Should Juventus target Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic this summer?

Fiorentina, Dusan Vlahovic (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)
Fiorentina, Dusan Vlahovic (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images) /

With Juventus stuttering over Alvaro Morata’s loan, failing to resolve Paulo Dybala’s contract situation but apparently willing to retain the services of Cristiano Ronaldo to seemingly ensure their relevance is retained from a commercial perspective, the Bianconeri head into the summer with their striker situation entrenched in ambiguity.

In short, fresh faces are likely.

A name who’s emerged as a potential arrival, meanwhile, is Fiorentina hitman Dusan Vlahovic, who seemingly has the whole continent on his tail amid a breakthrough 2020/21 campaign facilitated by former boss Cesare Prandelli.

However, would a move by the Bianconeri be wise considering the current financial climate and the absence of a European Super League to bail them out?

Let’s take a deep dive into Fiorentina’s number nine.

Dusan Vlahovic’s emergence

Vlahovic’s rise at Fiorentina certainly wasn’t immediate. After joining La Viola from hometown club Partizan Belgrade on his 18th birthday in January 2018, Vlahovic had to wait until the start of the 2018/19 season before making his senior debut.

Majestic form in the Primavera failed to translate over to Serie A, however, as minutes came few and far between for the young Serb under Stefano Pioli. The current AC Milan boss’ successor, Beppe Iachini displayed more faith in the impressively-built teenager and his talent was first promulgated to a wider audience with his stunning solo effort in the dying embers of Fiorentina’s 1-1 draw with Antonio Conte’s title-chasing Inter in December 2019.

Despite Iachini’s faith, Vlahovic scored just six Serie A goals in 2019/20. It wasn’t until Cesare Prandelli – a coach revered for getting the very best out of number nines (Adrian Mutu and Adriano, for example) – arrived as manager last November when the Serb’s stock started to skyrocket.

A slow, concerning start to the season swiftly evolved into a prosperous and prolific one thanks to Prandelli. After netting just once in his first ten Serie A appearances of 2020/21, Vlahovic would go on to score 13 times in 17 league games under Prandelli’s tutelage. Iachini’s return to the helm, meanwhile, has failed to inhibit the striker’s imperious form with Vlahovic scoring four in four following Prandelli’s premature departure.

The Serb’s stellar form has mitigated La Viola’s threat from relegation and piqued the interest of Europe’s elite. Vlahovic’s strike from the spot in a crucial triumph over Hellas Verona last week took his Serie A goal-haul up to 16 for the season (adding another against Juventus with the cheekiest of panenkas), becoming the first Fiorentina player since Giuseppe Rossi in 2013/14 to reach such a figure.

No Under-23 has scored more than Vlahovic in Italy this season either.

What are the media saying?

It’s not only Vlahovic’s hot-streak in front of goal that’s got his name circulating persistently in transfer rumour mills, but Fiorentina’s incompetence in contract negotiations as well.

The Serb has a contract in Florence until 2023 but the club are keen to extend Vlahovic’s current deal to fend off potential suitors. However, the club have miffed in negotiations thus far. Gazzetta dello Sport (via GOAL) reported last month that the player rejected Fiorentina’s offer of a new contract with a salary worth triple compared to his current deal.

The report also notes that Roma are lining Vlahovic up as a potential Edin Dzeko replacement, with AC Milan reportedly interested too.

Calcio Mercato (via The Sun), meanwhile, spoke about a five-team race for the Serb’s signature between Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, RB Leipzig and the two aforementioned Italian clubs this summer.

That same source also discussed Juventus’ interest, as well as Tottenham’s. Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund have also been mentioned in some quarters as potential landing grounds for the in-demand Serb.

Regarding Vlahovic’s potential fee, €40m is a figure that many media outlets have conjured up.

Player profile

Standing just shy of 6’3, Vlahovic is a physical juggernaut with his profile almost freakish in this regard. The 21-year-old’s imperious build means he’s able to fulfil a typical target-man function adeptly, although his impressive athleticism enables him to run beyond the opposition’s defence, penetrate the channels and link-up play across the width of the pitch.

Such attributes ensure he’s a menace in transition too, best exemplified by his name-stating strike against the Nerazzurri.

Vlahovic’s timing of his trademark darts into the half-spaces are usually perfect, with his movement off the ball perhaps his finest attribute. This season, he’s generally functioned closer to the right half-space, although his positioning is fairly fluid in what’s often been a 3-5-2 since Iachini’s first arrival.

Overall, Vlahovic is an incredibly intelligent forward without the ball.

With the ball, the Serb boasts a clean technique and a superb left-foot – allowing him to score from a variety of situations/positions in the final third. This season, he’s outscoring his xG by 1.6, highlighting his new-found confidence and efficiency in front of goal.

He’s comfortable carrying the ball and occupying wider positions, typically using his body smartly to protect possession and outduel opponents.

However, refinement is required. Vlahovic underwhelms from a creative perspective despite his capacity to bring others into play. He ranks in the 31st percentile among strikers in Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for expected assists (0.09 per 90 minutes) and 25th percentile for shot-creating actions (1.68 per 90). The Serb’s work out of possession has come into question – more from a tactical perspective as opposed to attitude (or lack thereof).

Vlahovic is more impressive when it comes to progressive passes received (74th percentile with 9.40 per 90) and aerials won (75th percentile with 3.17 per 90), which depicts his supremacy in the air and shrewd movement to receive possession.

Should Juventus pursue?

Juventus’ supposed interest seemingly isn’t as stark compared to their competitors but they’d be wise to chase a striker who’s swiftly matured and evolved into one of Europe’s most sought-after players at his position.

Juventus may well see the backs of Dybala and Morata this summer, meaning the addition of a bona fide number nine will be imperative. Should Andrea Pirlo remain at the helm for the start of 2021/22, Vlahovic will certainly be a harmonious systematic fit in Il Maestro’s fluid 4-4-2 where he’ll likely partner Ronaldo in the front line.

Next. Juventus Player Ratings vs. Fiorentina. dark

The Serb’s ability to penetrate in-behind and drop between the lines is similar to Morata’s and while the Spaniard’s capacity to combine and link play is superior to Vlahovic’s, the Viola star boasts an abrasiveness and ruthlessness that distinctly Morata lacks, especially in transition.

Vlahovic’s reported price tag – a mere €40m – makes him an even more attractive option for the Bianconeri and, overall, he should be Juve’s primary priority regarding striker targets.

Although, I’d be keen to see the ever-evolving forward develop in Florence for another season.