Few clubs will welcome the impending winter break and January transfer window with as much enthusiasm as Fiorentina. It has been a miserable campaign for the Tuscan side so far, with the appointment of Delio Rossi following Sinisa Mihajlovic’s sacking yet to produce the expected upturn in fortune.
The chance to regroup and plot a course for the remainder of the season could therefore not have come at a better time. Against a backdrop of supporter unrest, player indiscipline, injury and indifferent form, it is vital that the club – or more specifically sporting director Pantaleo Corvino – can make the moves required to steer the club in the right direction once again.
With no European football and the prospect of a relegation battle ahead, it is unlikely that the Viola will be attracting any marquee names to the Artemio Franchi this winter. With that in mind, here is a realistic appraisal of a number of players who could be both attainable and improve the team in a number of key areas.
In defence, the side have been frustratingly inconsistent this season; magnificent one week, yet porous the next. In their 15 league matches so far, they have managed a reasonably impressive seven clean sheets. However, in the eight matches in which they have conceded, they have shipped two goals on no fewer than seven occasions.
Artur Boruc is by no means an awful keeper, but he is no Sebastian Frey, and the decision to replace the Frenchman with him was one of the more mystifying acts of Mihajlovic’s tenure. Boruc is a decent shot stopper, but he just does not inspire the same level of confidence as Frey did, and is frequently at fault for the goals that Fiorentina concede.
With only 22-year-old Brazilian Neto as an alternative, bringing in an experienced head to replace Boruc should he continue to blow hot and cold is one option available to Rossi.
With Tottenham Hotspur out of both the Europa League and the Carling Cup, opportunities for Carlo Cudicini are going to be few and far between. Still hugely talented, the 38-year-old has just one Serie A appearance to his name – for Lazio in the 1996/97 season – and would be an ideal back up if he could be persuaded to return to the peninsula to see out his career.
The regular centre back pairing of Alessandro Gamberini and Cesare Natali have looked sluggish at times this season, and Rossi may look to strengthen in this position. Yohan Tavares, currently playing for Portuguese Primera Liga side Beira Mar, would reportedly be available for around the €2million mark.
Just 23-years-old, he is adept at snuffing out danger early with either foot or with his head, and is capable of making a clean tackle without going to ground. The young Frenchman has been attracting the attention of sides across Europe, and could be a suitable long term replacement for the ageing Natali.
In midfield, the protracted saga involving Riccardo Montolivo’s seemingly inevitable departure has cast a shadow over the side for far too long. The Azzurri international will be out of contract in the summer, but his indifferent form so far this season means that a parting of the ways in January might be best for all concerned.
A replacement would therefore become a necessity, and this is one area in which the Viola might struggle. Palermo’s Josip Ilicic would be an ideal, like for like replacement. Exceptionally skilful and with a flair for the unexpected, the Slovenian was a key figure during Rossi’s tenure in charge of the Rosanero, and he has been heavily linked with a departure from Sicily in January.
However, as things stand, a move to the Viola would likely be viewed as a sideways or backwards step, and with both Inter and Juventus reportedly interested, Fiorentina may not be a viable candidate for his signature.
Roma’s Leandro Greco is another talented, box to box midfielder who could conceivably slot quite comfortably into the Viola midfield. Out of contract next summer and unable to cement a regular place in Luis Enrique’s experimental Giallorossi side, he has been made available for transfer in January, and could be the answer to Rossi’s midfield dilemma.
Anderlecht’s Argentine midfielder Lucas Biglia has also been linked with a January move to Tuscany and just like Greco or Ilicic would be an ideal replacement for Montolivo. However, with defending champions AC Milan also reportedly showing an interest, the Viola may again be viewed as the less attractive option and subsequently miss out.
Further forward, goal scoring has proven to be a problem this season, with just 15 goals scored in Serie A at the time of writing; two thirds of which were shared by Stevan Jovetic and Alessio Cerci. On his day, Jovetic is one of the finest players in the division, but unfortunately his fitness cannot always be relied upon. Meanwhile, Cerci has fallen dramatically out of favour since the arrival of Rossi.
Elsewhere, Alberto Gilardino has struggled since returning from a knee injury sustained in the opening weeks of the campaign, whilst Santiago Silva has struggled to adapt since arriving from Velez Sarsfield in the summer. The addition of one or two forwards to the side is therefore essential during the transfer window.
Though recently bestowed with the dubious honour of this year’s Bidone d’Oro, Inter’s Diego Milito could be an ideal addition to Rossi’s side if he is deemed surplus to requirements at the San Siro.
This year has seen a dramatic fall from grace for a player who was instrumental in Inter’s treble success of 2010, but it is quickly becoming apparent that he and Giampaolo Pazzini are incompatible up front, and perhaps the chance to resurrect a flagging career at the Artemio Franchi could be just what the Argentine needs.
Elsewhere, FC Koln’s Lukas Podolski has been linked with a move to the Viola in recent days. The German international has pace, strength and a deadly left foot, and would be an excellent addition to Rossi’s side. However with Napoli, Arsenal and Zenit St. Petersburg all reportedly lining up bids, and with all three able to offer Champions League football, the 26-year-old’s destination is likely to be elsewhere.
A much more realistic acquisition would be Manchester United’s Federico Macheda. The Italian youngster made headlines in April 2009 with a stunning last minute winner against Aston Villa on his professional debut. It was a goal that swung that season’s title race in United’s favour, but he has since struggled to build on that initial early promise.
Last season, he endured a woeful loan spell with Sampdoria, netting just one Coppa Italia goal as the Blucerchiati were relegated, and rumours are rife that he will again be farmed out on loan during the coming transfer window. It would be a huge gamble, but the 20-year-old undoubtedly has talent, and perhaps Fiorentina could offer him the chance to prove it.
Whatever happens over the coming weeks, the second half of the season is likely to be a difficult one for Rossi and his side. In August, hopes were high that the club could make a serious push for a European place come the season’s end, but that dream has long since dissipated.
Relegation should be unthinkable, but a mid-table finish and the chance to rebuild in the summer would arguably represent a successful end to the season if the opening months of the campaign are anything to go by.
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