Is the pressure of playing for the team of his heart proving too much for Fiorentina’s Emiliano Viviano? Giancarlo Rinaldi writes.
Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes a long-dreamed goal can turn out to be a bit of a nightmare. Just ask Emiliano Viviano.
He was one of the jewels in the crown of Fiorentina's summer revolution at the end of some elaborate negotiations involving Inter and Palermo. For a man at home on the Curva Fiesole and with a daughter named Viola, there was never any doubt of the player's desires. Eventually, the deal was done which would effectively see him take the place of the freed Portiere Santo, Artur Boruc.
The first impact was fantastic. Viviano's permanent grin beamed brighter than the fog-lamps on a Ferrari as he lapped up donning his beloved club's colours. In a dressing room packed with South American imports, he let his teammates know what Fiorentina means to Florentines. With the World Cup in Brazil firmly in his sights, it seemed the perfect move for him to get regular first team football.
But what looked like a match made in heaven has started to assume a hellish aspect. A series of slip-ups started to raise question marks over whether playing for his hometown club was simply too much pressure. Was his desire to perform in purple just too intense?
With ambitious young Brazilian Norberto Neto – also harbouring World Cup dreams – breathing down his neck, Vincenzo Montella made a decision few would have expected at the start of this campaign. Viviano was injured, then omitted as his understudy took a starting role. Despite a clanger of his own against Udinese, it is a position the South American has held on to with a relatively firm grip.
That has left the fervent Fiorentino with nowhere to go. He remains a great dressing-room motivator, by all accounts, and influential figure from the touchline. But that simply is not enough for a goalkeeper who is at an age where he should be making his mark in Serie A week in, week out.
It has led to the embarrassing situation of him being hawked about to pretty much anyone who will take an interest. Montella appears to have decided that Neto is the man with the bold sideburns of Cristiano Lupatelli sufficient back-up. From being hailed as a hero, Viviano finds himself surplus to requirements.
It is the one bum note in the Viola revolution. A man who should have been at the centre of it, finds himself a peripheral figure. "Defending your goal, you defend your city. Emiliano pride of the Viola," proclaimed one banner on the Curva Fiesole at the weekend. But no amount of kind words can be dulling the pain he must be feeling that his dream move has not panned out.
Watching him warming up at half-time has become a painful pastime. He seems to be laughing and joking with his teammates but, inside, you know he must be hurting. To be so tantalisingly close to representing the club he supports must be a torture akin to unrequited love. It is not a fate anyone who holds the Viola dear would have wished on him.
A move away in the January transfer window looks the most likely solution – something which was unthinkable in the summer. It just underlines how even the best intentioned moves in football are not guaranteed to work out. Viviano will always have a Cuore Viola – a purple heart – but it may have to return to beating outside of Florence once more.