With a new management team, a bevy of signings and plans for a new stadium returning, Scott Fleming sees good things ahead for Fiorentina.
Sebastien Frey; Lorenzo De Silvestri, Per Kroldrup, Cesare Natali, Felipe; Cristiano Zanetti, Riccardo Montolivo; Marco Marchionni, Stevan Jovetic, Juan Vargas; Alberto Gilardino.
The 11 players that took Fiorentina to the cusp of the Champions League quarter-finals two years ago, giving eventual finalists Bayern Munich a massive scare in the last 16 after doing the double over and eliminating Liverpool. However, no-one in Florence wants these players to become legends. Because that would mean their achievements were an isolated event.
Ever since a scorcher from the left boot of Arjen Robben slammed into the top corner that cold night at the Artemio Franchi in March 2010, the club has been on a downward trajectory. Cesare Prandelli took the Italy job that summer, his successor Sinisa Mihajlovic then presided over a mundane campaign. They stuttered to a ninth place finish in 2010-11, yet he was allowed to limp on despite being despised by the fans, and the result was last season's shambles. Three Coaches, a 13th place finish and an unedifying scrap for survival, which was only secured in Week 37.
And the malaise hasn't only taken place on the pitch. Owners Andrea and Diego Della Valle – recently revealed to have a combined fortune of $2.3bn by Forbes magazine – so prominent during the Gigliati's glory years under Prandelli, have receded into the shadows, passing Presidency of the club to Mario Cognigni and shelving grandiose plans for a new stadium.
But as Fiorentina packed up and left Moena on Tuesday, the Northern town where their pre-season retreat has been spent, the mood was a very positive one. They have a new Coach, Vincenzo Montella, a new sporting director, Daniele Prade, and several new signings – Ahmed Hegazy, Cristiano Lupatelli, Facundo Roncaglia, Mounir El Hamdaoui, Juan Cuadrado, Emiliano Viviano, Francesco Della Rocca, Matias Fernandez and Borja Valero – with Alberto Aquilani very close to becoming the latest if the Liverpool Echo are to be believed.
Just as significantly, Andrea Della Valle has returned to centre stage, in typically ostentatious style, arriving in Moena by helicopter last Thursday for talks with Juventus target Jovetic and a Press conference which suggested his family is re-engaging with the club in a big way.
“There were obviously mistakes made, some of them my own, but I think we are now getting things right,” said the shoe tycoon. “This city and especially the fans deserve a team of the highest quality and we are working to build a side as good as that of a few years ago. We've had enough of the anonymous results of the last two seasons.” He even revealed that the new stadium plans are very much back on, promising ‘some interesting developments within the next month or two’.
Alessandro Gamberini, Valon Behrami and Montolivo are big losses, and the fact that some fans turned up at training in Moena wearing t-shirts depicting Diego Della Valle as a clown – above the slogan ‘where is the project?’ – proves that many supporters remain sceptical. Given how the last two campaigns have gone, perhaps they have a right to be. But at a time when so many other Serie A clubs are selling their best players or remaining relatively inactive on the transfer market, Fiorentina's spending spree could see them catapult back up the standings, and result in a toning down of the nostalgia for Prandelli and the class of 2010.