After an incredibly turbulent summer, Chloe Beresford explains what to expect from Fiorentina’s new-look side
Last season saw Fiorentina finish eighth in the league, their worst outcome since 2011-12. Worse than that though, was the instability from Coach Paulo Sousa, his formation and tactics making the team almost impossible to watch. Results under the Portuguese boss were often found through moments of individual brilliance, flattering the tactician who was eventually found out and replaced.
There has been good news and bad news following his removal, the appointment of Stefano Pioli the highlight of what has been an utterly miserable summer for the Viola. The arrival of the former Inter man may be unambitious in the long-term, but his settled 4-2-3-1 tactic is exactly what the Viola need right now.
This also comes in the wake of a fire-sale this summer, one that looks set to continue until the transfer window closes at the end of August. Whilst selling Federico Bernardeschi to Fiorentina’s most hated adversary Juventus for €40m sparked protest banners outside the stadium, it was the departures of Viola icons Gonzalo Rodriguez and Borja Valero that caused the most heartache for the Tuscan faithful.
The pair – who arrived together from Villarreal in summer 2012 – insisted they were being forced out of the club, whilst hard-faced sporting director Pantaleo Corvino denied those accusations. Valero, who sat watching his teammate Gonzalo as he shed tears in his final Press conference, the Argentinian handing him the captain’s armband in the final game.
But after signing for Inter this summer, it was Valero’s turn to speak out over his treatment and unsurprisingly, the fans chose to believe the man with the Ponte Vecchio co-ordinates tattooed on his arm. Corvino may have been given the task of dismantling the team, but it was clear his instructions had come from above.
Abrasive comments from fashion designer and Fiorentina fan Roberto Cavalli sparked a response from Viola owners Andrea and Diego Della Valle, the billionaires putting the club up for sale just a few days later. It had been the final straw after months of protests against the frugal patrons, but seemed a petty and empty gesture.
The exits continued apace. Ciprian Tatarusanu, Carlos Salcedo, Sebastian De Maio and Cristian Tello all departing the club with Nikola Kalinic set to be next after the Croatian was largely absent from pre-season training. The striker first stated family reasons for his failure to return, but then spoke of a desire to join Milan, thanking Fiorentina for the past two seasons.
Following Borja to Inter was Matias Vecino, the Nerazzurri paying his release clause to allow Luciano Spalletti reunite the pair in his side. Perhaps Pioli was aware that these sales would be necessary upon his arrival, but the Coach certainly seems to be losing patience with the lack of new faces.
So far, only central defender Vitor Hugo has arrived from Palmeiras along with Jordan Veretout from Aston Villa, Guimaraes full-back Bruno Gaspar and 19-year-old defender Nikola Milenkovic. Whilst the sporting director is well-known for sourcing good signings on a small budget, the current acquisitions represent a small and inadequate percentage of the revenue generated from player sales.
In almost every Press conference the new boss has urged the club to act quickly, and his anxiety is understandable given the current situation means that would be barely able to assemble a squad for the opening game on August 20.
That first match will see him take on his former employers Inter, with Fiorentina fans coming face to face with their old midfielders Valero and Vecino. Expectations are at an all-time low following this turbulent summer, but should the club sufficiently reinforce, all may not be as bad as it seems.
The fans obviously need a player who they feel will represent them in a similar way to their departed heroes, but in Pioli they have a man who understands how they feel. The tactician was part of a Fiorentina side that included Gabriel Batistuta, the defender one of the players that stayed loyal to the club as they were relegated to Serie B under then-boss Claudio Ranieri.
Question marks are everywhere as the new season begins, but the Viola have a solid, dependable Coach who doesn’t seem to be afraid of asking the tough questions from an unreliable ownership. Putting their faith in him as he is put in charge of putting the pieces of the jigsaw back together is the only thing to cling to after such a difficult summer.
This could be a tough year for Fiorentina after the overhaul, especially with uncertainty over the club’s future ownership hanging over everyone. Whilst opening up a fourth Champions League spot gave fans some hope of achieving the ultimate aim, it seems as though Stefano Pioli’s side will be lucky to even secure an Europa League finish next term. Hopes of a Coppa Italia victory would be enough to give fans something to cheer for, though.
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