It was June 2017 when joint owner Diego Della Valle officially announced Fiorentina were on the market and it’s been a tumultuous seven months since.
The Viola were stripped of their prized assets in the summer, losing Matias Vecino and idol Borja Valero to Inter, while leading marksman Nikola Kalinic joined Milan. Each man has been missed this campaign and the failure to replace three leading players has understandably incensed a fanbase.
Stefano Pioli’s team are unrecognisable from last season and the absence of Federico Bernardeschi is the most glaring. The talented wide man was of course snared by bitter rivals Juventus and the champions revelled in inflicting more misery on the Florence outfit. Bernardeschi is one of their own, and this one hurt.
From a footballing point of view, the Italian offered the stardust to an otherwise workmanlike team and enjoyed a fruitful partnership with Kalinic. If Milan Badelj had his way, he too would have left and the Croatian has made his feelings perfectly clear on numerous occasions now.
New arrivals included Giovanni Simeone, Marco Benassi and Nikola Milenkovic and the trio all shared one fundamental attribute in common: potential. Fiorentina had effectively lost their spine and failed to buy like-for-like replacements and this is a recurring theme. Marcos Alonso and Mario Gomez departed in 2016 and Stefan Savic the year before that.
The malaise the club find themselves in is nothing new. The Gigliati’s record buy is still Nuno Gomes at just under £15m. A reasonable fee until you consider the striker was signed almost 18 years ago. The game has moved on, but the Viola have made no effort to keep up, instead gambling on youth to prosper.
Tensions have finally come to a head this term for a proud set of fans. After the embarrassing 4-1 home defeat against relegation-threatened Verona, the tifosi made their feelings known, protesting outside the stadium and the dissension is unlikely to end soon.
On the field, the Viola’s short-term prospects are bleak. Out of the Coppa Italia in December and with no hope of European football, supporters must look on in envy at Lazio riding high in third spot. Simone Inzaghi’s troops have been a joy to watch and the natives are perfectly entitled to believe they can compete with the high-fliers.
The two clubs are of similar stature and regularly played out classics in the nineties at a time when both were on an even footing. Now, the cold hard reality is they are on different paths. While Lazio’s trajectory continues to soar, Fiorentina’s is going downhill.
The capital club have reaped the benefits of President Claudio Lotito building an exciting and fresh squad in the face of neighbours Roma. After years of playing second fiddle, the Biancocelesti are well on course to finishing above the Lupi this campaign.
The likes of Simeone and Federico Chiesa offer great hope to Fiorentina, but the starlets need a mentor. It shouldn’t be on their young shoulders to lead the side and it’s apparent the mass exodus over a sustained period has caught up with a club who choose to operate on a miserly budget.
Fiorentina are now at a crossroads. Another summer is on the horizon and the Della Valle brothers don’t seem prepared to give up their stranglehold just yet. A new stewardship would ideally be at the helm before the post-season to assess and draw up targets, otherwise the next campaign will be no different.
Do Diego and Andrea commit to spending what it takes? The luxury shoe and leather goods tycoons have a personal wealth to rival the Agnelli family and, in time, could take on the best if they were fully invested in the project.
The city is football mad, in dire need of energising, but the mood in the terraces has visibly dropped and there is no idea what the future will bring. Fiorentina are an attractive proposition despite the uncertainty and remain a respected and prestigious club in Italy.
In the meantime, it could be about to get even worse when arch enemies Juventus visit Florence on Friday night. The Bianconeri supporters will be eagerly anticipating the trip and won’t pass up on the opportunity to stoke the flame, so the atmosphere could get toxic unless the Viola clinch the three points.