The Serbian centre-back had a breakout year in Serie A last season, and Manchester City are reportedly close to signing him.
Where once Serie A was the must-go destination for the game’s brightest talents this summer has seen an exodus of not only established stars but emerging talents who had been given their first break in Italy.
It was Fiorentina’s former sporting director Pantaleo Corvino who trailed and landed Matija Nastasić, as he had done with the likes of Stevan Jovetic and Mirko Vucinic at Lecce in the past, through his excellent networking in the Balkan states.
The Viola were seeking a young and talented defender to ease into the first team although the club expected the then 18-year-old, who had been playing for FK Partizan’s feeder club Teletoptik, to spend part of the year on loan at either another Serie A club or most likely in Serie B.
It did not take long into pre-season to persuade the club’s hierarchy that the strapping teenager had not only the physical attributes and technique to make the breakthrough, but also the mental fortitude.
However, coach and fellow Serb Sinisa Mihajlovic only used the youngster sparingly as a substitute, standing by his more experience defenders.
With Rossi deploying a three-man defence, Nastasić was one of the first names on the team sheet although he demonstrated his versatility when he was switched to the left side of the backline for the run-in
However, after he was shown the door on the back of a poor run, new man in charge Delio Rossi – who would lose his job after throwing a few punches at Adem Ljajic – had no hesitation handing Nastasić a starting place.
That debut came in Rossi’s first game in charge in November in what was the pressure atmosphere of a home match against title-chasing AC Milan.
By the end of ninety minutes where Zlatan Ibrahimovic had been marked out of the game and the Viola had secured a valuable point following a goalless draw, the questions were being asked as to why it had taken so long to give such a natural talent his chance.
In that eye-catching display, Nastasić occupied the central defensive position and he would go on to do so through the turn of the year as he turned 19, scoring two goals in two games – the first a composed close-range finish against Catania and then a towering header at Parma.
With Rossi deploying a three-man defence, Nastasić was one of the first names on the team sheet although he demonstrated his versatility when he was switched to the left side of the backline for the run-in and it was in that position he started the new season last weekend in a 2-1 home win over Udinese under his third coach in a year; Vincenzo Montella.
With his natural pace and composure on the ball not to mention his raw strength, he is destined to dominate centre of defence but has he recently commented he is still learning his trade so he is willing to play in whatever position he is required.
Two full caps have since followed and it is unlikely that now in charge of his country’s fortunes Mihajlovic is likely to hold him back during the upcoming World Cup qualifying campaign.
His international trajectory has been equally upward, coming through the Serbia under-17 and 19s to be promoted to the Under-21s on his move to Italy. Two full caps have since followed and it is unlikely that now in charge of his country’s fortunes Mihajlovic is likely to hold him back during the upcoming World Cup qualifying campaign.
There had already been reported enquiries in the last winter break but Fiorentina were at that stage in no hurry to sell. However, as with the majority of cash-strapped Italian clubs a half-decent offer – and in reality it is only going to come from abroad - and they will accept it.
This is especially true of defenders who even if they are of the classy variety can be replaced by solid no nonsense operators but if Fiorentina cash in then only opposition strikers in Italy will be celebrating.
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