The Tuscan outfit have purred through pre-season with a rejuvenated strike-force and winning mentality. Jeremy Lim considers them serious contenders for Europe.
Mario Gomez has ‘a feeling’ for the term ahead. And like their resurgent hitman, Florence has been picking up the same positive vibes ahead of the new campaign. Fiorentina’s impressive run of pre-season performances has confirmed why they are such an attractive proposition ahead of the new season.
La Viola will set out to shake off the nearly-men’s tag they gained during recent years. The wheels first fell off a Champions League qualification bid on the final matchday of the 2012-13 season, before they capitulated to Napoli in the Coppa Italia Final in May. Such close misses were gruelling, particularly for Coach Vincenzo Montella and a group that has come to regard itself as worthy of being established amongst Serie A’s big guns.
There’s added merit, though, that they are trying again after failing before. This term, Fiorentina might just nail the right formula for success.
Their summer preparations have already proven that the key is marrying style with results. Montella is working tirelessly to improve his team in that regard. Whereas once standing up to other self-assured, more adept rivals had been a problem, that’s now been replaced by a welcome steel about his side instead.
Nowhere was this more evident than in their impressive 2-1 friendly win over Real Madrid in Poland, when they conceded first but still dug deepest to keep their opponents’ €265m-rated strike-force at arm’s length for the rest of the match. “It was a good performance and we played on a par with Real Madrid. The squad has character,” Montella praised.
Fiorentina’s evident quality at the other end soon settled matters against the European champions. Striker Gomez, captain on the night, netted the equaliser and tormented the Spaniards. To date, it’s been a fantastic turnaround from the German, who was not selected to be part of his country’s victorious World Cup campaign.
The 29-year-old had been ruled out for practically all of last season with persistent knee trouble. Being left on the sidelines for former club Bayern Munich and then the national team burned on the inside. Fiorentina, on the other hand, offered to build their quest for glory around him. His prospective partnership with 2013-14 Capocannoniere contender Giuseppe Rossi this year has led the Artemio Franchi crowd to be awash with enthusiasm. Gomez believes they are destined for greatness together: “There is a feeling. Rossi is a phenomenon. He brings quality and enjoyment.”
“The understanding between Gomez and Rossi is growing in training,” Montella confirmed. The trainer recognises in the pair the firepower to transform Fiorentina into heavyweights against anyone, after being forced to deploy them separately for the most part last term owing to their injury misfortune. So far, his men have lined up twice with the duo leading the way. Behind them has sat the peerless Borja Valero and, for a brief 30 minute cameo, Juan Cuadrado.
The Tuscan outfit seem to be winning even the pre-season battle for the Colombian attacker’s future. Montella proclaimed he ‘never thought about losing Juan’, even though Fiorentina owner Andrea Della Valle admits that: “if an important offer were to come in then we would have to let him go.”
But the Viola faithful need not fear. Montella’s squad boasts genuine alternatives to cover for any departures - certainly a big upgrade from the club’s woeful attempts to create depth in the past by signing Alessandro Matri and Anderson on loan.
Young Federico Bernardeschi returns after a breakthrough year in Serie B that saw him called up to Italy’s preliminary World Cup squad. Meanwhile, two-time Europa League winner Marko Marin joins to help his new teammates surpass their previous Round of 16 appearance in the competition. Armed with renewed promise, it’s easy to pinpoint the source of the great feelings of optimism that surround Fiorentina’s upcoming campaign.
Possession and artistry have always been the modus operandi of Vincenzo Montella’s reign at Fiorentina. This summer though, his men have started to showcase a talent for grinding out results. It might just be the winning factor that helps the young and talented Montella clinch his first piece of silverware as a Coach.
With Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gomez crippled for long stages of last season, Borja Valero emerged as Fiorentina’s undisputed difference maker and leader on the field. The Spanish playmaker is a totem in midfield, regularly at the heart of everything good the Viola create going forward.
Mario Gomez could not help but vouch for new signing Marko Marin’s talent, saying: “He is fast with the ball and is deadly in one-on-one situations. Fiorentina have made a good choice.” Marin adds even more quality in the final third while bringing vital European pedigree to the squad, having won the Europa League twice himself.
Cesare Prandelli stunned everyone by opting against bringing Giuseppe Rossi to the World Cup with the Azzurri. New national team boss Antonio Conte will make no such mistake with the 27-year-old striker. When fit, the New Jersey-born hitman brings flair and cutting edge to any attack, making him one of the biggest goal threats in Serie A.
Neto; Tomovic, Savic, Gonzalo, Pasqual; Aquilani, Pizarro, Valero; Cuadrado, Gomez, Rossi
After coming so close to tasting Champions League qualification in two consecutive seasons, onlookers can be certain Fiorentina will be pushing Serie A’s elite all the way next term, for a place in Europe’s premier club competition.
|Tatarusanu (Steau Bucuresti)||GK||Rosati (Napoli)||GK|
|Alonso (Sunderland)||D||Compper (Leipzig)||D|
|Basanta (Monterrey)||D||Anderson (Manchester United)||M|
|Lazzarri (Udinese)||M||Bakic (Spezia)||M|
|Octavio (Botafogo)||M||Fazzi (Perugia)||A|
|Brillante (Newcastle Jets)||M||Rebic (Leipzig)||A|
|Beleck (Udinese)||A||Gulin (FeralpiSalo)||A|
|Marin (Chelsea)||M||Zohore (Gotenborg)||A|
|Bernandeschi (Crotone)||A||Matri (Milan)||A|