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Dusan Vlahović keeping everyone guessing amid transfer saga

Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic celebrates scoring during the Italian Cup, round of 16 soccer match between Napoli and Fiorentina, at the Diego Armando Maradona stadium in Naples, Italy, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. (Alessandro Garofalo/LaPresse via AP)

MILAN (AP) — No player is creating more speculation and rumors in this January transfer window than Fiorentina forward Dušan Vlahović.

So far, though, the Serbia international is keeping everyone — including Fiorentina — guessing about his next destination.

At 21, Vlahović is already among Serie A’s most prolific scorers. But he only has 18 months left on his contract and has told Fiorentina he will not sign an extension, meaning the club may decide to cash in on its biggest talent. Several of Europe’s biggest clubs are already circling, with Juventus and Arsenal among those heavily linked with an immediate move for Vlahović.

“He’s the most interesting player at the moment in Italian soccer,” former Juventus and England coach Fabio Capello said.

Juventus has struggled to replace Cristiano Ronaldo since his move to Manchester United in the offseason and scored only 34 goals this season — fewer than any of the top 10 teams in the Italian league, apart from Torino.

Vlahović could be the perfect player to change that, having just matched Ronaldo’s feat of scoring 33 Serie goals in a calendar year.

“He would be the right man for the team for now and for the future, looking at his age and his technical abilities, he has everything,” Capello said. “He would be a great choice.”

Fiorentina reportedly want 70 million euros for Vlahović, who is out of contract in 2023. However, Vlahović knows he might get even more attractive offers if he waits until the end of the season, and has said he wants to take Fiorentina back into Europe.

So the club seems to be eager for the forward to make up his mind about whether to stay or go.

“We haven’t received any offers at the moment, but we’re open to anything,” Fiorentina director Joe Barone said before Sunday’s match at Cagliari. “We want clarity from his part. From him and his agent.”

Vlahović was not part of the squad that played Cagliari on Sardinia, amid reports that he is one of the two Fiorentina players out with the coronavirus. Without him, Fiorentina struggled to a 1-1 draw against the relegation-threatened side.

Fiorentina did not name the players who had tested positive for COVID-19 but it is unlikely that Vlahović would have been dropped even despite the continued transfer saga, which has been rumbling on since even before coach Vincenzo Italiano joined in the offseason.

“It’s been months and months that we’ve been talking about the Vlahović situation,” Italiano said. “And he continues to be a professional. He continues to score goals.

“Does it annoy me that we’re talking about it all the time? It would start to annoy me only if Vlahović stopped doing his job, and goes out onto the field not fully focused.”

Vlahović has shown no sign that all the transfer talk is getting to him. He has scored 20 goals in 24 matches in all competition for Fiorentina this season and is joint top of the Serie A scoring charts, along with Lazio’s Ciro Immobile.

“Dusan Vlahović continues to amaze. Last year he was the best young player in Serie A, this year he is living up to great expectations by proving himself to be one of the best players this season,” Lega Serie A chief executive Luigi De Siervo said after Vlahović was named the league’s player of the month for December.

“Physical strength, technique, a spirit of sacrifice and a great sense of goal make him one of the most complete forwards around.”

Off the field, however, the saga continues to rumble on and Barone fumed recently that Vlahović and his agent had asked for double his salary in their last meeting.

But the Serbia international has always insisted he is not driven by money.

“Money is not the most important thing in the world,” Vlahović said. “Something else has brought me success.

“I want that when one day I stop playing soccer, people mention my name and say: ‘Vlahović was a good footballer.’”

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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