2008/09 – Fiorentina followed up a fourth-place season finish and a place in the Champions League with an exact replica, underlining another successful year in charge for Coach Cesare Prandelli. Azzurri talisman Alberto Gilardino transferred over from Milan to spearhead the attack – scoring an impressive 19 league goals in his debut season. The former Parma man was ably assisted by teammates Riccardo Montolivo, Adrian Mutu, Stevan Jovetic and Juan Vargas, while new signing Felipe Melo made such an impression as a tough-tackling midfield enforcer that this summer Juventus parted with £21m for his services next season. The side’s tight defence inspired a fantastic end of season run of seven wins in eight games – the kind of form that will have Viola supporters dreaming of what could be over the coming months.
2009/10 – Fiorentina are at a crossroads. For the last two years, they have managed to qualify for the Champions League and put together an enviable squad. The question is, where next? The natural progression would be to prepare a genuine title challenge, or at least progress further in Europe’s elite competition, but to achieve this they need to have sufficient financial backing. Fiorentina are still effectively a selling club – highlighted in bold by the sale of Melo to Juventus – and while their rivals are able to spend £9m a year in wages to just one of their players, Fiorentina’s highest paid player is only remunerated to the extent of a sixth of that figure. But shrewd management and patient build-up should not be underestimated – it will be interesting to see if la Viola can take their recent success any further in the coming campaign.
Transfer Campaign – The headline-grabbing transfer news regarding Fiorentina this summer was unfortunately a sale rather than a purchase – that of Melo’s move up to Turin. Weighing up the pros and cons of the transfer, it is hard to say whether or not it was a good deal for la Viola. A lot of money was on the table, particularly for a player who seemed reluctant to stay, and with Marco Marchionni thrown in for good measure, Fiorentina appear to have greatly profited on the midfielder who they signed for less than half the price just a year ago. However, the Brazilian’s performances for club and country were increasingly of stellar quality, and it does not send out a good message that the board let him go to a major rival. Cristiano Zanetti should help fill the void, along with Cesare Natali’s influence at the back.
Cristiano Zanetti – Juventus -£1.7m
Francesco Di Tacchio – Ascoli – £1.8m
Boadu Acosty – Reggiana – £800,000
Matteo Arati – Reggiana – undisclosed
Cesare Natali – Torino – £2m
Marco Marchionni – Juventus – £3.8m
José Castillo – Lecce – £900,000
Manuel da Costa – Sampdoria – undisclosed
Arturo Lupoli – Ascoli – loan
Emiliano Bonazzoli – Sampdoria – end of loan
Marco Storari – Milan – end of loan
Sergio Almiron – Juventus – end of loan
Luciano Zauri – Sampdoria – end of loan
Ondrej Mazuch – Anderlecht – loan
Felipe Melo – Juventus – £21m
Alex Costa dos Santos – Eupen – undisclosed
Papa Moussa Diakhaté – KAS Eupen – undisclosed
First XI – After Mutu injured his knee for the final third of last season, Prandelli changed his formation from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1, with fantastic results. Whilst the return of Mutu could also see a return to the former formation, the talented Romanian’s flexibility should allow Prandelli to continue with the new style. Jovetic and Vargas’ performances in the attacking triumvirate of the side merit their places in this year’s team – but this is hard to predict with the signing of Marchionni, who will offer a natural option on the right-hand side. Zanetti is likely to replace Melo, but he should be wary of the dependable Marco Donadel and the promising Zdravko Kuzmanovic.
21 Comotto – 5 Gamberini – 3 Dainelli – 23 Pasqual
15 Zanetti – 18 Montolivo
8 Jovetic – 10 Mutu – 6 Vargas
The Coach – When considering Cesare Prandelli a comparison that continues to come to mind is with David Moyes, Manager of Everton. The two tacticians seem so alike in their approach to management – they both have slowly built up their side through sensible signings each summer, whilst retaining a base of committed individuals to keep the team consistent and focused. They both have an eye for bargains, they like to bring through youth players whilst reinventing supposed over-the-hill stars of yesterday, and make the right calls when it comes to spending big money. Already revered throughout Italy, Prandelli’s stock should rise throughout Europe should Fiorentina improve on last season’s performance.
Team/reliable player – Though Dario Dainelli may not even be the best defender in the Fiorentina back four, he represents the loyal backbone of experienced players that Prandelli likes to intersperse with exciting new talent. Using this approach, the team has a consistent element to it – there are always players in the side that practically have Viola blood running through their veins such is their longevity at the club, thus ensuring that performances are never anything less than committed. Dainelli, entering his sixth season with the club, should continue to show the passion that has made him club captain in the coming season.
Creative force – Picking one particular creative force from Fiorentina’s squad isn’t easy – Mutu is a wonderful all-round player, Gilardino is a goal-scoring machine, Vargas and Jovetic showed glimpses of what’s to come at the back end of last season. But it is Riccardo Montolivo who is the real puppet-master of the side. Dovetailing beautifully with the hardened Melo last season, he pitched in with some vital goals and delightful assists. Viola fans will be hoping that Melo’s replacement Cristiano Zanetti will be able to replace the combative Brazilian this season and allow the former Atalanta playmaker the space to strut his stuff.
Youth prospect – It’s safe to say that Fiorentina focus more on their scouting and transfer policy than developing their youth system, as their squad demonstrates – not one of their established first team players was actually brought up through the ranks. However, one youngster could possibly get some game time in the cup or if a horrendous run of injuries should occur, and that man is Massimiliano Tagliani. A versatile 20-year-old who is predominantly a centre-back, Tagliani can also fill in as a defensive midfielder and will be hoping to get his chance in the coming season. His young age and the big names ahead of him in these positions though could well see him shipped out on loan so as to continue his football education.
The Fixtures – Looking at Fiorentina’s first six fixtures, early season success is very plausible. Bologna (A), Palermo (H), Cagliari (H), Sampdoria (H) and Livorno (A) are all winnable games, and if they can get a result at the Stadio Olimpico against Roma in late September, don’t be surprised to see Prandelli’s charges leading the way come October. The autumn however brings some trickier fixtures – Juventus away really catches the eye what with Melo’s first game against his former side, along with Zanetti and Marchionni’s return to Turin. Then there is Genoa came within a whisker of Fiorentina last season, and despite losing Diego Milito and Thiago Motta, they have strengthened their team well. After the Christmas break and towards the close of the season Mutu and Co face Milan – right now it’s hard to predict what state the Rossoneri side will be in – nevertheless the class of the Milanesi will promise an interesting tie and this could well be a decider for 3rd and 4th spot.
Home Grown Players – Just over half of the squad available to Prandelli was born in Italy – this is a trait which makes the Viola a team hard to dislike for any neutrals and lovers of the Italian game. As mentioned above, these players are products of other clubs and were ably scouted by the club. Nevertheless, they make up the core of the starting XI, with about seven being Italian. Fiorentina can also hope to have a strong contingency travelling with the Azzurri to South Africa next summer as Gilardino, Montolivo, Natali and Manuel Pasqual are all involved in Lippi’s plans. Others like Alessandro Gamberini, Marchionni and Donadel can hope for a call up should they impress further this season.
Predictions – While Viola fans will be hoping their beloved team can build on the success of the previous two seasons, the strengthening of teams around them could well mean that holding onto that precious fourth spot would be a very good campaign indeed. Fiorentina were in touching distance of Milan and Juventus last year, with second place a mathematical possibility up until the final game against the Rossoneri. Milan’s position is looking precarious with the loss of Kaká and Coach Carlo Ancelotti, but Fiorentina will have to do extremely well to usurp Leonardo’s side, while Juventus have improved their squad dramatically this summer. Add to the mix Napoli and Genoa’s respective business, not to mention an expected resurgence by Roma and suddenly maintaining Champions League football seems a truly challenging prospect. Nonetheless, Fiorentina are as well equipped as any of their rivals to qualify for Europe’s premier club competition and that should be their realistic goal for the season.
Predicted Finish: 4th