Dusan Vlahovic matched Cristiano Ronaldo's momentous 33-goal year with Juventus as the Fiorentina striker scored again – leaving him a hat-trick short of an all-time Serie A record.

The 21-year-old Serbian scored for the sixth game in succession on Sunday, helping Fiorentina battle back from two goals down at half-time to draw 2-2 with Sassuolo.

Vlahovic will match a calendar year goals record set by Gunnar Nordahl in 1950 if he nets three times against Hellas Verona on Wednesday.

That is Fiorentina's last game of the year, as Serie A goes on its winter break, but Vlahovic has already equalled Ronaldo's 21st century record, which was established just last year.

Nordahl's epic 36-goal year for Milan marks the last time any player scored more than 33 in the Italian top flight across a calendar year.

 

Only one player has scored in more than six consecutive Serie A games for Fiorentina, with Argentine great Gabriel Batistuta netting in 11 straight fixtures in 1994.

Vlahovic has 16 league goals in the current season, and he was eager for more before being substituted in the 88th minute against Sassuolo, a decision that left him unimpressed.

Despite making his feelings known to coach Vincenzo Italiano, the pair were soon back on good terms.

"He wasn't happy to come off, but we made up, he'll buy me a dinner," Italiano later said, according to Sky Italia.

Ronaldo scored 33 Serie A goals in 2020 for Juventus, at an astonishing rate of one every 76.24 minutes.

Vlahovic has matched the haul but not the regularity, with his 33 coming along at one per 111.67 minutes on the pitch.

They have come from an expected goals (xG) total of just 22.4, however, pointing to razor-sharp finishing from a player who has been linked with Europe's elite amid his impressive run of form.

Only three players in Serie A history have scored more than Vlahovic in Fiorentina's first 18 league games of a season, Opta said. Those players were Miguel Angel Montuori (17 in 1958-59), Batistuta (17 in 1998-99) and Luca Toni (16 in 2005-06).

Fiorentina head coach Vincenzo Italiano said Dusan Vlahovic is destined for greatness after the in-demand Serbia international scored twice to sink previously unbeaten Milan 4-3 in Serie A.

After helping Serbia qualify for the 2022 World Cup during the international break, Vlahovic scored a brace as Fiorentina stunned high-flying Milan in Florence on Saturday.

Only Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski (38) has scored more goals than Vlahovic (27) since the start of 2021 in the big-five European leagues. 

Vlahovic – who is set to leave the Viola after opting against signing a new deal – also equalled Kurt Hamrin (1960) as the Fiorentina player with the most Serie A goals scored in a calendar year.

 

The 21-year-old has been linked with Premier League champions Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal, Inter, Atletico Madrid and Bundesliga holders Bayern as Italiano lauded the forward.

"He is destined to a great career, not because he scores goals and knows how to play, but because of the way he trains," Italiano told Sky Sport Italia.

"It's extraordinary to watch him train, he takes all that with him into the match situation.

"We'll see what happens in future, but right now he is working so hard and giving the team everything.

 

"I've said many times, Dusan is not thinking about anything other than preparing for these games. You see his approach and impact.

"He knows everything depends on performances and has the character of a veteran."

Stefano Pioli is confident his Milan side will learn from a "painful" loss to Fiorentina after their unbeaten start to the Serie A campaign came to an end at Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Milan fell to a 4-3 defeat in Saturday's thrilling contest as they missed out on the chance to move three points clear of Napoli, who play their game in hand at Inter on Sunday.

The Rossoneri last tasted defeat in the top flight 18 games ago against Lazio in April, while not since August 2015 had they lost away to Fiorentina in the league.

Pioli's side were without a number of players through injury, including Fikayo Tomori, Davide Calabria, Ante Rebic and Mike Maignan, and that told in a poor display.

A mix-up between back-up goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu and Matteo Gabbia gifted Joseph Alfred Duncan the opening goal, which ex-Milan player Riccardo Saponara added to before half-time.

Dusan Vlahovic also scored twice, either side of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic double that had set up a tense period in the game, before Lorenzo Venuti put into his own net from the last action of the game.

Milan have now taken just one point from their last two games, having previously been held by Inter, but Pioli is hopeful his side will bounce back.

"We have to feel the pain of this defeat and make sure it doesn't happen again," he told Sky Sport Italia. "Even in this defeat I am convinced that I have a very strong team. 

"We have to learn from this. Losing hurts, as does conceding four goals. We showed that we are able to recover, but perhaps we could have done without conceding the fourth. 

"The team played as a team and with rhythm. Sometimes we missed the last pass. We had twice as many shots as our opponents, so the performance was there. 

"We are sorry because after the international break we wanted to restart with a victory."

 

Ibrahimovic became the oldest player – and the first over 40 – to score two or more goals in a single game in Europe's top five leagues this century with his double.

However, Vlahovic stole the show with a brace of his own as he made it 27 Serie A goals in 2021, equalling Kurt Hamrin (in 1960) for the most in a calendar year for Fiorentina

Indeed, only Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski (38) has scored more goals than Vlahovic (27) since the start of 2021 in the big five European leagues. 

The Serbia international has been linked with a number of the continent's big-name clubs, but Viola boss Vincenzo Italiano wants his side to make the most of the rising star while they can.

"Right now he is a player destined for an important career, not only because he knows how to score but because of how he trains," Italiano told Sky Sport Italia. 

"If he stays this same player he is destined for a great career. I don't know what his future will be, but for now we enjoy it. In this game he was loaded with buckshot and I'm happy for him."

Fiorentina head coach Vincenzo Italiano hailed Dusan Vlahovic following his hat-trick in Sunday's 3-0 Serie A win over Spezia.

Vlahovic became one of only two players born since 2000 to score two hat-tricks in the top five European leagues, alongside Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, as Fiorentina eased past Spezia.

Serbia international Vlahovic, who is set to leave Florence after opting against signing a new deal, converted a 44th-minute penalty to open the scoring.

Vlahovic struck again in the 62nd and 74th minutes as the 21-year-old took his tally to 25 goals in 2021 – one of only two players to net at least 25 goals in a calendar year with Fiorentina, alongside Kurt Roland Hamrin (27 in 1960 and 25 in 1959).

"The goals are like fuel for the attacker's engine," Italiano told DAZN after Vlahovic improved his season haul to eight goals from 11 rounds. "When you create and don't score, you lack a bit of self-esteem.

"When you score three, I can't wait to see him on Tuesday to prepare for the next match. When the three up front do well, the team benefit from it."

Vlahovic – linked with Manchester City, Atletico Madrid, Inter, Juventus, Arsenal and Tottenham – has netted 25 goals in 35 league matches this year, only Haaland (26) and Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski (36) have scored more in the big five European leagues in the calendar year.

Prior to Vlahovic, the last player able to score eight-plus goals in the first 11 Fiorentina's matches in a single Serie A campaign was Giuseppe Rossi in 2013-14 (nine).

Vlahovic is also one of the only three players that have scored 100 per cent of penalties taken in Serie A since Opta collected this data (since 2005-06), with Romelu Lukaku and David Suazo (minimum 11 penalties taken).

"He holds me in great esteem, he always shows it to me and today he wanted to bow to me to thank me," added Fiorentina team-mate Riccardo Saponara.

"Seeing him play like this does not surprise me, from the first day I saw great potential in him."

Fiorentina head coach Vincenzo Italiano insists there is "no problem" with forward Dusan Vlahovic who continues to be the subject of widespread transfer speculation.

The Serbian striker played a full game but did not score as Fiorentina opened their Serie A season with a 3-1 loss at Roma on Sunday.

Vlahovic had been linked with Tottenham, Manchester City and Internazionale during the off-season and remains hot property ahead of the closure of the transfer window at the end of this month.

Fiorentina director Joe Barone publicly claimed prior to the Roma defeat amid mounting speculation that Vlahovic was not for sale and would stay with La Viola in a bid to quell the rumours.

Italiano told reporters after the Roma defeat that there was no issue with Vlahovic.

"There has never been a problem about him," Italiano said. "Now, he must be focused on scoring goals. He had a couple of good chances today.

"We know his worth, he knows he is admired, everybody is helping him to make the difference, he can make it. A motivated Vlahovic can be an added value for us."

Vlahovic is contracted with Fiorentina until 2023 and is understood to be in talks with the club on a new deal.

The 21-year-old Serbian netted 21 goals from 37 appearances for Fiorentina in the 2020-21 Serie A season.

"Every player is important to us, but I repeat what President Rocco Comisso said. Dusan is not for sale and he will stay in Florence," Barone told DAZN. "I’d like these rumours to stop because our season begins today and we must be focused."

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