Vincenzo Montella’s decision to name his entire senior playing staff, including injured and suspended players, in his provisional Fiorentina squad for Saturday’s Coppa Italia Final tells you all you need to know about the team ethic he has instilled into the Viola. The Florence side are very much a group, and indeed a club as a whole, who win together and lose together.
It is fair to say this collective harmony at the Artemio Franchi has been put to the test on more than one occasion this season too. As well as a New Year-row with match officials that at one stage threatened to turn into open warfare, the Viola’s results since January have seen them tail off in the race for Champions League qualification and suffer a painful Europa League Round of 16 defeat to hated rivals Juventus.
This has not been helped by some truly awful fortune with injuries, particularly to key strike duo Mario Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi. Unfortunately, the problem appears to have reared its ugly head once again at just the wrong time – as well as Gomez being out and Rossi likely to be a substitute at best for Saturday’s showpiece, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Borja Valero and goalkeeper Neto have all faced last minute doubts. In case that isn’t bad enough, key player Juan Cuadrado is suspended.
That being said, in the grand scheme of things it is a season that regardless of the result against Rafa Benitez’s Napoli will be looked back on by everyone with a persuasion for purple as another highly productive and positive one. Montella has been a breath of fresh air since arriving at the club in the summer of 2012, transforming a team of also-rans into one set to secure its second fourth placed Serie A finish in succession. All of this with a net spend of around only €5m and the implementation of an attractive and modern style of play thrown into the bargain.
Such exploits have seen the tactician linked with a host of top clubs over the course of the season, most recently Milan, but Montella was emphatic in clarifying where his future lies. “I’m absolutely staying at Fiorentina, 100 per cent,” he said recently. “I’m not having any other thoughts. We just need to work out what we’ll be doing next year, in order to be clear.”
With the 39-year-old at the helm, seemingly for the long haul, Fiorentina can look ahead to a bright future whether they claim the spoils on Saturday or not. Sporting director Daniele Prade will also be staying on, ensuring the Viola continue to build the long-term stability and continuity they crave in order to be competitive at the very top. With ambitious plans for a new stadium also in the pipeline, there is every reason for tifosi to be excited about the direction in which the club is headed.
There is no doubt however that, though the Viola start as underdogs, victory at Stadio Olimipico would mean absolutely everything to the club and the city of Florence as a whole. Since the last time the Viola won a major trophy, the 2001 Coppa Italia, the club have suffered bankruptcy and been forced to work their way back up to the top from the fourth tier of Italian football. Throw in their alleged involvement in the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal and it is safe to say the last decade has been quite the rollercoaster journey.
“For me it’s a historic occasion,” President Andrea Della Valle commented. “It’s an important final after so many years.” A win on Saturday would symbolise so much more than just a piece of silverware or the end of a 13-year trophy drought for the Viola. It would show the world that, after a turbulent recent past, Fiorentina are back to somewhere close to where they feel they belong. With the club seemingly in good health on and off the pitch, it could act as a springboard for a real purple patch in the Florence side’s history.