This season’s top scorers list in Serie A is highly unusual. One player in the top six, Simy Nwankwo, has been destined for relegation with Crotone for the past two or three months. Despite his team’s poor form, Simy has clocked up 19 goals.
In a similarly unusual fashion, Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic is now level with Romelu Lukaku, on 21 goals. The two he scored against Lazio over the weekend, though, are the goals that have finally (but not mathematically) clinched Fiorentina’s place in next season’s Serie A. It’s not normal for teams down around the bottom of the table to have a player fighting to be Capocannoniere.
It’s been a horribly inconsistent season for La Viola with the threat of relegation refusing to go away. The one shining light has been the form of Vlahovic. The 21-year-old has enjoyed a breakthrough season, and it’s attracting interest from some of the best teams in world football.
What makes the Serbian so appealing is not just the number of goals he’s scored, it’s the variety within them. He’s got a poacher’s instinct, meaning he sniffs out chances in the box that many strikers simply don’t anticipate. All but one of his goals this season have come from inside the box, a delightful curling effort from 20 yards against Benevento bucking the trend.
He’s adept from the penalty spot, and he’s ca››pable of classy finishes such as the delightful chip after a powerful run against Juventus. Incidentally, he’s certainly endeared himself to the Fiorentina fans given he’s scored against Juve both home and away this season.
Vlahovic is almost 190 centimetres tall, meaning he picks up plenty of headed goals too. In terms of physique, comparisons to Erling Braut Haaland make a lot of sense. He’s broad-shouldered and holds off defenders excellently, but he’s still got a turn of pace and looks poised when running with the ball.
This remarkable form has led to endless headlines about where he might play next season. The proposed destinations will certainly get Vlahovic’s mind racing. It’s very much worth noting that, at this stage of a season, transfer rumours can mean very little. Clubs get linked with 10 times more players than they are actually interested in because every story is still fresh.
That being said, Vlahovic could be receiving offers from Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Arsenal, AC Milan, or Tottenham Hotspur.
It seems that strikers and central defenders are the priority for many big clubs this summer, and Vlahovic presents a slightly cheaper and more attainable option for clubs like Liverpool, United, and Real Madrid who might be aiming for Haaland, but can’t part with €150 million.
It’s thought that a sum of around €45m could be enough to force Fiorentina’s hand. He still has two years to run on his contract, so the club is just about in a position of strength on that front. It’s potentially a shame for Fiorentina that Serbia didn’t qualify for the European Championship as a successful tournament for Vlahovic would likely have seen an extra €20m be added to his price tag.
Premier League options
It’s looking increasingly likely that Edinson Cavani will stay at Manchester United for another year, but they could still do with some extra cover up front. Vlahovic would be given time to develop and slowly build his minutes at Old Trafford, but it’s not somewhere he would play every week.
The situation is similar at Liverpool. They’ve lacked quality attacking depth for years, and Vlahovic would provide a more conventional striking option for Jurgen Klopp’s side. Again though, it’s unlikely he would be a key player at Anfield. That being said, they are supposedly the side who have shown the most concrete interest in the Serbian so far.
As for Real Madrid, he would of course become Karim Benzema’s understudy, and there are worse strikers to learn from. After seeing how his compatriot Luka Jovic has fared in Madrid though, will Vlahovic want to enter such a demanding environment off the back of his first high-scoring season?
Another option that is more than open for Vlahovic of course is to stay in Florence. Players like the aforementioned Jovic and Krzysztof Piatek have made big moves after one impressive patch of scoring, and it hasn’t worked out for them. Football is a sport in which reputations grow quickly, and get shattered even quicker.
Fiorentina, on paper, should have a much better season in 2021/22 than they have this year. It might be wiser for Vlahovic to spend another season at the Stadio Artemio Franchi and see if he can match his goals tally, or even increase it. If he’s got the quality, those offers from big clubs will still be there in 2022.