Delirio Rossi – Rossi Frenzy – the banners read when Fiorentina replaced Sinisa Mihajlovic as Coach earlier this season. It was supposed to indicate the fans’ delight at finally getting shot of their Serbian boss. Few would have forecast how aptly it would sum up the moment of madness which put paid to his successor.
The stunned looks of the players on the Viola bench said it all. Like the rest of the world, as the images flashed around the globe via satellite or social media, they could not believe what they had seen. The normally affable Delio Rossi had just launched himself at Adem Ljajic.
It had started out as the usual childish but all-too-common show of sarcastic dissent by a young footballer. The Serbian applauded Rossi’s decision to substitute him after just half an hour and, probably, let a few comments slip as well. On most occasions a Coach will pretend not to see or hear and take action later – but not this time.
No doubt the pressure was intense. The Viola were losing a key game in their fight against relegation and the fans at the Artemio Franchi were getting irate. But while Ljajic’s actions were pathetic and provocative, Rossi’s reaction was inexcusable.
He put a club which does not enjoy the highest profile in world football right at the top of the sports news agenda for all the wrong reasons. The fan phone-ins were full of supporters voicing their embarrassment. They say no publicity is bad publicity – but this must come pretty close to disproving that statement.
On reflection, the incident felt a bit like a frustrated father finally losing patience with his spoiled son. Ljajic is a highly-paid professional footballer yet he singularly failed to act like one. It speaks volumes about the modern game, however, that his actions were nothing out of the ordinary. It is Rossi’s response which has put the Florentine side in an unwanted spotlight.
The problem was compounded by the ethical approach started under Cesare Prandelli. He encouraged his players to applaud their opponents off the pitch and it is impossible to imagine him making such an attack. Even the fiery Mihajlovic never produced such a confrontation. And this season the Cartellino Viola – Purple Card – has been introduced by the club to honour fair play. It is safe to say Delio need not worry about getting it any time soon.
The chaos leaves the Tuscan side with a point needed from its remaining two games to ensure its safety – one of which is at a Lecce outfit fighting for its life. They will most likely survive but it has not been pretty. The touchline rumble pretty much summed up a turbulent season.
Club supremo Andrea Della Valle appeared to be genuinely struggling for words as he announced Rossi’s sacking. He kept repeating how the Coach was such a decent guy and his actions had been completely out of character. But, he said, he felt it was best for both club and manager to go their separate ways.
Perhaps the pressure finally told on Delio. Years of working under Maurizio Zamparini must have taken their toll and, with Fiorentina toiling, there was definitely a more manic manner to his gum-chewing of late. The provocation from a player who showed such visible dissent must have been the last straw in a tense end of season showdown.
It leaves the club to limp over the line to Serie A safety and both men to try to rebuild their reputations. Ljajic may never convince anyone that he is anything other than an immature young man who thinks he is far more talented than he has actually proven himself to be. As for Rossi, it will surely be some time before anyone forgets the instant he lost the plot at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.