When Fiorentina took the decision to keep Khouma Babacar at home base this season, it looked to a great many observers to be a questionable choice.
After hitting 20 goals for Modena in a brilliant campaign in Serie B last term, the last thing the 21-year-old needed was to be sitting on the bench at the Artemio Franchi.
Yet the Senegalese striker started the Viola’s season opener against Roma alongside Mario Gomez, with another lengthy absence for Giuseppe Rossi announced just days later.
Gomez was then bitten by the injury bug – as he often has been at Fiorentina – while Babacar remained preferred over fellow youngster Federico Bernardeschi up front.
Now Bernardeschi has succumbed to a fractured bone in his ankle, and Babacar looks set to continue on as the main man in the Viola attack as he has been thus far.
Four goals in 10 appearances have seen him find his feet in the Italian top flight, and Babacar’s rapidly improving game has earned him plaudits from the media.
His progress has also seemingly kept eyes in the Premier League fixed on him. Arsenal, Sunderland and West Ham have both been closely linked with Babacar in the past, and interest seems to be enduring.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, a trio of English sides currently have a keen interest in the Fiorentina starlet – but are set to be dealt a blow to their ambitions of signing him.
Viola owners Andrea and Diego Della Valle have reportedly green-lit a previously mooted contract extension for the 21-year-old, who has been on the club’s books since 2009.
Babacar’s present terms run until 2016 at a relatively low rate of €450,000 per season – a bit below €9,000-a-week – and the club hierarchy have seen fit to raise his wages.
With Rossi and Gomez both constantly injured, Babacar could be adequately characterised as the future of the Viola’s attack – and a prospect they’re not willing to lose.
Premier League clubs would be able to far more than the Senegalese’s current wages, but Fiorentina don’t seem inclined to give them the chance to do so.
Locking Babacar down at the earliest opportunity would thus be a wise bit of business indeed from the Tuscan outfit, giving them more leverage on his future.
He’s quickly proven himself capable in the top flight despite his age and should only get better - an investment that could pay off big time should Fiorentina adequately protect him.