Every year, there’s a frenzy as everyone tries to figure out which players from relegated teams will make a massive impact on a budget. It’s a fun exercise, although it’s probably a little pointless. As the ever-excellent Alex Stewart points out (partially paywalled), portability matters: just because a player was good in a terrible team does not automatically mean that player will be that good in a better team, because the duties and style may not travel.
Fiorentina haven’t usually shopped at the relegated sides that much, although the purchase of Abdelhamid Sabiri in January broke that trend. Still, there could be some interesting options here, particularly some of the younger guys who could offer squad depth while getting up to speed. I’ve picked 3 guys from each side relegated from Serie A, as well as a few others from relegated teams around Europe. As usual, I’m picking players who make sense tactically and financially for Fiorentina rather than highlighting the best 3 players on each relegated team.
GK Emil Audero (26): The former Italy youth international should have plenty of suitors despite a slightly subpar season. He’s a good shot stopper and decent in possession, and shouldn’t cost more than about €8 million, which is a great value for a player of his caliber and experience. He’s drawn interest from Lazio but might opt for the Viola if he’s given a shot at the starting job.
CB Jeison Murillo (31): The veteran defender could be a cheap 4th defender if Igor leaves and Vincenzo Italiano is comfortable promoting Lucas Martínez Quarta or Luca Ranieri into a starting job. Murillo’s a seasoned professional and has experience playing in a high line. If he’s healthy and willing to take on a smaller role, he might be a decent bargain signing for depth.
DM Gerard Yepes (20): He’s definitely not ready to start in Serie A and may choose to stick with Samp and cut his teeth in Serie B, but Yepes looks like he could be a solid midfielder in the top tier for a long time. Snapping him up on a discount and loaning him back is the sort of cagey move that Viola fans would love.
CB Emanuel Aiwu, (22): Fiorentina fans might remember him for a handball in the Coppa Italia semis, but the Austrian has every tool to become a top-notch centerback for a long time. He’s quick, strong, and has a mean streak. He can also fill in at fullback in a pinch. €6 million might be enough to get the deal done.
RB Paolo Ghiglione (26): A prolific overlapper and crosser who’s not as strong defensively, he’s basically a poor man’s Cristiano Biraghi but on the other side. As a backup to Dodô, that’s not a bad profile, although he may want to find somewhere he can start regularly as he enters his prime earning years. €3 million feels about right.
CF Cyriel Dessers (26): The Nigeria international looked like a decent Serie A striker. He’s got a good size/speed combination and looks decent technically, although his finishing can let him down at times. Cremonese paid €6.5 million for him last summer and may see him as their biggest source of money, but if he has a relegation clause, he could be a decent option behind Arthur Cabral and Luka Jović. He also just turned down a move to Rangers, indicating that he may want to stay in Italy and could have something in the works elsewhere.
CB Dimitrios Nikolaou (24): A tall, rugged defender who looks capable of playing in a more proactive system, the Greek likely won’t want for suitors this summer. A fee of €5 million should suffice to bring him aboard if Pradè and company decide he’s an upgrade over LMQ and Ranieri.
DM Salvatore Esposito (22): A star with the U21s, Esposito has long been a favorite with the FM crowd. He’s a combative holding midfielder with an impressive passing range and could be a good replacement for Sofyan Amrabat. There will be clubs all over Italy jostling for his signature, but an offer of €7 million or so could be enough to bring him aboard, even if he’ll probably begin his career as a backup.
CF M’Bala Nzola (26): Italiano knows the Angolan well from their time together at Trapani and Spezia. While he’s at his best on the break, Nzola has the size and technique to link play effectively and the intelligence to work the channels, and he’s also scored in double digits in both his Serie A seasons. There haven’t been any official conversations yet, but the Viola are keeping a close eye on him.
CF Patson Daka (24), Leicester City: Once hyped as the Next Great Striker, Daka’s had a rough time since moving to England, largely because he’s been unable to shoulder past Jamie Vardy. He’s scored just 9 league goals over 2 years. But let’s not forget that he netted 51 in the 2 years before that with Red Bull Salzburg. There’s some overlap between what the Red Bull systems do and what Fiorentina does, so kicking the tires on him could benefit everyone. The only question is if the Foxes will sell him for less than €20 million; if so, he’s a perfect reclamation project.
CF Lucas Boyé (27), Elche: He had a rather disastrous spell at Torino 8 years ago but has grown since then and could be a useful option up front. Big, strong, and quick, he’s good at linking play and could thrive under Italiano, although he’s never been prolific at senior level. He’s scored 7 league goals in 3 straight seasons and probably doesn’t want to play in the second tier. He’s also got and Italian passport and shares an agent with Lucas Martínez Quarta.
LB Thomas Ouwejan (26), Schalke: The Dutchman spent a year at Udinese and has almost always played in a platoon, so he could be a very strong rotational option with Cristiano Biraghi if the Viola are worried about putting too many miles on the captain’s legs going into his age-31 season. As a crosser and dead ball specialist, Ouwejan can do a decent impression and wouldn’t break the bank, as €3 million could be enough. He also shares an agent with Amrabat.
DM Lucas Tousart (26), Hertha Berlin: It’s hard to replace Amrabat, but Tousart may be just the ticket. He never stops running and can physically dominate the center of the pitch, although he’s more steady than incisive in possession. He’s probably too good for the Zweite Bundesliga and should be available for €15 million or so.