Fiorentina Club Focus: No Ljajic, no cry
The Viola’s Serie A season got underway on Monday with a deserved 2-1 victory over last season’s surprise package in Catania. Goals from Giuseppe Rossi and David Pizarro cancelled out a Pablo Barrientos strike and ensured that Vincenzo Montella and his side got off to the best start possible.
The good vibes did not last long however as president Andrea Della Valle announced after the match that Serbian forward Adem Ljajic would be leaving the Viola despite the club’s efforts to lock him down to a long term contract. That announcement held true on Wednesday as Ljajic was sold to Roma for €11 million plus a further €4m in bonuses in order to replace the outgoing Erik Lamela, who signed for Tottenham. While Ljajic’s sale hurts the Viola on paper, I believe that his sale will be a positive for the club in the long run.
Unlike last season the club have depth in attack and can now rely on the likes of Mario Gomez, a returning Rossi (who I will talk about later) and new signing Ante Rebic who is viewed as a highly talented youngster. Add to that Josip Ilicic, who played as a support striker for Palermo last season, and the Viola have enough fire power to deal with Ljajic’s departure.
While Ljajic is certainly one of the more promising youngsters in the Serie A today, we shouldn’t forget that he is only a summer removed from being an outcast not only in Florence but in all of Italy. When Fiorentina were looking to loan or sell the 21-year-old to anyone after the Delio Rossi incident, no one was willing to take a gamble on the forward. No one except….Montella.
He took a player that was an outsider and turned him into the player the Gigliati thought they were getting when he signed from Partizan Belgrade in 2010. With Ljajic unwilling to extend his contract, the fee received by the club should be looked at approvingly considering the Serbians value only one season ago. With rumours swirling that Ljajic got into one last spat with Gomez before his departure, it’s safe to say that l’enfant terrible’s sale was the best outcome for a player that has not always been easy to deal with.
Finally, and most importantly, Fiorentina’s handling of the entire ordeal shows that the club has learned from its mistakes after the Riccardo Montolivo ordeal. When Montolivo left the club on a free transfer, the club made the mistake of keeping a player that was 1) unmotivated and 2) already half way out the door after agreeing to join AC Milan. As a result, the club lost its captain during his prime while having nothing to show for it. With Ljajic (reportedly) having already reached a pre-contract agreement with Milan weeks ago, there was no way the club could allow another star to join the Rossoneri for free without suffering a blow to their image. By selling him to Roma on the club’s terms the Viola have shown that they are taking steps, on and off the pitch, to becoming one of the big player’s in Italy.
With the Ljajic issue out of the way and the club ready to move forward, I can’t help but take some time to talk about the big story to come out of Monday’s match: the return to goal of Giuseppe Rossi. While Gomez was kept off the scoresheet in his Serie A debut thanks to a terrible miss in front of goal, Rossi scored his first goal with the Florence side since his January move. The goal was his first since October 11, 2011 when he scored for Villarreal against Real Zaragoza in a 2-2 draw. With Stevan Jovetic having left earlier this summer and Ljajic now gone as well, the club are confident that Rossi will return to being the player that was on the cusp of stardom for the Italian national team before his anterior cruciate ligament woes.
While his 66th minute substitution shows that a full recovery will take some time, a goal in the first match of the season is a great way to kick off the new season. Fiorentina supporters will be hoping that it is the first of many goals, and one that will hopefully lead the Viola to honours and see Rossi return to wearing the Azzurri jersey.
Next up in Serie A action? A trip to Genoa on Sunday in hopes of continuing the club’s good early season form after also defeating Grasshopper 2-1 in the first leg of their Europe League play-off round. With the second leg set for Thursday, the hope is that the Viola will travel to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris with a spot in the tournament booked and Gomez having opened his goalscoring account for his new side.
Follow Adriano Boin on Twitter: @Boin44