Monday March 8 2021
Fiorentina’s Inferno

Doubts mount over Rocco Commisso’s Fiorentina project and Giancarlo Rinaldi explains where it’s going wrong for La Viola.

Rocco Commisso is definitely at that difficult second album stage. When he first arrived in Florence, he was hugely popular with a string of successes, an American tour and - let’s be honest - the simple fact that he was neither Andrea nor Diego Della Valle.

But the ideas and inspiration that characterised Rocco Commisso’s initial incarnation appear to have dried up like the banks of the River Arno in a long, hot summer. There are some hard yards now in store to prove he is not just another one-hit-wonder.

Rewinding the clock, it is hard not to think that a few mistakes were made from the outset. The new Viola president chose to keep faith with most of the management team at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

His logic, which was hard to fault, was that he would give them time to prove their worth. The trouble was, unfortunately, that they singularly failed to do so.

Instead, despite an admirable desire to show loyalty, the club have shuffled through disappointing spells with Vincenzo Montella and Beppe Iachini before turning to former boss Cesare Prandelli.

None of them have produced any significant upturn in results or performances and only increased a feeling of a lack of direction. Maybe, with hindsight, a clean break and a new start was called for with a clear coaching vision in mind.

In the same way, the return of sporting director Daniele Pradè has not proved to be a particularly happy appointment. Other than the much-heralded arrival of Franck Ribery, there have been few big-name acquisitions to appease fans who are hungry for success.

And their patience - when they see arrivals like Aleksandr Kokorin - is getting as close to snapping as a strand of overstretched spaghetti.

Hindsight, of course, is a wonderful thing and it might all have worked out brilliantly, but the harsh reality is that Fiorentina are no closer to where they feel they belong than when their new owner arrived.

They are limping along towards - probably - narrow survival in Serie A once again this year. For a club that was once a fairly regular face on the European scene, it feels a bit like drinking the house red when you used to imbibe the very best Brunello.

If supporters are frustrated by what they see on the pitch, you get the feeling their president is getting just as disheartened by matters away from the field of play.

For a man whose motto is “fast, fast, fast”, the time it is taking to try to secure approval to build a new stadium must be truly mind-blowing. He is not the first overseas owner - and he won’t be the last - to find out that Italian bureaucracy moves as slowly as a log-laden, three-wheeled Ape struggling up a Tuscan hillside.

This has only been aggravated by the straitjacket of financial fair play, which seems to hamper many clubs of Fiorentina’s size. Even if Commisso wanted to plunge his fortune into the transfer market he would pretty much be unable to do so until the Viola’s revenue increased.

It means it is all the harder to break into the upper reaches of football without - it appears to outsiders anyway - the most creative of accountants.

And yet, the European football scene is littered with a few examples of smaller clubs who have managed to scale the heights without breaking the bank and they prove it is not an impossible dream.

The big difference, though, is that they have a clear vision and direction of where they are heading and are ready to follow it in the short, medium and long term. Instead, the Stadio Franchi side always seems to dismantle their “project” at the first setback.

Remember when they had one of the youngest starting XIs in Serie A? Another idea that was dropped quicker than a piping hot pizza stone picked up without oven gloves.

It all increases the feeling that the club is fumbling about in the dark, still looking for the light switch. For all that they were criticised, the Della Valle boys did deliver European football for a significant spell before things turned sour.

They were also able to put together a team which - for a time at least - provided plenty of entertainment for fans. Who knows if the odd Ultra is starting to feel some nostalgia for the men they constantly accused of having short-arms because they felt they so rarely dipped into their pockets?

There is no use dwelling on the past, though, and there is still plenty of time for the American era to turn things around but it really has to start right now. Assuming that the players can save themselves this season - which is not guaranteed - a clear direction is required.

That should really mean planning for a new coach, new sporting director and a squad of players to deliver their vision and commit to following it through to the end. Maurizio Sarri, for example, would only be worth a gamble if you are willing to give him time.

Fiorentina will always be stuck, a little anyway, in a kind of Serie A no man’s land. Their history and support dictate that they can’t really go down the route of parking the bus like so many smaller clubs do but at the same time they don’t have the quality and firepower to break down many teams that do play that way.

They sold one of their primary sources of attacking creativity - Federico Chiesa - to arch-rivals Juventus and now produce so few chances in most games you could count them on the petals of their fleur-de-lis emblem. However, unlike Dante’s Inferno, perhaps supporters do not have to abandon all hope just yet.

A clear direction, some sensible signings and a coach who can give them a clear identity would be enough to move things forward. Nobody seriously expects a league title - but a shot at the top six or seven should not be beyond them. Then supporters would be singing their president’s praises once again.


Giancarlo Rinaldi is the author of a number of books about Italian football. Find out more here.

Have your say...
I've been saying for a long time that Fiorentina must get a truly quality coach & was stressing Sarri, but strictly to give him a time of at least 3 seasons, to create a team according to his own taste! In the mean time, Rocco (who's honestly one of the best presidents in Serie A, man who truly fights Italian bureaucracy for a stadium, which would've been made in any other normal country) would get the fans even more behind him. But with Prandelli?! Going NOWHERE! Everything's a waste!
on the 13th March, 2021 at 12:25am
@Rian, indeed, I am certain the biggest Rocco's mistake was confirming Beppe Iachini last summer. Juric could do so much better even with these players.
But maybe the current situation is for the best, and Rocco will finally understand that all the club management must be changed. Primavera and Women are also having a very bad seasons, not just a first team.
on the 10th March, 2021 at 7:24am
@ Fiorentincheg This is the problem with these stupid transfers/loan deals. They should be banned.

@ Vero Rossonero I’m actually doubting if Inzaghi could make it today particularly with the ridiculous loan deals they have nowadays. And yes, free youth players always have to perform at twice the level of expensive flops. Again the stupidity of the transfer system.

@ inigomontoya Yes. Ask other Milan fans about my rants!
on the 9th March, 2021 at 10:56pm
Fio needs top coaches who can improve the players with suitable tactics and raise the level of the team season by season, someone like Sarri/Spalletti.
Every single player that Fio bought has performed worse compare to their previous clubs. Amrabat, Pulgar, Kouame, Jack, even Biraghi performed better for Inter. The fault lies on the coaches, and the sporting director.
Rocco has been trying, Fio spends more funds on transfer than Lazio for example. Now he should learn and need to get better coach
on the 9th March, 2021 at 10:06pm
@maldini'shair is milan in your bad books for their treatment of Cutrone?
on the 9th March, 2021 at 8:31pm
Prandelli is still a very good coach an also a very decent person. Even if the best ones in the market was in charge of Fiorentina's current squad, could not be get the better result. Fiorentina squad is very unbalanced, lacks the required qualities or suitable players in in many positions.
The club's activities in recent transfer markets have been very poor.
on the 9th March, 2021 at 4:14pm
they have a academy which produces players like zaniolo, chiesa, bernandeschi, mancini and gollini yet can't keep ant of theses players. What they have isn't utilised what the logic in loaning out sottil he could have got game time in this side. than you consider a disastrous transfer campaign for the most part gets the club backwards.

Than you have the likes of milenkovic who will leave in the summer if fiorentina owners have any ambition don't sell anyone else
on the 9th March, 2021 at 3:40pm
@Maldini's Heir: Inzaghi made it by starting at a club like Piacenza, where there was no pressure to score 20 goals per season to win a title or qualify for the champions league. Then he moved up to a mid-table Serie A team to prove he could continue scoring in the top division. Finally, he moved to a top team. Coming through the ranks at a top club is almost impossible unless that club was specifically setup that way, like Ajax and Atalanta, or how Barca WAS.
on the 9th March, 2021 at 3:14pm
@Maldini’s Heir, I'm with you here on Cutrone, he did not deserve such a treatment. I guess he became a victim of how his loan deal was structured, as after some number of games played it become an obligation to buy. So, instead of relying on Patrick, bosses decided to bet it all on Vlahovic (which may backfire as soon as this summer, given all the rumors about Roma and RB Leipzig interest).

But, given all the stupid mistakes this management made, that's just one of the many.
on the 9th March, 2021 at 12:27pm
Rocco is still learning the ropes and making mistakes, so let's just hope he learned something, and there will be a fresh start in summer, and we still will be in Serie A.

@Karim, I dont think even Allegri would do better in this situation, the team is in disbalance after so many wrong transfer decisions, latest winter campaign being a pinnacle.
on the 9th March, 2021 at 8:02am
and no doubt will in the future fail him. Fiorentina is one such team. I’ve no idea why they thought giving him 5 minutes off the bench each game was going to be enough for him to show his potential. I’ve no idea why clubs are so opposed to a player who shows the sort of passion not seen since Pippo Inzaghi. I’ve no idea how Pippo Inzaghi would make it today. I clearly have no idea. But Fiorentina, you’re in my bad books.
on the 9th March, 2021 at 7:38am
With all of the movement over the years with Milan players I’ve taken to following ex-players’ careers almost as closely as Milan itself. I want most of them to do well especially the youth players or the ones who delivered joy like El Shaaraway. I then look harshly at those clubs who fail those players like a father would. I don’t deny I’m biased but it’s sport. So anyway one of those players is Patrick Cutrone. I love the guy. Accordingly I look harshly upon any of the many teams that have
on the 9th March, 2021 at 7:35am

You're right about Prandelli. He was a good coach years ago, but his time passed quite a while back.

Fiorentina have had some pretty strong teams in the last 10 or 12 years, but the club was left to rot (like many other Italian sides) for years and they ended up as relegation candidates instead.

But given the players they have now, they should be doing better.

A new, hungry manager, and a goalscorer to partner Vlahovic would be a start.
on the 9th March, 2021 at 12:33am
I already said Prandelli was not the man, they needed someone fresh with fresh ideas and I was essentially laughed out of the discussion. They should have went with a young eager to prove/interesting football coach.
on the 8th March, 2021 at 7:14pm

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