It’s not often that Italian club owners are praised for their persistence and patience but Andrea Della Valle and his brother Diego have made Fiorentina one of the most stable clubs in the Calcio. Italy is renowned for its affinity for firing Coaches. In fact, with the exception of Napoli, the top seven teams from last season have seen a change in management at least once. Given such a history, the urge to sack Sinisa Mijhalovic after a bumpy start to this season, which saw Fiorentina rock-bottom in the early stages, must have been great.
La Viola seemed destined to be doomed this season after Cesare Prandelli, who had masterminded the team’s rebirth, took up the responsibilities of La Nazionale. In Mijhalovic, the Tuscan side inherited a manager who was slightly inexperienced and a bit headstrong, in contrast with Prandelli’s meticulous planning and attention to detail. The summer passed with little investment in the team, the only notable arrivals being Gateano D’Agostino and Artur Boruc, and before a ball was kicked this season, the team lost its best player in Stevan Jovetić for the entire campaign.
An injury to Sebastien Frey put him out of action as well, while many of the Fiorentina players got off to an extremely slow start in the league as the likes of Alberto Gilardino, Riccardo Montolivo and Juan Manuel Vargas performed well below their usual levels. The well-documented soap opera with Adrian Mutu was just another of the many challenges the club faced in a bid to escape the inevitable. However, a combination of dogged determination, some brave tactics, and support from the management has seen them turn around the situation.
Last week’s narrow loss to leaders Milan proved once more that the Viola are slowly getting back on their feet again after seemingly being knocked out in the early part of the season. The protagonists for Fiorentina are still the same but after all they have gone through in the last 12 months, special praise must be reserved for both the owners and the manager. Even during the rocky start to the season that the side from Tuscany endured, Mijhalovic in particular remained adamant that the team could bounce back. Youngsters like Adem Ljajic and Khouma Babacar were thrust into the spotlight as the bigger names around them struggled to recover from the hangover of the last term.
With his predecessor having done a lot of excellent work with the team, Mijhalovic made the important decision to not change the set-up of the side. The team is not as entertaining to watch as it was in the last year or two, but with so many players injured and out of form, one can expect Fiorentina to return to being the attacking side that they have been. As the season draws to a close, La Viola have secured survival and also a top-half finish, which is a respectable position given their early season calamities. What is important for both the club and its players is to rebuild the stability that this squad has become accustomed to.
With Roma coming under new and more ambitious ownership, and Inter likely to end the season empty-handed for the first time in over half a decade, no doubt they will look at the Viola players with lusty eyes. The Della Valles have already proved their long-term commitment to the club, and once more it will be their duty to ensure that Fiorentina continues to be competitive as it has always been.