158 posts tagged fiorentina
158 posts tagged fiorentina
For me, there will never be another Roberto Baggio. The end of the 1989/90 season was the most painful I can ever remember. The boy we had loved and nurtured back to full fitness, the footballer the rest of Italy envied, the symbol of hope for a brighter future for Fiorentina was leaving. And his destination was unmentionable.
No transfer deal has ever hurt so much. I can remember Giancarlo Antognoni leaving, but that was to go to Switzerland for an end of career swansong. And, in future, Gabriel Batistuta would move to Roma, but not before he had given us the best years of his footballing life. But the Divin Codino was a superstar in a struggling side with countless seasons of top class play left to give. But we were losing him just the same.
It was the harshest lesson in the realities of the game. The Viola were definitely a selling club at a time when Serie A’s big guns were carnivorous consumers of other teams’ talents. Looking back, it was a no-brainer really. Nonetheless, it hurt like hell.
The light had gone out on our brightest star, the heir to Antognoni’s crown. Some took to the streets in protest to vent their anger. I took to my room to brood over what life would be like without a player I had invested with such emotional importance.
Over time, my anguish diminished, I guess. As Baggio moved from team to team, it always felt like he was in search of the love he had once enjoyed in Florence. I think he found it again in the provinces, but never really at Italy’s big three. Perhaps I am delusional in that regard.
That’s all a rather long preamble to say that if Stevan Jovetic leaves Fiorentina in the summer it will not hurt anything like as much. The world of football has changed immensely and the thought of keeping him for his whole career has never seriously crossed my mind. From the moment he lit up the Champions League a few years ago it was more of a question of “when” rather than “if” he would move elsewhere.
Serious injury and then the personal intervention of Andrea Della Valle put that on hold. But now, aged 23, he is at the prime time to look to clinch a deal to a bigger club with greater European clout. Few would grudge him that, some believe his mind has been drifting away from Florence for some time. The constant transfer rumours have, like sea lapping against stones, worn many of us down.
His contribution over about 100 Serie A appearances has been impressive in both good and bad times. About a goal every three games, a steady stream of assists and countless man-of-the-match displays would be his legacy. This season, perhaps, there was the feeling he was trying too hard at times to be a matchwinner on his own. At a club with more superstars, I guess, that pressure might be lifted.
Will he go? I think the answer is almost certainly yes. The club will hold out for the cash it is entitled to for his services but, as long as a bidder comes up with the appropriate sum, I don’t think they can hold him any longer. Thankfully, from a Viola point of view, he leaves a team which looks like it will not be plunged into despair by his departure.
Where will he go? That, of course, is a little more thorny. The main suitors seem to be Arsenal, maybe Manchester City and the same team which took Baggio away. There is no doubt Fiorentina would prefer to sell him outside Italy but, if the price is right, they may not have that choice. If he must go to THAT place, they must push for the best deal possible. They showed last summer that they can be pretty astute when it comes to spending their cash.
What type of player do they get? An enormous talent with the potential to explode on the international scene. He can dribble, finish and set up goals. He does, however, tend to pick up a number of minor knocks during a season, so he is likely to miss a few games. There was also a feeling in more recent outings that maybe defenders had got to know his game a little better. Just the same, he remained a huge talent.
This term he has played as one of a pair of strikers in a 3-5-2 and the focal point of a 4-3-3 and acquitted himself well in both positions. Previously, he also featured in a 4-2-3-1, sometimes as the front man but more generally behind the main striker or cutting in from the left. He is versatile enough to play in those roles and more, but he is definitely at his best when he is withing striking distance of the goal - ideally with just one defender and the goalkeeper to beat.
That, to me, is his trademark finish. Finding just enough space to spin a ball between a despairing centre-back and a leaping netminder. His speed of thought to calculate the type of shot required to find the net is second to none. Any buyer can look forward to seeing a few of those.
It will be sad, of course, to see him go. He is the same age Baggio was when he left the club and his contribution has been similar both in terms of goals and appearances (the Divin Codino was, in truth, a bit more prolific). But will it hurt as much as when Roby left? Personally speaking, no. Times have changed, maybe, and so have I. I would rather keep Jojo but, equally, if he is desperate to move on then there is really no sense in keeping him a prisoner at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. It would be a matter of regret, of course, if he decides to move away but, this time around, there will probably be no tears.
A football match means more when you know someone who supports the opposing team. It gives a little extra importance to the outcome when a friend or family members is pulling for exactly the opposite outcome to yourself. Back in the mid-1990s, games between Pescara and Fiorentina felt like a personal derby match for me.
The reason was a simple twist of fate. I had been writing for Football Italia magazine for a while when they decided to bring out a book as a guide to the season ahead. I was selected - along with TV expert Ray Della Pietra - to co-author its pages. His heart was at the Stadio Adriatico, mine at the Artemio Franchi.
But Calcio can be a cruel mistress. There was talk of bringing out something similar every season but it never happened - leaving that guide to the 1993/94 campaign as the only edition. Frozen in time forever was a season where neither Fiorentina nor Pescara featured in the top flight. The pair of them got relegated the season before - replaced by two from Reggiana, Cremonese, Piacenza and Lecce, take your pick.
We were, however, dedicated in our efforts nonetheless. Virgin Publishing had set a tight deadline to get things done and there were plenty of lengthy phone-calls between myself and Ray to compare notes, discuss progress and generally moan and groan about the editorial process. It was hard work, I remember, but it was good fun too.
We were childish in the pranks we tried to play on our editor. His crime, in our eyes, was that he knew less about football than we did and, at the time, we found that unforgivable. It culminated in trying to get some Italian version of his name into the Serie A all-time scorers list. To his credit, he spotted our ruse.
I think it was fair to say my co-author was more intense about these things than I was. My memory is that he was a real perfectionist and when others fell short of his standards he found it infuriating. I was - and still am - a bit more relaxed about these things and inclined to go with the flow. But how I envied his fiery passion when he was in full flight.
We got the book done - me in Scotland, Ray in London - and it came out in time for the new campaign. I thought being a published author would change my life but, if it did, it wasn’t in the way I had expected. Fame and fortune did not beckon, even if a copy of a volume with your own name on the side is still a matter of some pride. Later, a Japanese version would be published which I still possess - the only words I can read on it are Giancarlo Rinaldi and Ray Della Pietra.
Time passed, of course, and the future editions of the book did not materialise. Channel 4 eventually dropped Italian football and I lost track of Ray. Nonetheless, whenever our teams cross swords, he is still the first person I think of.
Back then, we were both feeling a bit sorry for ourselves. A season in Serie B was a chastening experience for me but he was much more used to lower division football. Whenever I was feeling hard done by for supporting the Viola, a word with Ray usually made me feel quite lucky. Fiorentina are nobody’s idea of habitual winners, but compared with Pescara they seemed like Barcelona.
My team, of course, bounced back in style, winning the division thanks, in part, to a 16-goal haul from a young Argentinian called Gabriel Batistuta who stayed faithful to the club despite their relegation. Ray was not so lucky, Pescara struggled all season and only survived by the skin of their teeth. They did, however, get the better of Fiorentina with a draw and a win in their two second division encounters. They turned out to be a bit of a bogey team.
In Serie A, it has been a different story. In 11 meetings to date there have been eight Viola victories, two draws and just one Pescara triumph - the one which came in Florence in January this year. That might be the result which keeps the Tuscan side out of the Champions League even if it was not enough to save the Dolphins from relegation. When they meet again this weekend I imagine that, somewhere, Ray Della Pietra will be sitting down to watch the game and hope to do the double over Vincenzo Montella’s team. And if they do he might, perhaps, think for a moment about his old Fiorentina-following co-writer.
Gabriel Omar Batistuta is back in Florence today apparently. Oh, go on then, 20 of his best goals to celebrate…
I Classici del Calcio - 20 Great Italian Games now on sale via Amazon for the Kindle or using the Kindle App. Just £1.53 or $2.99 for a stroll down memory lane to the times when Diego Maradona, Michel Platini, Marco Van Basten, Jurgen Klinsmann, Gabriel Batistuta and the likes rocked Serie A. You can order your copy here.
The last time Torino beat Fiorentina in Serie A in Florence, the Granata were reigning champions. This is the meeting prior to that, during Toro’s title winning surge in the 1975/76 campaign. It was their first win away to the Viola in the top flight in more than 20 years.
Something with a bit of input from myself and the excellent Steve Amoia about how Stevan Jovetic whether could succeed in England. In the hope, of course, that we never actually find out…
Atalanta v Fiorentina this weekend, it will always bring back memories of this Coppa Italia victory. @andtrap put up this video capturing the emotions at the Artemio Franchi when the Viola brought the trophy back from Bergamo.
This was exactly 16 years ago. Barcelona v Fiorentina and Gabriel Omar Batistuta silenced the stadium…
It was not the kind of incident which you really want to be seen as the defining moment of your career. An instant YouTube sensation which has the footballing world scrabbling to see the footage. Yet Delio Rossi’s opening a can of whupass on Fiorentina’s Adem Ljajic firmly threatened to overshadow anything either man achieved on the field of play.
For the manager, it was the immediate end of the road with the Viola. A club which has made much of its commitment to fair play - including the institution of an award to recognise sporting gestures - had little choice but to show him the door. The assumption was that the victim of his slap attack would follow in the summer.
In many ways, it is incredible that the young Serbian did not make a transfer market exit. There was a pretty big broom in operation at the Stadio Artemio Franchi and it left few corners untouched. One can only surmise that Adem was hidden under the furniture somewhere, perhaps munching on a bar of chocolate or hunched over his PlayStation.
Whatever the reasons, the transfer overtures never reached a conclusion. There was plenty of talk that he would join another purple misfit, Alessio Cerci, on the road to Torino. Instead, he hung on in there and found himself stuck in a new project under Vincenzo Montella which he seemed unlikely to play much part in.
However, that was before a transformation started to take place. There were early indications at the outset of the season that he might be demonstrating a more professional attitude but he still struggled to get much game time. But, after the Tuscan side emerged from a miserable January and switched to a 4-3-3 formation, putting him on the left of an attacking trio, a new figure has appeared. He has become the matchwinner many believed he could be.
A two-goal haul in the dismantling of Inter signalled the start of his personal purple patch. He has added another couple of goals and a pair of assists in the four matches after that. It has been part of a run of four wins out of five games for his team which has rekindled dreams of a Champions League finish.
As well as starting to influence a match more, there has been a pleasing upturn in his attitude and approach too. He gives the ball away much less frequently than he used to and his head does not appear to go down at the first sign of adversity. And, of course, he seems to accept the decisions of his manager with a good deal more grace.
That has yet to convince Sinisa Mihajlovic to recall him to the Serbian national team following a suspension for failing to sing the national anthem. But it has allowed him to focus on his club career for the time being, which appears to have benefited his overall play. A player who first grabbed global attention with an on-off deal with Manchester United as a teenager, it is easy to forget that he is still just 21 years old.
He was a considerable investment for the Tuscan club three years ago when they forked out a reported €8 million for his talents and it has looked, for a long time, like money poorly spent. The story of calcio is littered with such tales of players who promised much but failed to deliver. His legacy looked likely to be little more than a few nice touches and the odd sweet free-kick.
However, that prospect has changed of late in an exciting attacking trident formed with Montenegrin Stevan Jovetic and Colombian speedster Juan Cuadrado. Some of the interplay between Ljajic and his colleagues has been delightful. Suddenly, he has looked like the perfect link man between midfield and attack. He has even been spotted, from time to time, working back to help out his colleagues.
It may yet prove to be a false dawn for such an exciting young player. He has been given chances before and failed to seize them but there is something much more convincing about his efforts this time around. There is a greater determination and work ethic than was ever apparent in any of his previous incarnations. Whisper it, but perhaps Rossi’s attack was exactly what he needed.
It is the fate of every great player at a middle-rank team to be the subject of constant transfer speculation. The dawn of 24-hour rolling news has only cranked up the rumour mills of Europe even further in recent years. And few players feature more often than the man who hopes to torment England on Tuesday, Stevan Jovetic.
Almost from the moment he signed for Fiorentina, the talk of a move got under way. A starring role in the Champions League put his name on everybody’s lips. Even a season lost to serious injury did little to diminish the conjecture that he would not stay in Tuscany much longer.
The opening and closure of the transfer windows seems to have little effect on the amount of copy dedicated to the marvelous Montenegrin. Fans of the Viola have adopted a grin-and-bear-it approach to the deals apparently being proposed for their influential forward. Yet, for the meantime anyway, he has stayed put at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
It did not look that way in the summer. Only an emergency mission by club owner Andrea Della Valle seemed to convince Jojo to remain on the banks of the River Arno. He promised to build a competitive team around his star player and, judging by the results, he lived up to his end of the bargain. Nonetheless, the gifted attacker is still being covetously courted by clubs with bigger reputations.
In Italy, it is Juventus who surface most regularly, but that would be a deal fraught with difficulty. The Bianconeri are Fiorentina’s most bitter rivals and Della Valle is well aware of how hard such a transfer would be to sell to large sections of his support. Many can still remember the riots when Roberto Baggio made a similar move in 1990 and relations between the two clubs soured over the Dimitar Berbatov on-off transfer in the summer. Do not expect any move to La Vecchia Signora to go smoothly.
That leaves the Premiership as a more favoured option if he has to go. Arsenal and Manchester City have certainly both been mentioned as potential destinations. There would be a certain irony in his ending up in England if he played a part in ensuring their national team did not make it to Brazil 2014. He might want to have a word with Cristiano Ronaldo about how fans react to that kind of situation.
But what kind of player would any buyer be getting? And what sort of test does he represent for Roy Hodgson’s side this week? The answers would be, in order, “a great one” and “a tough one”.
Fiorentina followers have been through the mill with Jojo. Under Cesare Prandelli he burst onto the Serie A and European scene with his Brian May hair-do and youthful energy. When he was in the mood, it seemed, there was little he could not do. Delicious control, bewildering dribbling and spectacular goals became his stock in trade.
However, that was when a trap door opened under his route to the top of the global game. A pre-season knee injury wiped out his 2010/11 season and put him back to square one. Suddenly, he had to convince everyone all over again of what a great player he could be.
His situation was not helped by being at a club now on a downward spiral. Prandelli had moved on to the Italian national team and new coach Sinisa Mihajlovic never really got to grips with the team. By the time Jojo returned, the writing was on the wall for the Serbian coach.
Even in a poor season for the Viola, their talisman delivered. He suffered injury setbacks along the way but he still produced some key goals to help keep them out of relegation trouble. Many pundits thought it would be his parting gift.
They had reckoned without Della Valle’s powers of persuasion and a total overhaul of the playing staff and hierarchy. Out went Sporting Director Pantaleo Corvino and most of the first team squad. Jovetic was told he was at the heart of a revolution under new coach Vincenzo Montella which would take the Tuscan club back to European football.
All has not been perfect this campaign for the young goalscorer. There have still been niggling injuries and some longer spells without finding the net. It has prompted some fans to question his commitment to the cause. His mind, they believe, is already on his next employer.
Yet the evidence of recent weeks would seem to refute that suggestion. Montella has made him the central player of an attacking trident in a 4-3-3 formation and it seems to suit him wonderfully well. Instead of trying to carry the team on his back with long-range shots, he seems happier now that he can also provide perfect assists for onrushing colleagues. His touch remains exquisite.
It is that combination of an eye for goal and a defence-splitting backheel which England, in a bit of a centre-back crisis, will have to work hard to control. A dozen goals and four assists in Serie A this year have seen him constantly rated as one of the best performers in the division. It has helped to put his club on the brink of European qualification and silenced critics who claimed his play was becoming a little too predictable.
That summer move to another club may well yet come but Jovetic still seems intent on ending this season in style. One way would be to put Fiorentina back into the Champions League for the first time in four years. Another, of course, would be to help take his country to the World Cup for the first time ever.