Fiorentina become real contender with knockout squad
What a difference a year makes. Heading into the 2012/13 Serie A season, Fiorentina were rebounding from a campaign that nearly concluded in relegation. Following a strong but low key transfer window, the Viola were minutes away from qualifying for the Champions League. Had it not been for an AC Milan comeback against Siena in their final match, the Tuscans would be preparing for a playoff as opposed to the Europa League group stage.
Thanks to another eventful mercato, coach Vincenzo Montella could be leading one of the top Italian teams in 2013/14.
Juan Cuadrado, who impressed many fans with his technique, pace, and playmaking ability, was acquired for another year from Udinese. Then club owners Diego and Andrea Della Valle made another splash by landing Malaga winger Joaquin for a reported €2 million. Former Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini was the next to arrive, this time on a free transfer. Josip Ilicic is the most recent signing, joining from freshly relegated Palermo for around €9 million.
The big fish that the Della Valle’s managed to catch was Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez. The German international scored 75 league goals in 115 games for the Bavarian side, including 26 in 2011/12 (41 in all competitions). The shocker of the deal was the fee both clubs agreed to. Fiorentina has to pay Bayern €16 million over the next four years, all the more reason why this is classified as a steal for the Viola.
Then there’s Giuseppe Rossi, a man everyone is forgetting about with these new players being brought in. If the American-born Rossi can rekindle his form from 2011 before his horrific knee injuries, then he’ll be hyped up just as much as the summer acquisitions.
These majorly attack minded signings have polarised opinion amongst fans. On one hand, many Serie A teams are bolstering their squads up front with Napoli and Juventus being just two of the sides to have acquired strong attackers. This means that Fiorentina will have a challenge in contending for a top three spot.
On the other hand, with Vincenzo Montella leading the team, anything is possible. Especially when Fiorentina finished fourth with a squad that’s less superior than the current setup. The latter thought is the more realistic of the two. With the likes of Cuadrado, Borja Valero, and Adem Ljajic supplying Gomez up front, he’ll surely bag 20+ goals in Serie A. Ilicic and Joaquin will only further enhance the service and scoring.
The only damper in the plan is the defence and goalkeeping situation. Emiliano Viviano returned to Palermo, meaning Fiorentina needs an established shot-stopper. Napoli picked up Pepe Reina, Juventus have Gianluigi Buffon, and Inter have Samir Handanovic. Gustavo Munua and Norberto Neto are the only viable options at this point.
Neto started six times last season, but looked shaky at times. He’s 24 years old and has only made eight appearances in total for the Viola, so it’s to be expected. Munua is a decent goalkeeper, but at 35, he’s not the long term solution and has no experience playing in Italy. He could serve as a tutor for Neto, but may not see himself starting much, unless Montella trusts him to get the job done. If he doesn’t, then he must go out and sign someone else.
Julio Cesar is one of the names being linked for the number one shirt, but the Viola need to act fast if they want to bring him in. The new season begins shortly and if the Tuscans want the Brazilian to settle in with his new club, he’ll need some extra time to do so.
Cuadrado and Manuel Pasqual will most likely be the fullbacks with Stefan Savic, Gonzalo Rodriguez and/or Facundo Roncaglia pairing up in the middle of a back four. The former two, while more lethal in attack, could still serve as viable defenders on the flanks. The centre is where the problem lies. If one more strong centre back arrives, Fiorentina could be the complete package.
The saving grace is that Fiorentina were fifth in goals conceded (44) last season and had it not been for spells of impotence in attack, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue. The Viola would’ve surely have finished top three had they delivered up front in some crucial moments.
All the more reason why everything may be alright for Montella if he sticks with what he has at his disposal. If the new arrivals prove their worth, Fiorentina may not need to call upon their goalkeeper or defenders as much as they needed to last year.