On the face of it, the decision to finally sell Stefan Jovetic to Manchester City was a risky and potentially backward step for Fiorentina. However, with some very shrewd and wise investments, the sale could springboard the Florence based club back into European football’s elite club category.
At this same time last year, Fiorentina were being astute as well. After a 2011/12 campaign that resulted in a disappointing 13th place finish, the club knew there were things to be done in order to turn the club around. Borja Valero, Alberto Aquilani and David Pizarro all came in and starred, adding steel and balance to a previously fluctuating and inconsistent team.
The team finished the 2012/13 Serie A in 4th, and although they were 17 points behind league winners Juventus, this was an impressive achievement for the club. In the 2013/14 season, they will be hoping to make a genuine title challenge.
One of the more surprising signings made by Fiorentina over the summer was the deal that saw former AC Milan stalwart Massimo Ambrosini join the club. Despite being aged 36, Ambrosini still has immense technical ability and always uses the ball intelligently. Many teams all over Europe have struggled to balance playing in European competition with quality and consistent league performances, so Ambrosini’s experience could make him the ideal off pitch leader for the Fiorentina as they enter the European football spectrum.
Of course, Fiorentina’s most notable signing this summer has been Mario Gomez. Gomez lost his spot in the regular Bayern Munich eleven to Croatian striker Mario Mandžukic in the previous season, and the German was clearly not willing to play second fiddle again, especially with the World Cup taking place in under a year’s time. His arrival is quite the coup for Fiorentina, and gives them a world class striker amongst their ranks, and probably one of the best in Serie A. Gomez is a livewire in the box, with precise timing.
Even more excitingly for Fiorentina is the fact that not all of the £22 million garnered from the sale of Jovetic went towards signing Mario Gomez. The electric pace and creativity of ex Real Betis, Valencia and Málaga man Joaquin (signed on a three year deal), in some respects summarises this Fiorentina team up, experienced and tactically clever under the guidance of 39 year old Vincenzo Montella, but also possessing some youthful exuberance.
Their qualification for the Europa League, assuming they make it through their one round of qualifying, helps them attract yet more players, as they have done with Josip Iličić, a man supposedly wanted by both Liverpool and Bayer Leverkusen, in a deal thought to be just worth around £7.7 million.
Having Iličić, Joaquin, Giuseppe Rossi and new Ukrainian signing Oleksandr Yakovenko and others in an attacking sense, and with Borja Valero, Massimo Ambrosini and Alberto Aquilani providing cover behind them, Fiorentina have an exceptionally well balanced squad. Vincenzo Montella has a great tactical eye, and is learning more and more about being a coach.
What Montella has on his hands now with Fiorentina is a squad with a great balance between youth and experience, with pretty much two players worthy of playing in each position, any coach’s dream. The new arrivals could force a tactical overhaul, while the likes of David Pizarro, who handed in a transfer request and then withdrew it, may perhaps need a new role to the one he starred in last year.
However, with the experience of Valero, Joaquin, and of course Ambrosini, there should not be any kind of dressing room friction. A young yet respected manager, a whole heap of experienced heads, an exciting array of attacking talents means that for Fiorentina, all the ingredients are there for a season that fans of the Viola can enjoy and be proud of.
The question remains, can this club from Tuscany win their first Serie A in what will be 45 years? Last season, the traditional big guns of Roma, Lazio, Internazionale and AC Milan were way off the pace, as were Fiorentina, as Juventus and Napoli battled away. Although Juventus have bought in Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente, it appears as if their key focus will be the UEFA Champions League, potentially giving a team like Fiorentina a window of real opportunity.
Despite the arrival of highly respected former Valencia, Liverpool, Inter and Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez, as well as Gonzalo Higuain, Napoli will almost certainly miss Edinson Cavani, who was comfortably Serie A’s top scorer last season with 29 goals. Both Milan clubs, as well as Roma and Lazio will probably be thinking the same thing; however Fiorentina have more proven players all over the pitch than these clubs.
With such excitement around Fiorentina now, they could well spring a few upsets, as they did last season. It will be difficult to juggle possible Europa League football with consistency in the league, but with the amount of depth and ability to adjust tactically that Fiorentina possess, they are ideally placed to be successful in perhaps both.
The ever improving former Manchester City man Stefan Savic, the ever solid and intelligent Borja Valero and the man with some of the best timing in European football Mario Gomez, will all be the spine of a team that are undergoing an exciting new project much like Klopp’s Dortmund team are in the middle of, except under Vincenzo Montella.