Gaetano Castrovilli seems exactly the sort of player Fiorentina should do everything to keep around. The 26-year-old has been at the club since January 2017, making his way through the ranks and earning a starting role. His technical and physical characteristics are remarkable. He’s shown an ability to grow his game as managers come and go. Giancarlo Antognoni gave his blessing to Tanino taking over the hallowed number 10 shirt.
Now, though, club and player are at loggerheads over a new contract. Castrovilli’s current deal expires at the end of the upcoming season and negotiations have dragged on for more than a month. The salary is clearly the sticking point: the midfielder’s camp wants a yearly wage of at least €3 million, which the Viola brain trust doesn’t want to give him, despite the implicit threat of losing a key player for nothing next summer.
It’s not hard to see Castrovilli’s side. He came back from a catastrophic knee injury and settled back into the team very quickly, largely because he was willing to play in the double pivot of a 4-2-3-1 rather than as the trequarista everyone expected. He was really good there, too. His statistics don’t look great since it took him a month or two to find his feet after nearly a year on the sidelines, but anyone watching could tell that he was firing on all cylinders.
For a player who’s been criticized for lacking incision in the final third, he provided good scoring numbers, too, despite operating farther away from goal. 4 goals and an assist in half a season is a fine return, especially since he was clearly off the pace for awhile too. Combine those stats with his typically dazzling dribbling through the middle, his underrated defensive contribution, and the mental fortitude to return so quickly and effectively from a major injury and it certainly looks like the final step in his evolution to the complete midfielder we’ve always thought he’d become.
From Fiorentina’s perspective, however, he’s probably far from earning that designation. That injury was one of a succession of incidents that kept him on the trainer’s table for the past 2 seasons, so there may be some desire to see if he can stay healthy for an entire campaign before paying him a major salary.
And that major salary is probably the bigger issue. Nicolás González and Nikola Milenković are undoubtedly Fiorentina’s most important two players, propping up the attack and defense, respectively. They each earn €2.5 million a year. Paying Castrovilli substantially more opens the door to other players looking for big pay raises and could badly skew the wage structure down the line. Nobody wants to keep a Callejón/Kokorin/Benassi salary, a relatively large expenditure for subpar returns.
That’s certainly not the concern with Castrovilli, of course. He’s an excellent player in his prime and has the physical, technical, and mental characteristics to fit into any system. It’s more that he could open a door that the Viola would rather keep closed, and with neither side apparently willing to budge on negotiations, the tension is mounting.
While there’ve been whispers of a swap with Napoli for Diego Demme, that’s not in anyone’s interest. The Partenopei have a stacked midfield that would leave Castrovilli scrapping with a bunch of firmly-established stars, and losing him would be mean losing the last of the players (Federico Chiesa and Dušan Vlahović being the other two) that Rocco Commisso touted as his three bandiere when he first bought the club, a suboptimal outcome just 4 years after such a proclamation.
No, Castrovilli belongs in Florence because he needs the Viola as much as the club needs him. Their strengths and weaknesses are perfectly aligned, and underneath all the bluster, it’s likely that both sides know it. No lesser authority than Enzo Bucchioni has assured us that this is all just posturing and there’s nothing to really worry about.
Remember, this is the slowest season of the calcio news cycle, when journalists are desperate to find new material. The most likely outcome at this stage is Castrovilli agreeing to a new deal that pays him like one of Fiorentina’s best players. There’s plenty of time left to get agreeable terms ironed out. On the list of reasons why Fiorentina fans should be panicking right now, this probably doesn’t even make the top ten.