As the dust settled after a convulsive weekend at the bottom of Serie A, Fiorentina could breathe a huge sigh of relief. Barring a collapse of historic proportions, La Viola’s spot at the top table of Italian football is all but assured after a 2-1 win at Parma. Nevertheless, their laboured performance in a match that represented a huge step towards salvation further exposed the uncertain future of one of the country’s most important clubs.
La Viola are at a crossroads both on and off the pitch. It is unlikely current coach Giuseppe Iachini will be in charge next season, with the identity of his successor still up in the air. Goalscoring has been a major issue the last two campaigns, leaving fans harking back to the days when Gabriel Batistuta or Luca Toni donned the famous purple shirt. Meanwhile, owner Rocco Commisso’s efforts to replace the archaic Artemio Franchi have been met with resistance from local officials, casting doubt over plans to have a new venue ready by September 2023, or indeed at all.
Successfully untangling the bureaucratic web preventing the construction of a stadium will prove crucial to turning Commisso’s dreams of re-establishing Fiorentina amongst Serie A’s elite into reality. However, improving a team that has flirted with relegation in consecutive seasons will be just as important to securing a brighter future for the club.
The candidates to replace Iachini reflect Fiorentina’s upward mobility under Commisso. Daniele De Rossi has no experience on the touchline, but could develop into a world-class “Mister”. Unai Emery would come in hungry to atone for disappointing spells at European giants PSG and Arsenal. Luciano Spalletti is still one of Italy’s most respected tacticians, and a son of Tuscany. The profiles of these coaches are vastly different, putting the pressure on Commisso to decide what kind of sporting project he wants to undertake.
Similar to the coaching search, the possible solutions to Fiorentina’s goal-scoring woes are filled with promise. The January signing of Christian Kouamé, who made his first appearance on the bench on Sunday, could prove a masterstroke. Joao Pedro has been one of Italy’s most ruthless marksmen this campaign, scoring 17 times for mid-table Cagliari. Yet, neither player guarantees the goals required to fire the Tuscans up the table next year. It remains to be seen how Kouamé recovers from an ACL tear suffered in November, while Pedro never registered more than seven goals in his four previous Serie A campaigns.
The urgent need for a forward who can find the back of the net with regularity was put into stark relief at the Ennio Tardini. Even though six league goals is a poor return for a player of his talent, Federico Chiesa is tied for the team lead along with Dusan Vlahovic and penalty specialist Erick Pulgar. After coming on in the second half, Chiesa, fellow substitute Riccardo Sottil and starting striker Patrick Cutrone missed a hatful of golden opportunities to put the game to bed. The case of Cutrone, who is on loan in Florence with an obligation to buy for €16m, is particularly worrying. After an aborted spell in England with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Cutrone has only two goals in 13 appearances for his new club since joining in January.
Commisso’s commitment to helping Fiorentina restore past glories has excited a fanbase starved of success. Although the Mediacom founder is one of the richest people on the planet, Financial Fair Play restrictions prevent La Viola from relying unduly on his wealth. The increased revenue generated by a modern stadium would boost the club’s spending power, but in the meantime they must strike a careful balance between betting on potential and finding prudent solutions to their sporting problems. If they cannot, Fiorentina’s eternal promise may never be fulfilled.
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