If the phrase ‘mercurial talent’ has ever wholeheartedly applied to a player, it’s Fiorentina playmaker Josip Ilicic.
The Slovenia international has endured a bumpy ride since landing at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in the summer of 2013 from relegated Palermo.
Take for example his final season in Sicily. It took Ilicic until his ninth appearance to net his first goal of the campaign, against Roma in November 2012.
He’d score four more times in the next eight contests. A barren spell then followed, after which Ilicic stuck five times in a span of five games. Mercurial, indeed.
At Fiorentina, times have been tough. Last season he managed just 13 starts, even as injuries ravaged the Viola and left space for him to break into the side.
This term, the Viola’s patience appeared to be waning. Again, absences have thinned the squad but Ilicic had failed to stamp his authority in Tuscany.
Ilicic was linked with a January loan move to Leeds last week. At Elland Road, he could join up with compatriot Darko Milanic and get back on track in the Championship.
But things have changed quickly. Milanic is now gone from Leeds, while Ilicic demonstrated his value to Fiorentina with a crucial goal off the bench against Milan at the weekend.
According to Viola boss Vincenzo Montella, what Ilicic really needs to succeed is trust.
Montella told a press conference: “He’s a particular player, he has great qualities that he has not always expressed along the way.
“He’s a player with great technique and tactics and our job is to help him perform with continuity. He has our trust, but also needs that of the fans.”
Getting their hands on Ilicic was always going to be a difficult task for Massimo Cellino and company, even with deep connections in Italian football.
With the managerial change and Ilicic’s resurgence, however, it looks a task out of reach for the Yorkshire club.
Montella doesn’t seem ready to send away the 26-year-old for a new experience, knowing that Ilicic has plenty to offer if he can be put onto the right path.
A midweek Serie A tie with Udinese is Ilicic’s next chance to further prove himself to his boss, and Montella’s declaration of confidence in him can only bode well going forward.