The saying goes that good things don’t last forever, and so it proved for Fiorentina’s sporting director Pantaleo Corvino, who has seen his crown slip in Firenze to the point where the club have announced his departure at the end of the season. But where did it go so wrong for the transfer guru?
In football, one game can often change a whole season or even an era. Heading into Saturday’s game with bitter rivals Juventus, Fiorentina had lost four of their last six and were playing poorly. The feeling around the Juve game was that this was a watershed moment for the famous Tuscan club. Victory could galvanise a stagnated season, but defeat could plunge them into the depths, with relegation not an impossibility. What happened during the 90 minutes provided an emphatic answer to any questions asked. If the game had happened in the colosseum , even the most sympathetic emperor would have given the weary Fiorentina the thumbs down for Juventus to end their brutal onslaught. A 5-0 thumping (aided by Alessio Cerci’s ridiculous kick and subsequent red-card mid-way through the first half) saw the Curva Fiesole empty midway through the second half, with fans protesting against their owners and squad. A lone sign hung from the gates of the Stadio Artemio Franchi the following morning, it read ‘Shame.’
After such a torrid night, a reaction was expected from the club, which was duly delivered as Sunday evening rolled in. In a brief statement on the clubs site, Fiorentina announced Corvino would leave at the end of his contract at the end of the season. It was a brief statement which also expressed thanks to Corvino for all his work during his almost seven years at the club. Inside those years, the Puglian turned a side that only guaranteed survival on the final round of fixtures (beating Brescia 3-0) the previous season, to a side that twice qualified for the Champions League and excited Calcio fans all around the world with their exciting players and superb coach, now Italy boss Cesare Prandelli. But it was the departure of the former Verona and Parma coach that signalled a decline in Corvino’s reputation, so soon after bringing in some superb signings, most notably Alberto Gilardino, Stevan Jovetic and aiding Ricardo Montolivo’s development into a player of international repute.
As Prandelli left to become Italy boss in the summer of 2010, he was replaced by Sinisa Mihajlovic, the Serb looking to enhance a growing reputation boosted by a stint at Catania. On paper, Fiorentina had a squad of players that could compete with many of the top sides in the peninsula, yet it was perhaps Corvino’s failure to un-earth the diamonds that have been the trademark of his career that hindered Mihajlovic’s attempts to follow in Prandelli’s footsteps. Corvino, a man who discovered amongst others Fabrizio Miccoli, Mirko Vucinic and Jovetic, has become more adept at finding rust than gold.
Allowing players such as Donadel, Mutu and Frey to leave and be replaced by Artur Boruc, Tanque Silva and Mario Bolatti hints at a man either losing his touch or in simple need of a change of scenery. Perhaps his biggest mistake was sitting on the fence regarding Ricardo Montolivo that now looks to have cost Fiorentina on every level. Undoubtedly a talented midfielder, on his day on of the best in Italy, Corvino failed to convince the former Atalanta man to extend his deal. But when this decision was made, Corvino then failed to market his man. A player who could be worth upwards of £10 million will now leave for free this summer, the saga affecting his form meaning Viola have missed out on his best form in his last season.
Far from being a bad Sporting Director, Corvino will perhaps be relieved to be leaving. Fiorentina are in desperate need of a new project, a year zero scenario so the split is perhaps for the best. Corvino may have a break from the game, but at 62 time is against him, so his next job is likely to be his last. He has always spoken of his desire to work by the sea, possibly ruling in clubs such as Genoa or Lazio for one last project. In the next few weeks all the talk will be of the recent failings of Corvino and the club as a whole. But in years to come, the relationship between the Lecce native and Fiorentina will go down in legend. After all, this is a man who made la Viola a European force. Although now a shadow of themselves, his past glories will live long in the memory.