It is easy to forget that Sebastián Cristóforo is only 23. The combative Uruguayan midfielder moved to Sevilla in 2013 after an early breakout at Peñarol, but his time in Spain was plagued by injuries, although he developed a reputation as a big game player, standing out especially in the historic Europa League run by Unai Emery’s side.
Unfortunately, after moving to Fiorentina on loan with a mandatory buyout clause, he was not given the opportunity to continue that run, as he found himself on a forgettable, mediocre team, without a defined role. Cristóforo did little to help himself - outside of a few strong Europa League showings (a trend for him) and some valuable time as a late game defensive substitute, he failed to stand out, getting outplayed by veteran Carlos Sánchez for most of the year. He did manage to remain healthy at least.
It didn’t help that coach Paulo Sousa seemed to have little idea how to use him. Cut from the same cloth as other Uruguayan midfielders who thrived in Serie A such as Diego Pérez and Walter Gargano, Cristóforo is a defensive minded player but one most comforable in a floating role - he isn’t as comfortable going forward as the departed Matías Vecino was, something Sousa failed to realize, but he’s a capable short passer and willing to look for the goal if complimented with similiar players in the midfield.
He already appears to fit the midfield needs of Stefano Pioli more than his predecessor, and has featured heavily in the preseason. Part of that has been due to necessity - until the past few weeks, there was virtually no other options, but to his credit, the Uruguayan has already looked much more comfortable than he did last year.
Once again Cristóforo looks set to start the year on the bench - new signings Marco Benassi and Jordan Veretout have higher pedigree, Sánchez remains a reliable defensive option, and as of writing this Milan Badelj is still a Fiorentina player. This could change quickly however - with a coach more interested in his skillset, the loss of Vecino, and Sánchez one year older, Cristóforo will have plenty of opportunities to break out.