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Thursday March 1 2012
Relegation reminders haunt Viola

Are Fiorentina too good to go down? The club’s history provides the answer, as Giancarlo Rinaldi explains.

There are few statements in football more foolish and futile than telling someone their side is "too good to go down". The story of Serie A is littered with teams which appeared to have too much quality to drop into the Second Division. Fiorentina fans know to their cost how painful such an assumption can be.

Results at the weekend have put the Viola just four points above a resurgent Lecce and their formline is more depressing than a medley of Tom Waits' love songs. Away from home, in particular, they have proved a feeble force. They average about a goal every four-and-a-half hours on the road in Serie A. In truth, it has sometimes felt like longer than that.

History has to serve as a warning to this current party of purple players. The Tuscan side were relegated in the early 90s and at the start of the new millennium. They won't want to make it third time unlucky this campaign.

Back in 1992-93 it was the sacking of Gigi Radice which was the catalyst to disaster. The Florentines were sitting near the top end of the table when he was shown the door to be replaced by ultra-opinionated TV pundit Aldo Agroppi. Their results went into a death slide from which they never recovered.

That side contained some names which may well sound familiar to you. A young Gabriel Batistuta chipped in his usual haul of goals but to no avail. International players like Francesco Baiano, Stefan Effenberg and Brian Laudrup were also part of the squad. With the more workmanlike abilities of future Coaches Beppe Iachini and Stefano Pioli in the set-up, they looked like a side capable of comfortably staying afloat. They were not.

It was a different story in 2001-02 where the financial disaster of the Cecchi Gori era was in full effect. Key players had gone and yet they still boasted household names like Angelo Di Livio, Enrico Chiesa, Predrag Mijatovic, Nuno Gomes and an up-and-coming on-loan Inter hitman named Adriano. If you add in Alex Manninger, Daniele Adani, Moreno Torricelli, Domenico Morfeo, Angelo Palombo and Paolo Vanoli it sounds like a decent side. It was not.

Which brings us to the present-day team and its cast list. Stevan Jovetic stands head and shoulders above the rest but, as the weekend loss to Lazio showed, he can't carry the team all the time. Too many of the other ‘stars’ have their heads elsewhere.

Riccardo Montolivo's mind is on a move, Juan Manuel Vargas has been distracted by family problems and Alessio Cerci has run into trouble as often as he has opposition defenders. It means that wherever you look on the pitch there are headaches to be dealt with. Delio Rossi has been scrabbling through the drawers looking for any paracetamol left by Sinisa Mihajlovic.

Among the new faces, too, there has been little good to report. Of the summer signings, only Mattia Cassani escapes with pass marks with Santiago Silva and Gianni Munari already despatched to pastures new. Brazilian wide-man Romulo has featured rarely and Andrea Lazzari has looked like a stick of rock with the word ‘journeyman’ stamped right through him. Houssine Kharja's biggest input has been to train ticket sales between Florence and Milan. Not really the stuff needed to start a new golden age.

And January also brought cold comfort. The collapse of the Mounir El Hamdaoui transfer from Ajax left the winter deals looking a little thin on the ground. In came hitman Amauri who has worked hard, but so far failed to deliver a striker's most precious commodity – goals. And Ruben Olivera's cameo has been almost comical. He was suspended when he signed, played less than a full fixture, and is now banned again. As contributions go, it has been about as much use as a Rolex made out of a popular confectionery product.

The rest of the current squad is a mixed bunch of young hopefuls like Matja Nastasic and Amidu Salifu, under-achievers such as Felipe, Lorenzo De Silvestri and Adem Ljajic, and solid names like Artur Boruc, Alessandro Gamberini, Valon Behrami and Manuel Pasqual. Even just reading the names, the case for automatic salvation gets a little less compelling.

A crumb of comfort comes from some of the home games still in store for Rossi's men. Cesena, Chievo, Novara, Cagliari and poor-travelling Palermo still have to visit Florence this season, but it will need four wins out of five from those fixtures to reach the magical 40 point target that generally guarantees survival. Otherwise, they will have to get wins or draws outside of Florence or against a big name to ensure their place in Serie A.

If the supposed ‘stars’ who make this side better than those around them stand up and be counted, they can comfortably avoid the drop. However, question marks remain about the commitment of many of them to the cause. The fiery footballing Hell of Serie B can still be side-stepped by the Viola, but they will need to hurry up and get into action. The familiar flames of yesteryear are now licking at their feet.

Have your say...
It's a pretty sad state of affairs at the moment. Whilst I don't think the squad is as good as some think, it's certainly good enough to be comfortably sitting in the top half of the table. Unfortunately, I don't think any of the squad is playing anywhere near their best. Montolivo would be training with primavera squad if I were managing; I understand his frustration in the squad not being improved, but at the same time Fiorentina need those committed to the shirt.
on the 3rd March, 2012 at 12:49am
The problem is that the Italian National team wanted the most important puzzle in the fiorentian jigsaw and that man was Prandelli. Fiorentina lost it's most important asset and didnt get rid of the "tired" players like Montolivo, Vargas, and Gilardino (even though he left in the end). The Della Valle family aren't as interested as they used to be, and they seem to have lost there enthusiasim. Sell the club to rich people WITH ambition.
on the 2nd March, 2012 at 12:03am
As a Viola fan I am deeply concerned over the state the club is in right now. Corvino seems to have lost his grip and Della Valle still wants to offer him a new contract. The coaches Mihajlovic and Rossi has not had an easy ride either, having to deal with diciplinary problems and players who seem unwilling to give their very best to lift the club out of the situation they've put themselves in.

Hopefully, changes will be made during the summer, but I am afraid that errors will be repeated.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 6:53pm
Yes, Fiorentina sold Gilardino, Frey and Mutu. The thing is though, Amauri has been as goal-machinery as Gilardino was, Jovetic is our second striker and leaves Mutu in a strange position that he would never want and Boruc might not be as good as Frey, but he costs a third the money and does a damn good job in big games.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 4:21pm
I still don't understand why they sold Gila, Mutu & Frey. If they do sell Jovetic, I hope he stays in Serie A & doesn't go abroad.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 1:33pm
Fiorentina no longer have the cash to compete for big signings. Thus viola take their chances on players. Attempted signing of Mounir El Hamdaoui for example - undoubtedly talented but problems with his club. Again the reported approach for Chamakh from Arsenal - another troubled player that MIGHT come good. Silva was a real stab in the dark in this respect which unsurprisingly failed. Amauri will likely be the same.
It's all a bit clutching at straws - but they should pull away from the bottom.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 1:25pm
Good article. Always had a soft spot for Fiorentina from when I first started watching football Italia in my youth, think it was the kit of the time with the 7up logo and Batistuta. Screams of Batistuta in the school yard met with bemused looks by my friends!
Hope they can manage to survive but the transfer policy has not helped them at all. Some dubious signings, Silva, Olivera, Munari all not good enough. Selling Gillardino and Frey were massive errors as was not signing D'Agostino.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 12:26pm
Fiorentina problems are their transfer policy. Signing average players like Ruben Olivera, Houssine Kharja, Gianni Munari, Romulo, Mattia Cassani, Santiago Silva 30 years old Uruguayan who already failed in Europe. And selling Adrian Mutu, Alberto Gilardino and refused to buy D'Agostino when they already knew Montolivo would leave them in the summer. Buying 2 goalkeepers when they had world class like Sebastien Frey. Buying Mattia Cassani when theirs is already has 2 right back. And buying no left back they have only Manuel Pasqual. And coaches who don’t know how to use Andrea Lazzari in theirs line up. Pantaleo Corvino promised to sign Guido Pizarro from Lanus and Mounir El Hamdaoui, he failed to sign both in last day of transfer windows. And Andrea Della Valle wants to offer him a new contract.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 11:21am
Sampdoria went down only a year after selling the forwards in January!! fiorentina sold Giladino!! I hope they stay up but they were so poor when I wacthed them against Bologna!!
on the 1st March, 2012 at 9:42am
Great read. Over the years there has been many teams "too good to go down". Most of then weren't and did. Hopefully Fiorentina will be better than a cliche.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 9:38am
While I don't think they will actually bite the serie B bullet, it's such a pity to see Fiorentina in this state. It was so recent that Jovetic was putting Liverpool to the sword in Europe and Prandelli was creating such a talented and entertaining side.
on the 1st March, 2012 at 9:31am

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