Perhaps more than any other, Cesare Prandelli’s career has been shaped by off the field issues, and his Fiorentina resignation is no different.
When he first accepted the job of replacing Beppe Iachini in charge of a team that was badly put together, low on confidence and with expectations completely out of whack with reality, I thought of the old Italian phrase: Ma chi te lo fa fare? It means who is forcing you to do this? It seems he has reached the same conclusion and realised it’s not worth driving himself into a physical and emotional ditch. Fiorentina wouldn’t want that either, everyone wishes Prandelli the best and it probably is time to just put his feet up and retire. There’s nothing wrong with that. Health and happiness come before anything else and Cesare is too much of a gentleman for the Calcio he stepped back into.
Football is discussed in such apocalyptic terms, with talk of crashing out, getting mauled, destroyed, or fans writing on social media that a coach or an owner has ‘killed’ their beloved team. It’s easy to forget these are people with the same human weaknesses as anyone else.
Prandelli cares deeply for Fiorentina after his previous spell at the Stadio Franchi and confessed after the win over Benevento that he felt “tired,” that every decision weighed deeply upon him precisely because this was not just a job for him. He loves the Viola and would be devastated to see them relegated on his watch.
When he didn’t arrive for post-match interviews after the 3-2 defeat to Milan, the concerns grew. Prandelli hasn’t looked well in recent weeks, the insane pace of this compressed campaign and so much at stake visibly taking its toll on him. I had assumed he would retire after the short-lived experience at Valencia, and he now realises that would’ve been the wiser course of action.
He did not return to Florence for the challenge, nor to bolster his ego. I doubt Prandelli would’ve taken any other job after that, but ultimately the fact he cared about Fiorentina so much is what made this role unsustainable.
We must never forget this is a game more than a job. It is a vocation, not just employment. It is not the first time Prandelli has put his own health and well-being before his career, and that is genuinely admirable, not to mention wise. He had been appointed to Roma in 2004, a huge step up in his career, but walked away before the season had even begun because his wife was diagnosed with cancer. His decision was respected then, it should be respected now.
Last week, Carlo Mazzone celebrated his 84th birthday by posting a picture of his cake on Twitter. When he retired in 2006, it was because his wife ordered him to take it easy lest he blow a gasket in one of his traditional touchline tirades. The stress was no longer sustainable and it’s safe to assume he wouldn’t have made it this far while still working regularly in the increasingly cut-throat world of Calcio.
Just as with Josip Ilicic last year, or Adriano so long ago, the person must always come before the player, the coach, the career. I hope Prandelli finds the peace and joy that he so richly deserves.