New Fiorentina owner Rocco Commisso is “the sort of guy who likes to underpromise and overdeliver,” but pledges they won’t go the way of Yonghong Li at Milan.
The Italian-American billionaire who made his fortune in cable purchased the club from the Della Valle brothers and confirmed he’ll keep Coach Vincenzo Montella in the job.
He spoke to ESPN and was very eager to differentiate himself from overseas Serie A investors like James Pallotta, Joey Saputo, Suning Group or Elliott Management.
“First of all, I hope you distinguish me from everybody else. I'm Italian, I was born in Italy. I think it's the first time in the history of Italian soccer that an immigrant has returned to invest his money.
“It's true, whether it's the stadiums or the viewership, we're more than one step behind the Premier League and that's the standard we should shoot for from a business standpoint. But the potential is there and if we get the right people, we have the opportunity to reach that level. That's why I believe strongly the Italian game is on its way back.”
Commisso had tried to purchase Milan from Yonghong Li last year, only for the Chinese owner to go insolvent after rejecting the offer, while before that he was on the fringes of the group that bought Roma.
“I'm glad I didn't do it 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. We had opportunities at Roma, at Juventus for a minority stake, at Fiorentina two years ago and then, last summer, we look at Milan and you know what happened there with Mr. Li.
“People also called me from England, Belgium, Switzerland, France... once my name got thrown around, plenty came. But Fiorentina felt right. And we ended up closing the deal in record time.
“I see a lot of overall potential but frankly, I'm the sort of guy who likes to underpromise and overdeliver. I look at this the way I look at my own company, Mediacom. Sometimes different leadership with the same personnel leads to different results.
“I'm not going to pretend I'm a soccer expert, but I would hope with the right commitment we can produce a better result, even with the same players. We're going to take it one step at a time.
“Look, we did this deal quickly, we didn't sign a letter of intent and then close it three months later after doing all our due diligence. I've taken some risks and I'm OK with risk. What I can tell you is I'm very happy with what I have and that it's going to take time.
“Financial Fair Play is a vicious circle. You can't invest unless you generate more money, and you can't generate more money unless you buy better players. But you can't buy better players unless you invest. I hope UEFA finds a way to help people who want to put in money.”
That can also mean not selling sought-after stars like Federico Chiesa, who is wanted by the likes of Juventus, Inter and Paris Saint-Germain.
“My intention is to keep him. I don't want to turn Chiesa into another Baggio [whose move from Fiorentina to Juventus in 1990 infuriated supporters]. I've been assured there is no deal in place for him to leave,” continued Commisso. “It's my intention to make sure he stays.
“Beyond that, I'm here to learn. First and foremost, I need to learn about the club and the players. We need time to grow, to invest, to spend money in the right way. It can't be done overnight.
“What I want is a scenario where when I go to the stadium, the fans are proud of their team and the work we did. Little by little, we're going to make it work. They say Florence is a demanding city? Sure, but so is New York... What I can assure fans is that I'm certainly not going to do what Mr Li did at Milan...”