Fiorentina have denied that the club is up for sale and Giancarlo Rinaldi explains why Rocco Commisso is right to stick around despite recent criticism from some Viola fans.
It was a story which proved much easier to bring to an end than misfiring striker Aleksandr Kokorin’s contract. Three years or so into his purple reign. Last week, there were reports that the Rocco Commisso era at Fiorentina might be drawing to a close with reputed interest from a Saudi consortium. Talk of the club being for sale, however, was dismissed in a fashion much beloved by the Viola’s Italian-American owner – fast, fast fast.
So far, so straightforward – another Internet tale destined to crash and burn like the career of Santiago “Tanque” Silva on the banks of the Arno. Perhaps there was interest, perhaps there was nothing – those of us on the outside will never know. What we can say, however, is that these first 36 months or so in charge have not always been simple for the club’s new owner. In some ways, you could hardly blame him if he wanted to throw in the towel and let someone else take the blows.
You’ll remember the honeymoon period, no doubt. The glorious acclamation, the parade through New York and the bright hopes for the future. It all seems – a bit like Jose Callejon’s glory days – quite a long time ago. If he had consulted with his colleagues, they would have echoed a familiar theme – nobody said owning a Serie A side would be easy.
Attempts to replace or revamp the character-filled but creaking Stadio Artemio Franchi have been regularly thwarted. A significant investment in the Viola Park training facility is coming to fruition but has taken longer than he would have hoped. Success on the pitch has only really arrived with any consistency in the last season. In many ways, he has gone through most of the joys, setbacks and frustrations of the previous incumbents – the Della Valle brothers – but over a much more concentrated spell.
And then there are the fans. Commisso might wonder, in reflective moments, what he has done to make at least some of them treat him so disrespectfully. The celebrations of his takeover have long since died down and there have been currents of criticism lapping around the club. Some have even taken to re-evaluating their views of the regime he replaced.
It is a curious case of history repeating with the same cries of despair coming from the sidelines as in the last days of the Della Valles. The sales of Federico Chiesa, Dusan Vlahovic and the failure to find a deal to keep star performer Lucas Torreira have been cited as a lack of ambition by the club. Those with longer memories will recall that these were pretty much the same accusations fired at the men he purchased the Viola from.
Investment in the state-of-the-art training facility, while welcome, does little to reduce their ire. While it may produce long-term results, many fans are only interested in short-term gains. If the ownership is not willing to invest heavily in improving the current squad then some tifosi will be left dissatisfied. In Italian football, you are lucky if you can please a handful of people, even just some of the time.
At the heart of the conundrum is the age-old question – what do fans expect of an owner and what does an owner expect of fans? Most supporters want someone with deep pockets who spends heavily and speaks only sporadically. That was never going to be Rocco Commisso’s way.
For his part, he appears frustrated by a perceived lack of gratitude for what he has done for the club alongside the slow-moving nature of Italian bureaucracy. After a few false starts, he has delivered a Fiorentina team capable of qualifying for Europe and recently managed to renew the contract of exciting coach Vincenzo Italiano. That ought to deflect some criticism, but it can’t make him immune to it.
The Viola President does appear to be particularly thin-skinned when it comes to the barbs that Florentines are renowned for being good at dishing out. If you can’t take the heat of Serie A, though, you might be better off out of the kitchen where they grill the steaks the city is famous for. If he has had enough of the snide comments, you could understand that an offer from the Middle East would be sorely tempting.
However, it would be a shame to give up the ghost right now. Fiorentina finally appear to be heading in a good direction with a clear vision of their play and some entertaining stuff produced – regardless of the personnel. Now that the coaching situation has been sorted, they should also be able to start acting on the transfer market. It is impressive how quickly yesterday’s hero can be forgotten if you provide a new one for fans to adore. As Lorenzo Venuti more prosaically put it – when the Pope dies, they make another.
Non ti curar di lor, ma guarda e passa (Ignore them and keep going) might have been the advice to Commisso from a Florentine of many centuries ago – Dante Alighieri. And, from a fans’ point of view, is there really any certainty that selling your soul to the Saudis would be a better alternative to what is currently in place? They might be more inclined to spend, but that would surely come with a price. The club would have gone from Florence-born Vittorio Cecchi Gori to the brothers from the nearby Marche region to an Italian-American and beyond. Does it matter that your owner has a link to the club they are buying? That is a lengthy debate for another article.
What is not in doubt – at least for the time being – is that the club and its ownership have to try to find a way to work together that provides them both with the successes they crave. After managing to get a coach in place who actually produces a brand of football that spectators can enjoy, it would be a shame to throw it all away and start again. A few wins at the start of the new season would probably dispel the doom and gloom that the summer has brought so far. A few setbacks, however, and it might have everyone scrambling for a Saudi Arabian phonebook.