of Ferrarini or Ranieri. The latter is probably more ready to contribute, but he’s made it very clear over his career that he wants to play regular minutes for his development. While there’s a chance that the club convinces him that, as Biraghi’s backup, he’ll spend plenty of time on the pitch, it’s not a given that he buys in. Too, he has to beat out Terzić.
Ferrarini is in a completely different situation. He impressed on loan last year at Perugia as a storming wingback and, at 22, is close to being ready for Serie A. However, he has Dodô, Venuti, and Benassi blocking his path, and the worst thing for a young player is to molder on the bench. He probably needs a loan move elsewhere so that Fiorentina can figure out just how good he can be; a lot of clubs in the top two flights seem interested, so finding a temporary home shouldn’t be too difficult.
To sum up, that 4th spot is tricky. Ideally, Ranieri would beat Terzić as the vice-Biraghi and stick around, but that’s far from a proven deal. The only other alternative is registering someone like Alessandro Bianco with the senior team; while the youngster probably has the quality to play spot minutes, he needs regular playing time (read: a loan move), and using a roster spot on him would mean that there’s a shortfall elsewhere. Everyone should be rooting for Ranieri.
This one, fortunately, isn’t too bad. There are 9 players who fit the bill, and Castrovilli’s return will make it 10. Go ahead, breathe a sigh of relief.
As far as I can tell, the best-case scenario is Ranieri serving as the second-choice leftback while Kokorin and Nastasić are sold, while Ferrarini gets a loan move elsewhere. That would get the roster down to 25, although one more player would have to leave in order to register Castrovilli. In order to bring in a new player, I think that Benassi is the next man out, although his salary may prove prohibitive. That could push Żurkowski, who’s younger and seems to have generated some transfer interest, out the door instead.
So, while it’s nice to read all the transfer rumors about Antonin Barak or Orkun Kökçü, keep in mind that actually bringing them, or anybody else, into the club isn’t as simple as that. Years of roster mismanagement (signing Kokorin, extending Benassi, failing to maximize Kouamé and Żurkowski) has tied Pradè’s hands. He’s a canny operator and should extricate the club from this situation, but he’s really limited his options with some of his previous choices; it’s going to be a very busy fortnight for him.