The rumours started in April, when La Gazzetta Dello Sport ran a story suggesting Fiorentina were ready to cash-in on long-serving goalkeeper Sébastien Frey. The 31 year-old, in his sixth season with La Viola, had missed the majority of the campaign, having injured his anterior cruciate ligament in November, during a training session.
In truth, Frey’s future had been in doubt before that. In the preceding summer, Polish international goalkeeper Artur Boruc was signed from Celtic, for a fee of €1.7 million. Questions were asked as to how Fiorentina planned to accommodate two stoppers who would almost equally command the number one spot.
Boruc was not a replacement for Frey, according to Sky transfer expert Gianluca Di Marzio: “His (Boruc) arrival, at least for the intentions of the Viola does not necessarily mean the departure of Frey.” That did, however, suggest Frey was looking for a transfer, a notion he denied.
In 2008, he was openly courted by Milan, but signed a new deal committing his future to the club: “I gave an important signal to this club, as I never thought of leaving. There were opportunities, but the Viola project is very important.” At the time Frey was at the peak of his career and also wanted by Bayern Munich.
He showed his loyalty to Fiorentina when he could have walked away. Admittedly, their qualification into the Champions League was a motivation in his decision and Milan had problems agreeing a fee, but not many reject the Rossoneri.
The January arrival of Brazilian goalkeeper Neto, from Atlético Paranaense, cast further doubt on Frey’s future. Then, last month, reports surfaced that Fiorentina had agreed a deal with Genoa for the French custodian. Unsatisfied with current goalkeeper Eduardo, President Enrico Preziosi bid for Frey, allegedly offering €5 million plus a player in exchange. Frey rejected the move and the transfer broke down.
So why are Fiorentina seemingly so willing to sell?
This season, Frey was Siniša Mihajlovic’s first choice up until his injury in November and then resumed that role once he had recovered, in May. Boruc deputised in between, making 26 appearances in the league, but there is no doubt who Mihajlovic prefers.
The signing of Boruc was seen as opportunistic. Long considered under-rated at Celtic, Fiorentina bought him at something of a bargain price. The suggestion was he would be sold on at a profit. The arrival of Neto confirmed that Pantaleo Corvino was planning to sell one of his goalkeepers, but few suspected it would be Frey.
Perhaps, there are worries over Frey’s ability to fully recover from a serious injury, but he has never made less than 35 league appearances in a season for Fiorentina, previously. If not that then maybe Corvino wanted to rid the club of Frey’s wages. The Frenchman may be one of the top earners, but he took a pay-cut when joining Fiorentina from Parma and perhaps would do the same, now.
There has been interested in Boruc this summer, with Arsenal and Liverpool said to be keen, but the fact Frey has been openly touted is disconcerting and suggests he will be the one sacrificed.
Does Fiorentina’s vice-captain deserves more respect, or is Corvino making his decision based on what is best for the club?
In terms of ability, few would argue that Frey is better than Boruc, but is the difference so significant when you consider Frey earns twice as much and would command a greater transfer fee, were he to be sold?
A similar situation has been occurring at Fiorentina’s rivals Juventus over the past 12 months, with sporting director Giuseppe Marotta deliberating on whether to sell Gianluigi Buffon. Like Frey, Buffon has been a fantastic servant to Juve and stuck by them when they were relegated to Serie B. He earns big wages and has a transfer market value of around ?20 million. Marotta also has his own Boruc, in the dependable Marco Storari.
Ultimately, Marotta has chosen to keep Buffon and put loyalty before money, repaying the goalkeepers previous act. It does, however, seem unlikely that Corvino will do the same. With money tighter at Fiorentina and a rebuilding project to undertake, he will have to be more ruthless and it appears unlikely that Frey will remain. A lack of loyalty? perhaps, but Corvino has to do what is best for his club.
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