Borussia Mönchengladbach landed their first major signing of the summer transfer window on Monday as they secured the services of Freiburg's Vincenzo Grifo until June 2021. In a squad already bursting with attacking talent, bundesliga.com takes a closer look at what will make the 24-year-old midfielder stand out from the crowd.
And then there were eight! With the arrival of Grifo, Gladbach coach Dieter Hecking now has close to a team's worth of attacking talent at his disposal. Thorgan Hazard, Ibrahima Traore, Patrick Herrmann, Jonas Hofmann, Fabian Johnson, Lars Stindl, Raffael and Andre Hahn will all be vying with the new recruit for a starting place next season as the Foals look to improve on a disappointing ninth-placed finish in 2016/17. So, what will Grifo bring to the table?
Born in Pforzheim to Italian parents, Grifo had anything but a straightforward route to the top. At the age of 18 he was still plugging away in the amateur-level Verbandsliga, but grabbed the attention of several higher-profile clubs by firing the FC Pforzheim Under-19s to the title in 2010 with an eye-watering 53 goals.
After a one-year stint with Karlsruher SC in the U-19 Bundesliga, Grifo was snapped up by Hoffenheim and made his Bundesliga debut under Markus Babbel in October 2012, following a string of impressive performances for the reserves. The 19-year-old was still a little tender for the top flight, though, and was sent out on successive loan spells at Bundesliga 2 sides Dynamo Dresden and FSV Frankfurt. He also scored on his debut for the Italy U-20s in September 2013.
It was during the 2014/15 season in Hessen that Grifo made his first major breakthrough, emerging as one of FSV's key players and – crucially – a burgeoning set-piece specialist. With seven goals and nine assists, he kept Frankfurt in the division and earned himself a move to Freiburg, where he would play a vital role in securing promotion to the Bundesliga.
Grifo was Freiburg's outstanding performer as they topped the 2015/16 Bundesliga 2 table ahead of RB Leipzig, scoring 14 goals – including six direct free-kicks – and providing a league-high 15 assists. Capable of playing in either the No. 10 role or out on the wing, Grifo improved his dribbling skills and continued to hone his outstanding set-piece technique. He looked far more at home in the Bundesliga second time around, notching up six goals and eight more assists as promoted Freiburg snatched a place in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League.
Watch: Grifo scored his first Bundesliga goal on Matchday 6:
Hecking is therefore getting his hands on a very handy Swiss Army knife of a player, who is perhaps less likely to catch the eye with the pace and trickery of a Herrmann or a Raffael, but can make a significant impact in other ways. This season, only Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Ingolstadt's Brighton-bound Pascal Groß had a hand in more attempts on goal than Grifo, who was just as comfortable pulling the trigger (83) as he was teeing up his teammates (93).
But undoubtedly his biggest asset is his ability to strike a dead ball, as he demonstrated with five more goals from set pieces in 2016/17. For a Gladbach side that haven't scored a direct free-kick since the year 2015, it promises to be a match made in heaven.