When Italy sent its sons and daughters overseas, it could hardly have dreamed of nights like these: two of Serie A’s most famous sides going head to head under the ownership of those who ended up in the States to seek their fortune. It will be James Pallotta who enjoys bragging rights over Rocco Commisso the next time they meet at some country club.
The two find themselves at different stages of their adventure back in the old homeland. The Viola supremo is very much at the honeymoon stage of his Italian escapade with the fans firmly on his side, but a team still in the construction phase. His Giallorosso counterpart may have more issues with his own support, but his squad demonstrated in Florence it was much more of the finished article.
In fairness to Fiorentina, they were deprived of two of their crown jewels for this match-up. Franck Ribery with his foot in a moonboot was not what the Curva Fiesole wanted to see for any length of time. And Federico Chiesa - targeted by transfer rumours and ruthless defenders in equal measure - was also looking on in a crocked condition. These were the brightest stars in the Viola constellation at the times when this team shone earlier in the season.
That should not diminish how good Roma have become and how quickly they have developed under Paulo Fonseca. Wearing a bunnet that looked like some kind of Portuguese Peaky Blinder, he watched his players clinically slice apart the home defence repeatedly. This is a squad which is battling for a Champions League finish on merit with an exciting mix of endeavour and elegance.
A special word of merit for Chris Smalling is deserved here, as he carves out a role which is giving a lie to Italian prejudices about English defenders. Alongside Gianluca Mancini - a source of some regret in Florence after coming thought their youth ranks - he has shown composure and class few expected. Along with Amadou Diawara sitting in front of the defence, they provide a base for the likes of Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolò Zaniolo (another cause of chagrin in Tuscany) and Diego Perotti to strut their stuff. And then, of course, they have a master of the striker’s art who is improving with age in the shape of Edin Dzeko.
Not that they are without their flaws, of course, as witnessed in this clash. Some sloppy work left the door open for Fiorentina for a while when a more accomplished side would have finished them off. And if this was a sort of job application from Alessandro Florenzi for a post at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, most of us would have concluded: “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Nonetheless, the gap between the teams looked enormous by the full-time whistle.
From a Tuscan standpoint, there was also confirmation of what was already known. Vinnie Montella’s men are capable of playing decent football - especially against Serie A’s better sides - but are terribly lacking in cutting edge. That’s partly down to injuries but also trying to play Kevin-Prince Boateng in an attacking role which has singularly failed to get the best out of him.
What they need to show soon is that they can deliver some of their finer football - and a few goals - against a team near them at the foot of the table. Only Dusan Vlahovic and Gaetano Castrovilli came out of this clash with much credit.
All of which will have been watched with interest across the Atlantic Ocean. Italian football can be a challenging and often infuriating world for foreign investors, which both Pallotta and Commisso can already testify. On Friday night’s evidence, however, its rewards are much closer at hand for the Roma man than they are for his Fiorentina counterpart just yet.