The January transfer window is now in full swing, with many of Europe’s biggest clubs now starting to make adjustments to their respective squads as they seek to gain the edge on their rivals. In the past it has often seen some panic buys, as coaches look to save their jobs. But even in those cases, you can usually look at a deal and understand the rationale behind it.
It is rare a transfer makes the entire footballing world stop and think “what?” Yet, as Manchester United midfielder Anderson joins Fiorentina on loan, that is undoubtedly the reaction. From the Serie A club’s standpoint, the deal is very hard to explain.
Still only 25 years old, the Brazilian has spent almost seven years at Old Trafford, arriving back in 2007 and being touted as a future star. He played for Porto for 18 months before that, after a €7 million transfer from Gremio, but missed almost a third of that time with a broken leg. He still made 15 appearances and helped bring yet another league title to the Estadio do Dragao, all the while attracting attention from across the continent.
United moved quickly, signing him for a fee which the Portuguese side reported as being €30 million and handing him the No. 8 shirt. Looking back on that now, it seems staggering, but his debut Premier League season would see him appear to justify both the outlay and the hype.
He would make 24 league appearances and 38 overall, stepping into the huge void left by Roy Keane’s departure, as he provided the kind of box-to-box displays that were absent without the Irishman. Strong in the tackle, neat in possession and full of energy, he was still very raw, but United seemed to have found the heir apparent in midfield.
Anderson would add the exclamation point to an excellent campaign by slotting home his side’s first sudden-death penalty in the Champions League Final, stepping up immediately after Chelsea captain John Terry’s unfortunate slip.
That completed a league and European double for the club, and the following season he would again be an important player. He was selected to start the 2008 FIFA World Club Cup Final, scoring the winning penalty in the 2009 League Cup Final. At just 21 years old, he played a central role in delivering five trophies to the club.
During that time, he had also helped Brazil win bronze at the 2008 Olympics and had amassed 76 appearances under Sir Alex Ferguson. A cruciate ligament injury against West Ham in February 2010 ruled him out for the remainder of the season, however, and he was also involved in a car crash in Portugal later that year.
Since then, he has done little but disappoint, making just 43 league starts and scoring a mere four goals over the following four seasons. According to stats site WhoScored.com, he has added the same number of assists in that time and averaged 1.1 tackles and 0.4 interceptions per game in 2012/13.
All of which leads us back to Fiorentina, flying high under young coach Vincenzo Montella with a vibrant midfield at the heart of their place for a Champions League berth next term. Spaniard Borja Valero leads the way with David Pizarro and Alberto Aquilani helping the Viola rank ninth in Europe’s top five leagues for pass completion (86.1 percent) and eighth in possession (58.7 percent) according to WhoScored. With Massimo Ambrosini and Matias Fernandez in reserve, space for Anderson could be just as difficult to find as it has been at Old Trafford.
The same site shows his passing ability—86.4 percent last term—fits well into that framework, but he has done so while making just 37.8 passes per game, a number way below that of his new team-mates. Valero (63.1), Pizarro (60.7) and Aquilani (53.9) all make significantly more, while even Ambrosini (43.7) keeps the ball moving. That is vital to Montella’s tactics, and Anderson will need to do the same if he is to play a role in Serie A following the completion of his loan move (as per Football Italia).
A number of players, from Giuseppe Rossi to Aquilani, show they love a restoration project, but Fiorentina are also a physically well-prepared side, with their preseason training vital to everything they do. Having missed that and constantly mocked over his weight (via the Daily Mirror), it is difficult to see why the club think Anderson is the right fit.