Following Milan Badelj’s quickfire transfer back to Fiorentina earlier this week, many of us were left wondering what went wrong for him at Lazio that would send him back to Florence just a year after leaving on Bosman transfer after turning down an extension for several seasons. To quench that curiosity, we turned to Steven Moore, founder and creator of the Laziali, the premier source for all things pertaining to Lazio in English. He also contributes to Gianluca di Marzio’s English website. Give him (and the Laziali) a follow; he’s very good.
Viola Nation: Badelj made just 26 appearances last year, which seems a bit low for a guy who was an unquestioned starter in Florence. Why didn’t he play more?
Steven Moore: A regular starter for Fiorentina, he looked as if he was the type of player who needed consistent playing time to find his best form. However, after a deep run into the final of the World Cup Croatia – and a consequential longer-than-usual break – he missed preseason with the Biancocelesti, automatically starting his tenure with Le Aquile as a vice to Lucas Leiva. It remained that way for the rest of the season with additional competition from the likes of Valon Berisha, Alessandro Murgia, Marco Parolo, and Danilo Cataldi from the bench, and the remaining two starting midfielders, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto.
VN: Badelj turns 31 this season, which is often the beginning of a decline for midfielders. How much do you think he has left in the tank?
SM: The phrase ‘ages like fine wine’ comes to mind whenever asked questions concerning aging players. As it stood – until August 4th – Fiorentina were deprived of an experienced midfielder, capable of having the quality to start and command the center of the park. This was the result of the departures of Christian Nörgaard, Gerson, Edimilson Fernandes, and Jordan Veretout. For this reason alone, I believe Viola fans should be more than ok with Milan Badelj’s return to Florence, albeit being 31 years of age. In my opinion the Croatian international still has two to three years of football left to offer, especially considering his veteran status and understanding of the Serie A; he has spent five seasons playing in the top flight of Italian football.
VN: What’s the feeling among the fans about this move? Are they mostly happy to be turning a profit off a player who signed on a Bosman, or are they disappointed to lose a useful member of the squad?
SM: Although, as you mentioned, he was signed on a Bosman, this deal was anything but cheap. He was signed on a four-year deal making a minimum of €1.5 million per season in relation to his salary. However, the positive in this deal is that any cash sum that is paid for the midfielder, will automatically become plusvalenza (capital gain) for the club.
Finally, as stated on Twitter, the departure of Badelj means that Lazio have finally decided to give homegrown product Danilo Cataldi the opportunity to acquire more minutes and prove his worth. This is the final reason why, despite losing an experienced central midfielder, the pros outweigh the cons, and therefore, it was a smart move by Biancocelesti management.
VN: Will an English announcer ever pronounce “Badelj” correctly?
SM: Phonetically, the simplest way to say his name is ‘ME-LAN’ ‘BAD-EH’. A tricky one for people not of Slavic descent, I’ve also heard the likes of ‘ME-LAN’ ‘BAD-EL’; in either case the ‘l’ and ‘j’ are essentially dropped.
Big thanks to Steven again for some insight on the Bad Elf’s past year in the capital.