It has been a summer for celebration in Florence. Yes, Fiorentina lost Stevan Jovetic, but think of the new arrivals. Mario Gomez – welcomed by more than 20,000 fans at the Stadio Artemio Franchi – is a lethal finisher. Josip Ilicic and Joaquin add to a highly talented attacking support cast, while Massimo Ambrosini provides experience and midfield bite. Yet amid the euphoria is the drawn-out Adem Ljajic contract situation, which would be unsettling for the Viola faithful.
While Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi were scoring their first goals for the club in a friendly last Saturday, Ljajic wasn’t picked by Vincenzo Montella. “We all know Ljajic’s quality and he still needs to grow,” commented the tactician. “There are some market situations in play and over the last few days I saw some conflict within him. He’ll play as long as I can see that he is relaxed and gives me guarantees on his concentration, especially considering his age.”
The 21-year-old has just one year left to run on his current contract. Earlier this month Viola director of sport Daniele Pradè insisted the player wanted to extend, but there’s no ink yet on the dotted line. President Mario Cognini is set to meet with the player’s representative Fali Ramadani, but there are sticking points.
Ljajic is believed to want a pay increase from €750,000 a season to €2m, according to Mediaset. In return Fiorentina are prepared to offer a basic salary of €1m, plus bonuses. The parties must also come to an agreement over the recession fee clause. Ramadani is pushing for €10m, the club are aiming as high as €16m.
Pradè indicated on Monday the onus is on Ljajic. “We are working on Ljajic’s renewal. The main thing is that he wants to remain at Fiorentina and he has to prove it, otherwise the doors are open for everyone. We are a strong team and a strong club, so this forces the player to let us know what he wants to do.”
Adding to the drama is the lurking shadow of Milan and master negotiator Adriano Galliani. Their interest in the Serbia international has been noted and with a deal expiring in June 2014, the Rossoneri could pounce. Galliani has said Ljajic’s characteristics suit Milan. For the Viola this interest is as welcome as a 5am phone call.
Given how Ljajic performed last season, Fiorentina would be well advised to keep hold. From the player in 2011-12 attacked on the bench by boss Delio Rossi, and one who had issues with Serbia boss Sinisa Mihajlovic, Ljajic has grown over the past season.
In two and a half Fiorentina years before Montella’s arrival, Ljajic did not truly deliver on his potential. He scored just four goals. Under the former Italian international Ljajic has started to display this burgeoning promise regularly. He netted 11 goals in 28 matches last term and finished with eight assists. Ljajic exploded in the second half of the season as Jovetic’s goals arrived infrequently, netting 10 times from February.
As a strengthened Fiorentina push for the Champions League, Ljajic will remain central to their plans. He fits either of Montella’s favoured formations and can take the mantle of attacking leader as Gomez settles and Rossi regains match fitness.
Ljajic has started to hit his straps and has the environment, teacher and teammates to progress even further. This is another reason to ensure negotiations are wrapped up quickly, as it can weigh on a player’s mind, as Montella already pointed out. That can hurt not only the player, but the team. Should negotiations conclude smoothly, expect Ljajic to continue on the path set out during the second half of last season.