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Positional review and grades: Forwards

With the goalkeepers, defense, and midfield all covered, it's time to look at the Viola forwards who remain on the roster.

Josip can levitate and do other weird things too.
Josip can levitate and do other weird things too.
Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Fiorentina has a deep stable of strikers right now. Nikola Kalinić, Khouma Babacar, Josip Iličić, and Mauro Zárate are a diverse and useful set of players, and with Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gómez returning the fold, along with a host of younger players (we've reviewed all these guys here and here), the larder is quite full. Too full, in fact, as every one of those players have, at some point, been linked to a move out of Florence in the past couple of weeks.

Nikola Kalinić

The Croatian international arrived from Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk a year ago for €7 million. While nobody expected a 27 year old from the Ukrainian league to become a star, Kalinić had the half-season of his life, scoring 12 goals and totaling 7 assists across Serie A and the Europa League. His movement, hold-up play, and assured finishing in the area (he didn't even try a shot from outside the box until well into the spring) made him an indispensable part of the squad, and Gonzalo Higuaín's only competition as Capocannoniere. Unfortunately, everything fell apart in the new year, as he only managed 2 more goals and generally looked lost and harmless. No one seems sure if 2015 Kalinić or 2016 Kalinić is the real one, so next year will be a real test for him. His early season and international form have attracted a number of suitors, but, after some uncertainty, he says he wants to stay in Florence and keep working with Paulo Sousa.

Final stats: 46 appearances, 16 goals, 7 assists, 6 yellow cards

Grade: B-. Brilliant for the first half and useless for the second, although he's so reliant on service into the area that it wasn't all on him.

Khouma Babacar

Fiorentina's longest-serving player since the departure of Manuel Pasqual, the Senegalese striker made his senior debut aged just 17 against Lazio. Now 23, he has everything you could ask for in a striker: height, strength, pace, an astonishingly soft touch, and the ability to score from anywhere. His goals per 90 minutes ratio backs up his ability, as he scored at a rate of more than 1 every 2 matches, and his knack for scoring at crucial times, such as his last minute winner against Inter Milan. What's more, as an academy alumnus, he'll help Fiorentina comply with homegrown players rule. And, having just signed an extension last summer, he's flatly rejected any and all offers to leave Florence. So it's really strange that he seems to be close to leaving, probably for big Premier League money. Hopefully he'll agree to stick around, learn about off-ball movement from Kalinić, and settle in as the latest in a long line of prolific Viola strikers.

Final stats: 24 appearances, 7 goals, 1 assist, 2 yellow cards

Grade: B. A talented understudy who probably deserved more minutes, he positively oozes class and will be a star somewhere. Let's hope it's Florence.

Josip Iličić

Mercurial is the sort of word that's badly overused in footballing parlance, but it fits Josip to a tee. Seen as a luxury buy from Palermo back in 2013, he's the sort of player who can provide 89 minutes and 58 seconds of bad touches, bad shots, and generally bad play, and then produce 2 seconds of absolute brilliance. For as frustrating as he is, he was dialed in for most of this year, leading Fiorentina in scoring, even thought a number of those were (very well taken) penalties. However, he doesn't really fit into the 4-3-3 that Sousa wants to use next year, and he's attracted a number of offers from England and Germany. Getting €15 million for him would go a long way towards funding a reconstruction of the squad, but selling one's leading scorer is always an anxious proposition.

Final stats: 37 appearances, 15 goals, 6 assists, 2 yellow cards

Grade: B. This is probably the best Lurch we're ever going to see, so let's just enjoy that while we have it.

Mauro Zárate

Brought in from West Ham on loan over the winter, the ex-Lazio man announced himself immediately with a late winner against Carpi. Although he's a selfish player with a penchant for dribbling himself into a corner and taking deeply optimistic shots, his single-minded directness is a very useful weapon. Now signed to a 2 year contract with Fiorentina, his future is also a bit hazy, as he, Iličić, and Rossi all fill similar roles. Since he's a new signing, experienced in Serie A, versatile, and fairly inexpensive in regards to his quality, he should stick around next year; he's a perfect fit as a late attacking substitute and spot starter against weaker teams.

Final stats: 15 appearances, 3 goals, 2 assists, 2 yellow cards, 1 red card

Grade: C+. Would be nice if he didn't always put his head down to dribble at goal and shoot, but he made it work often enough that I can't be too angry.