Rafik Zekhnini’s arrival at Fiorentina was greeted with general apathy from Viola fans. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about a 19-year-old who couldn’t hold down a starting spot for Odds BK and scored just 1 goal in 17 appearances. However, we think he could wind up being a very good player in Tuscany.
First off, he passes the eyeball test. His performance in the preseason has been quite good: he’s showcased his calling card—blazing speed and clever dribbling—but he’s also demonstrated a few other qualities that have us excited. Specifically, his willingness to stretch play and his eagerness to look for a pass rather than put his head down have us quite excited. With all due respect to Odds, who are one of the best outfits in Norway, Zekhnini could be the sort of player whose quality only becomes apparent when he’s surrounded by players of similar talent.
With the arrival of Valentin Eysseric, he’s not going to start many matches. However, his raw pace and intelligent positioning should see him make a number of appearances, especially when Stefano Pioli wants to introduce a new dimension to the Viola attack. He’s probably behind Ianis Hagi in the pecking order, but a season in which he makes about 15 appearances and is involved in a handful of goals would be a success by any measure. He may not be quite ready for a full-time gig, but we think he could be a Serie A level player sooner rather than later, and that’s cause for excitement.