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End-of-year grades: Strikers

“A fantastic South American, a disappointing South American, and a really dang big Serbian teenager” is the punchline to the joke that is Fiorentina.

ACF Fiorentina v AC Milan - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Luis Muriel

What happened: Arrived out of nowhere in the January mercato on loan from Sevilla in a quest to find regular playing time and, for a brief moment, turned the Viola attack into a goddamn nuclear reactor. His pace, technique, and movement into space perfectly complemented Federico Chiesa, and it looked like he’d be the best €15 million Fiorentina ever spent.

But the goals eventually dried up—more because of the rest of the team’s shortcomings than anything that he did—and he started looking like a luxury player there at the end. He’s always drifted in and out of matches rather than dominating a full 90, so nobody was surprised when he failed to run proceedings for a while, but he was one of a precious few players who seemed to give a damn there at the end.

Final stats: 23 appearances (20 starts), 9 goals, 2 assists, 2 yellow cards

Best moment: There are plenty to choose from. His braces against Roma and Sampdoria were magnificent, and his free kick strike against Inter Milan is still making me wobbly in the knees. Honestly, just pick one and call it good. Hell of a season.

What’s next: Fiorentina’s late relegation scare threw a wrench into the proceedings with Sevilla to make his no-brainer move permanent, but hopefully things are back on track. Then again, with the possible change in ownership, it’s tough to say for sure what next year will look like. All we know is that we sure hope Muriel is back, as he’s one of the most entertaining and mercurial talents the Viola have boasted in recent memory.

Final grade: B+ We’re willing to forgive the late season swoon as a symptom of the team’s general rot, but he provided magic and hope to us for months in a season that was otherwise lacking both.

Giovanni Simeone

What happened: After an uneven but overall solid first year in Florence, we all thought that Cholito would make the jump. He, uh, didn’t. The finishing woes that plagued him at times last year returned with a vengeance: we’re not going to name every sitter that he missed because that would take up way too much time and space for this article, but rest assured that their name was legion for they were many.

While he did improve his passing a bit, as evidenced by his assist totals, and his furious pressing from the front continued unabated, Simeone’s struggles make him a serious contender for Fiorentina’s most disappointing player of the season. The progress we saw last year has been entirely reversed, and it’s fair to wonder if he’s really even a striker; he may do better as a bargain bin Erik Lamela: a player whose primary brief is to start the high pressure, with any contribution on the front foot an added but unexpected bonus.

Final stats: 40 appearances (27 starts), 8 goals, 6 assists, 2 yellow cards

Best moment: When he came on at the end of that Coppa Italia match against AS Roma, Fiorentina already had a 4-1 lead. After Chiesa completed his hat trick about 90 seconds after Simeone entered, it seemed like they’d be happy to ride that 5-1 result. But Cholito wasn’t ready for that and barged his way to a furious, powerful brace in his 17 minutes of burn. That was cool. That was the Cholito we remembered.

What’s next: It’s fair to wonder if the Viola brass will consider taking a loss on the €15 million they paid for Cholito if a decent offer comes in. Vincenzo Montella doesn’t seem to be much of a fan, so it may be for the best that Simeone moves on. Given his initial price tag, though, recouping the investment may be tough, even for a 23-year-old Argentina international.

Final grade: D My dude’s got to sort out his shooting boots and fast.

Dušan Vlahović

What happened: The Serbian teenager is goddamn enormous and the youngest debutant for Crvena zvezda, so he carries a burden equal to his physical stature. Unfortunately, he didn’t really put that together at the senior level for Fiorentina this year, although he was the first player born in the year 2000 to feature in a competitive match for the team.

Usually used as a late substitute when the team was trailing, he wasn’t exactly put in the ideal spots to succeed, but he borked a couple of finishes, particularly against Inter, and generally looked like a very large manchild who isn’t quite ready for a significant role in Serie A.

Final stats: 10 appearances (1 start),

Best moment: Probably the end of the Torino match, when he came close with an overhead kick that a man his size had no business reaching and showed a close connection with fellow Primavera terror Tòfol Montiel.

What’s next: Given his returns at the youth level—17 goals in 18 appearances—he’s clearly outgrown the Primavera. However, he’s definitely not ready for the top tier yet, so a loan in Serie B should split the difference nicely, giving him a lower pressure environment to hone his craft and then compete for a job with the Viola the following year.

Final grade: D As with Riccardo Sottil, this isn’t an indictment of the player, who enjoyed a lot of success with the Primavera and was rather hurled into the Serie A fray. But, if we’re only grading his performance on the pitch, he didn’t score and looked a bit hesitant most of the time. We fully expect him to come around within two years, though, and make this grade look absurd.