Welcome to the third chapter for my Glory Hunter series, and thank you for following the journey. If you missed the second chapter, you can read it here.
The first season with Fiorentina ended on a high and was much more successful than I could’ve imagined when starting – ending the season with a 16 game unbeaten run and the highest position in Serie A in 30 years. We didn’t win any trophies, but we took giant steps as a club and managed to close the gap to top a lot in just one season. The media predicts us at 7th, ahead of the new season, and the board wants us to compete for a Europa League place.
The transfer window was all about strengthening the team regarding quality, as we already have a solid base. We had already made three signings that would arrive soon after the transfer window opened. Leo Østigård arrives on a free transfer from Brighton and will be a good backup option. He can also play up front if we should face an extreme emergency.
Karim Konaté arrives from Asec Mimosa but immediately goes on loan for the upcoming season. A fine talent that could become a quality player in the future.
With Odriozola going back to Real Madrid after his loan, I decided to spend some money on a new wing-back. Wilfried Singo ticks all the boxes and brings good pace to the side. With 63 games in Serie A at 21, he can go straight into our side, and for £18.25M, I consider him real value for money.
Ryan Gravenberch was brought in from Ajax for £26M to strengthen the midfield. For a 20-year-old, he has very impressive stats and can be a world-class player in several roles.
On deadline day Joshua Zirkzee was brought in on loan to add numbers to the attack. He will be back up together with Kouamé.
With Erick Pulgar wanting a new challenge, I needed to find his replacement before letting him go. Two fantastic midfielders were found on the transfer list in Marco Verratti and Declan Rice. With the latter being around £30M cheaper and not even in his peak yet, the decision was eventually to go for him. I can maybe bring in Verratti at a later time or at another club in the future.
As you can see in the comparison, there are minor differences between the two, but Rice is the superior player in some key aspects with his good mental and physical stats. Rice also has the potential to grow, so this is smart business in my book. When I first arrived, we had midfielders in abundance but lacked quality – with Rice and Gravenberch added real quality to the starting eleven. Rice will also be our new captain, despite not speaking the language. No one in the squad is anywhere close to his leadership skills, and we have to use that for what it’s worth.
There was also a lot of activity in terms of transfer out, with 15 players leaving the club on a permanent transfer. Some of the players leaving are good players that don’t fit in here, and some we managed to replace with better players.
That makes this our squad after deadline day, and what now may lack in numbers. We may lack some cover on the wingbacks if an injury crisis comes upon us, but all in all, I’m delighted with the squad we got now. There is room for some transfers in January if necessary.
I’ve identified some key players that we need to succeed this season, and hopefully, my predictions will be correct;
- Lucca, Vlahovic and Sesko. I need at least two of the three aces to score the number of goals they did last season.
- The wing-backs need to deliver quality crosses for our trio upfront. If Cristiano Biraghi can provide anything near the numbers he had last year, we’re up for a successful season.
- The midfield duo will be crucial to our play. They need to cover a lot of ground and distribute play out to the wing-backs. With Rice and Gravenberch, we have a solid duo, and especially Castrovilli provides excellent cover. Aas, Krastev and Ince are not proven at this level yet, but with my transfers out, I have to give them the chance to take the next step.
Early in the summer the news approached that Juventus replaced Allegri after a disastrous 7th place last season. His replacement can be hard to compete against if he’s given enough time and money to build the squad he wants.
I guess I have to compete against the best managers if I want to achieve what I’ve set out to achieve. Pep leaving City created a domino effect in the Premier League with Jürgen Klopp leaving Liverpool to replace him. Steven Gerrard replaced Klopp, and it sure will be exciting to see if he will be as successful as the german.
We had a great start in Serie A and continued where we left off before the summer. Our style of play suits the team and attacking wise, we’ve been great.
Vlahovic fired away immediately and had a superb start to the campaign, with the other two aces having a slower start. Still, the overall amount of goals is positive. A huge surprise is that Zagadou has scored that many goals, many of them important ones.
Biraghi, our former captain, suffered an injury in pre-season, but when he returned, he contributed hugely. In just nine games in Serie A, he scored a hat-trick and chipped in with eight assists.
Unfortunately, we had two bad losses against other challengers for the title, and especially Atalanta seems challenging to compete against this year. However, the gap isn’t that big, with just four points so that anything can happen, and we have everything for play for when Serie A action returns in January. The fact that we haven’t played all the big clubs yet can have impacted our position in the league. If we can beat Juventus and Milan in January, things will look perfect for us.
Our first time out in the Champions League got us a tough group, and I would be more than satisfied enough if we had taken 3rd place and qualified for the Europa League.
That didn’t happen, and after beating both Bayern and City at home with class performances, we ended up winning the group on results between teams and goal difference. Six goals in six games for Vlahovic, four goals from the unlikely topscorer Zagadou and five assists from Gravenberch made the group stage a dream for us. So knocking City and Klopp out feels extra good.
In the middle of February, we’ll be back to play Real Madrid in the first knockout round.
With the season coming to a break, everyone directed their eyes to the World Cup in Qatar. Of course, everything about that World Cup is a mess, but let’s hope the quality of football is good. Eight of our players were called up to participate in the tournament, and every single one of them has deserved it.
Ryan Gravenberch played every game for the Netherlands when they reached the semifinals and eventually won the Third Place Playoff against Italy. On the other hand, Lucca and Biraghi didn’t play much, only the one game for Biraghi.
Vlahovic and Milenkovic got knocked out in the group stage together with Kouame and Singo. Unfortunately, none of them really impressed in the tournament. Declan Rice did, however, impress when leading England to a Quarter-Final where they lost after extra time to an impressive Brazilian team.
After the World Cup, several international jobs opened up, and at some point, I need to find a National Team to manage to complete the challenge. Since the Euros are also part of the challenge, I won’t apply for jobs in other nations than Europe. However, all of my applications were unsuccessful – I’ll just have to try again after the Euros in two years.
Thank you all for reading this blog.
/ FM Veteran