That which starts sweet ends bitter. And that which starts bitter ends sweet.
Fiorentina supporters will identify strongly with that sentiment when looking back on their team’s season as they head into what should be a summer of change for la Viola. After a rocky start to the season that saw them take only 13 points from their first 10 games, a mid-season renaissance had Fiorentina back in the race for a top-three Serie A finish and, with it, Champions League qualification. The end of the season witnessed the team fall just short of Europe’s top club competition. After claiming fourth, next year will again see la Viola taking part in the Europa League.
Experience was the key for Fiorentina in maintaining their European ambitions. Gonzalo Rodríguez shone consistently in central defense throughout the year and brought order and discipline to the backline with his attitude, work rate and commitment, also contributing a haul of eight goals. Mati Fernández also stood out for la Viola. After struggling to establish himself since joining from Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon in 2012, the central midfielder is now reportedly a transfer target of both Juventus and A.C. Milan. Also playing an important role was Spanish midfielder Joaquín, age 33, adding his tireless effort and tactical and technical ability.
All things considered, fourth place may have been the best result possible at the end of a season fraught with adversity, with injuries landing at the top of the list. The first bite from the injury bug came before the season even started, with Giuseppe Rossi falling to yet another knee injury, his third in four years. His German strike partner Mario Gómez also battled injuries, creating turmoil on the frontline of the Fiorentina attack.
The January sale of star winger Juan Cuadrado, one of the most consistent players for Fiorentina over the last few seasons and breakout star of the 2014 World Cup for Columbia, to Chelsea only added to the unrest. Luckily, the deal for Cuadrado included Mohamed Salah coming to Florence in return. After watching from the bench for most of his time at Chelsea, Salah impressed for la Viola, netting 9 goals and 4 assists in 24 appearances.
Even after a respectable fourth-place Serie A finish and semifinal berths in both the Coppa Italia and Europa League, the uncertainty looks to continue into the summer. Just over a week after the season’s end, Fiorentina parted ways with manager Vincenzo Montella. Reports from the Stadio Artemio Franchi have the split occurring over contract disputes between the two parties, with the club claiming a “lack of respect” from the third-year manager. Montella had been linked with a move away from Florence, with A.C. Milan as the top candidate for his services. The shortlist from Montella’s replacement looks to be topped by Paulo Sousa, current manager of F.C. Basel in Switzerland, Roberto Donadoni of Parma and Torino’s Giampiero Ventura.
Over the last few seasons Fiorentina has established itself as a club on the brink of challenging for Serie A and capable of competing on the European level. Impressive wins this year against Juventus, Roma, and Tottenham highlighted the squad’s potential quality. With the right personnel moves this summer, the sky is the limit for the purple-clad Florence squad.