Welcome To The Viola Story
This will be my final FM16 save before the release of FM17 (Unless I Get The Boot) I have taken the reigns at Fiorentina (The Viola). Before we get stuck in to pre season below is a history of the club and a few screenshots of my first day in charge.
Associazione Calcio Fiorentina was founded in the autumn of 1926 by local noble and National Fascist Party member Luigi Ridolfi, who initiated the merger of two older Florentine clubs, CS Firenze and PG Libertas. The aim of the merger was to give Florence a strong club to rival those of the more dominant Italian Football Championship sides of the time from Northwest Italy. Also influential was the cultural revival and rediscovery of Calcio Fiorentino, an ancestor of modern football that was played by members of the Medicifamily.
After a rough start and three seasons in lower leagues, Fiorentina reached the Serie A in 1931. That same year saw the opening of the new stadium, originally named after Giovanni Berta, after a prominent fascist, but now known as Stadio Artemio Franchi. At the time, the stadium was a masterpiece of engineering, and its inauguration was monumental. To be able to compete with the best teams in Italy, Fiorentina strengthened their team with some new players, notably the Uruguayan Pedro Petrone, nicknamed el Artillero. Despite enjoying a good season and finishing in fourth place, Fiorentina were relegated the following year, although they would return quickly to Serie A. In 1941, they won their first Coppa Italia, but the team were unable to build on their success during the 1940s because of World War II and other troubles.
In 1950, Fiorentina started to achieve consistent top-five finishes in the domestic league. The team consisted of great players such as well-known goalkeeper Giuliano Sarti, Sergio Cervato, Francesco Rosella, Guido Gratton,Giuseppe Chiappella and Aldo Scaramucci but above all, the attacking duo of Brazilian Julinho and Argentinian Miguel Montuori. This team won Fiorentina’s first scudetto (Italian championship) in 1955–56, 12 points ahead of second-place Milan. Milan beat Fiorentina to top spot the following year, but more significantly Fiorentina became the first Italian team to play in a European Cup final, when a disputed penalty led to a 2–0 defeat at the hands ofAlfredo Di Stéfano’s Real Madrid. Fiorentina were runners-up again in the three subsequent seasons. In the 1960–61 season, the club won the Coppa Italia again and was also successful in Europe, winning the first Cup Winners’ Cup against Scottish side Rangers.
After several years of runner-up finishes, Fiorentina dropped away slightly in the 1960s, bouncing from fourth to sixth place, although the club won the Coppa Italia and the Mitropa Cup in 1966.
While the 1960s did result in some trophies and good Serie A finishes for Fiorentina, nobody believed that the club could challenge for the title. The 1968–69 season started with Milan as frontrunners, but on matchday 7, they lost to Bologna and were overtaken by Gigi Riva’s Cagliari. Fiorentina, after an unimpressive start, then moved to the top of the Serie A, but the first half of their season finished with a 2–2 draw against Varese, leaving Cagliari as outright league leader. The second half of the season was a three-way battle between the three contending teams, Milan, Cagliari and Fiorentina. Milan fell away, instead focusing their efforts on the European Cup, and it seemed that Cagliari would retain top spot. After Cagliari lost against Juventus, however, Fiorentina took over at the top. The team then won all of their remaining matches, beating rivals Juve in Turin on the penultimate matchday to seal their second, and last, national title. In the European Cup competition the following year, Fiorentina had some good results, including a win in the Soviet Union against Dynamo Kyiv, but they were eventually knocked out in the quarter-finals after a 3–0 defeat in Glasgow to Celtic.
Viola players began the 1970s decade with Scudetto sewed on their breast, but the period was not especially fruitful for the team. After a fifth-place finish in 1971, they finished in mid-table almost every year, even flirting with relegation in 1972 and 1978. The Viola did win the Anglo-Italian League Cup in 1974 and won the Coppa Italia again in 1975. The team consisted of young talents like Vincenzo Guerini and Moreno Roggi, who had the misfortune to suffer bad injuries, and above all Giancarlo Antognoni, who would later become an idol to Fiorentina’s fans. The young average age of the players led to the team being called Fiorentina Ye-Ye.
In 1980, Fiorentina was bought by Flavio Pontello, who came from a rich house-building family. He quickly changed the team’s anthem and logo, leading to some complaints by the fans, but he started to bring in high-quality players such as Francesco Graziani and Eraldo Pecci from Torino; Daniel Bertoni from Sevilla; Daniele Massaro from Monza; and a young Pietro Vierchowod from Sampdoria. The team was built around Giancarlo Antognoni, and in 1982, Fiorentina were involved in an exciting duel with rivals Juventus. After a bad injury to Antognoni, the league title was decided on the final day of the season when Fiorentina were denied a goal against Cagliari and were unable to win. Juventus won the title with a disputed penalty and the rivalry between the two teams erupted.
The following years were strange for Fiorentina, who vacillated between high finishes and relegation battles. Fiorentina also bought two interesting players, El Puntero Ramón Díaz and, most significantly, the young Roberto Baggio.
In 1990, Fiorentina fought to avoid relegation right up until the final day of the season, but did reach the UEFA Cup final, where they again faced Juventus. The Turin team won the trophy, but Fiorentina’s tifosionce again had real cause for complaint: the second leg of the final was played in Avellino (Fiorentina’s home ground was suspended), a city with many Juventus fans, and emerging star Roberto Baggio was sold to the rival team on the day of the final. Pontello, suffering from economic difficulties, was selling all the players and was forced to leave the club after serious riots in Florence’s streets. The club was then acquired by the famous filmmaker Mario Cecchi Gori.
The first season under Cecchi Gori’s ownership was one of stabilisation, after which the new chairman started to sign some good players like Brian Laudrup, Stefan Effenberg, Francesco Baiano and, most importantly, Gabriel Batistuta, who became an iconic player for the team during the 1990s. In 1993, however, Cecchi Gori died and was succeeded as chairman by his son, Vittorio. Despite a good start to the season, Cecchi Gori fired the coach, Luigi Radice, after a defeat against Atalanta, and replaced him with Aldo Agroppi. The results were dreadful: Fiorentina fell into the bottom half of the standings and were relegated on the last day of the season.
Claudio Ranieri was brought in as coach for the 1993–94 season, and that year, Fiorentina dominated Serie B, Italy’s second division. Upon their return to Serie A, Ranieri put together a good team centred around new top scorer Batistuta, signing the young talent Rui Costa from Benfica and the new world champion Brazilian defender Márcio Santos. The former became an idol to Fiorentina fans, while the second disappointed and was sold after only a season. The Viola finished the season in tenth place.
The following season, Cecchi Gori bought other important players, namely Swedish midfielder Stefan Schwarz. The club again proved its mettle in cup competitions, winning the Coppa Italia against Atalanta and finishing joint-third in Serie A. In the summer, Fiorentina became the first non-national champions to win the Supercoppa Italiana, defeating Milan 2–1 at the San Siro.
Fiorentina’s 1995–96 season was disappointing in the league, but they did reach the Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final by beating Gloria Bistrița, Sparta Prague and Benfica. The team lost the semi-final to the eventual winner of the competition,Barcelona (away 1–1; home 0–2). The season’s main signings were Luís Oliveira and Andrei Kanchelskis, the latter of whom suffered from many injuries.
At the end of the season, Ranieri left Fiorentina for Valencia in Spain, with Cecchi Gori appointing Alberto Malesani as his replacement. Fiorentina played well but struggled against smaller teams, although they did manage to qualify for the UEFA Cup. Malesani left Fiorentina after only a season and was succeeded by Giovanni Trapattoni. With Trapattoni’s expert guidance and Batistuta’s goals, Fiorentina challenged for the title in 1998–99 but finished the season in third, earning them qualification for the Champions League. The following year was disappointing in Serie A, but Viola played some historical matches in the Champions League, beating Arsenal 1–0 at the old Wembley Stadium and Manchester United 2–0 in Florence. They were ultimately eliminated in the second group stage.
At the end of the season, Trapattoni left the club and was replaced by Turkish coach Fatih Terim. More significantly, however, Batistuta was sold to Roma, who eventually won the title the following year. Fiorentina played well in 2000–01 and stayed in the top half of Serie A, despite the resignation of Terim and the arrival of Roberto Mancini. They also won the Coppa Italia for the sixth and last time.
The year 2001 heralded major changes for Fiorentina, as the terrible state of the club’s finances was revealed: they were unable to pay wages and had debts of around US$50 million. The club’s owner, Vittorio Cecchi Gori, was able to raise some more money, but even this soon proved to be insufficient resources to sustain the club. Fiorentina were relegated at the end of the 2001–02 season and went into judicially-controlled administration in June 2002. This form of bankruptcy (sports companies cannot exactly fail in this way in Italy, but they can suffer a similar procedure) meant that the club was refused a place in Serie B for the 2002–03 season, and as a result effectively ceased to exist.
The club was promptly re-established in August 2002 as Associazione Calcio Fiorentina e Florentia Viola with shoe and leather entrepreneur Diego Della Valle as new owner and the club was admitted into Serie C2, the fourth tier of Italian football. The only player to remain at the club in its new incarnation was Angelo Di Livio, whose commitment to the club’s cause further endeared him to the fans. Helped by Di Livio and 30-goal striker Christian Riganò, the club won its Serie C2 group with considerable ease, which would normally have led to a promotion to Serie C1. Due to the bizarre Caso Catania (Catania Case), however, the club skipped Serie C1 and was admitted into Serie B, something that was only made possible by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC)’s decision to resolve the Catania situation by increasing the number of teams in Serie B from 20 to 24 and promoting Fiorentina for “sports merits.” In the 2003 off-season, the club also bought back the right to use the Fiorentina name and the famous shirt design, and re-incorporated itself as ACF Fiorentina. The club finished the 2003–04 season in sixth place and won the playoff against Perugia to return to top-flight football.
In their first season back in Serie A, however, the club struggled to avoid relegation, only securing survival on the last day of the season on head-to-head record against Bologna and Parma. In 2005, Della Valle decided to appointPantaleo Corvino as new sports director, followed by the appointment of Cesare Prandelli as head coach in the following season. The club made several signings during the summer transfer market, most notably Luca Toni and Sébastien Frey. This drastic move earned them a fourth-place finish with 74 points and a Champions League qualifying round ticket. Toni scored 31 goals in 38 appearances, the first player to pass the 30-goal mark since Antonio Valentin Angelillo in the 1958–59 season, for which he was awarded the European Golden Boot. On 14 July 2006, however, Fiorentina were relegated to Serie B due to their involvement in the 2006 Serie A match fixing scandal and given a 12-point penalty. The team was reinstated to the Serie A on appeal, but with a 19-point penalty for the 2006–07 season. The team’s 2006–07 Champions League place was also revoked. After the start of the season, Fiorentina’s penalisation was reduced from 19 points to 15 on appeal to the Italian courts. In spite of this penalty, they managed to secure a place in the UEFA Cup.
Despite Toni’s departure to Bayern Munich, Fiorentina had a strong start to the 2007–08 season and were tipped by Italian national team head coach Marcello Lippi, among others, as a surprise challenger for the Scudetto, and although this form tailed off towards the middle of the season, the Viola managed to qualify for the Champions League. In Europe, the club reached the semi-final of the UEFA Cup, where they were ultimately defeated by Rangers on penalties. The 2008–09 season continued this success, a fourth-place finish assuring Fiorentina’s spot in 2010’s Champions League playoffs. Their European campaign was also similar to that of the previous run, relegated to the 2008–09 UEFA Cup and were eliminated by Ajax in the end.
In the 2009–10 season, Fiorentina started their domestic campaign strongly before steadily losing momentum and slipped to mid-table positions at the latter half of the season. In Europe, the team proved to be a surprise dark horse: after losing their first away fixture against Lyon, they staged a comeback with a five-match streak by winning all their remaining matches (including defeating Liverpool home and away). The Viola qualified as group champions, but eventually succumbed to Bayern Munich due to the away goals rule. This was controversial due to a mistaken refereeing decision by Tom Henning Øvrebø, who allowed a clearly offside goal for Bayern in the first leg. Bayern eventually finished the tournament as runners-up, making a deep run all the way to the final. The incident called into attention the possible implementation of video replays in football. Despite a good European run and reaching the semi-finals in the Coppa Italia, Fiorentina failed to qualify for Europe.
During this period, on 24 September 2009, Andrea Della Valle resigned from his position as chairman of Fiorentina, and announced all duties would be temporarily transferred to Mario Cognini, Fiorentina’s vice-president until a permanent position could be filled.
In June 2010, the Viola bid farewell to long-time manager Cesar Prandelli, by then the longest-serving coach in the team’s history, who was departing to coach the Italian national team. Catania manager Siniša Mihajlović was appointed to replace him. The club spent much of the early 2010–11 season in last place, but their form improved and Fiorentina ultimately finished ninth. Following a 1–0 defeat to Chievo in November 2011, Mihajlović was sacked and replaced by Delio Rossi. After a brief period of improvements, the Viola were again fighting relegation, prompting the sacking of Sporting Director Pantaleo Corvino in early 2012 following a 0–5 home defeat to Juventus. Their bid for survival was kept alive by a number of upset victories away from home, notably at Roma and Milan. During a home game against Novara, trailing 0–2 within half an hour, manager Rossi decided to substitute midfielder Adem Ljajić early. Ljajić sarcastically applauded him in frustration, whereupon Rossi retaliated by physical assaulting his player, an action that ultimately prompted his termination by the club. His replacement, caretaker manager Vincenzo Guerini, then guided the team away from the relegation zone to a 13th-place finish to end the turbulent year.
To engineer a resurrection of the club after the disappointing season, the Della Valle family invested heavily in the summer of 2012, buying 17 new players and appointing Vincenzo Montella as head coach. The team began the season well, finishing the calendar year in joint third place and eventually finishing the 2012–13 season in fourth, enough for a position in the 2013–14 Europa League.
The club lost fan favourite Stevan Jovetić during the summer of 2013, selling him to English Premier League club Manchester City for a €30 million transfer fee. They also sold Adem Ljajić to Roma and Alessio Cerci to Torino, using the funds to bring in Mario Gómez, Josip Iličić and Ante Rebić, among others. During the season, Fiorentina topped their Europa League group, moving on to the round of 32 to face Danish side Esbjerg fB, which Fiorentina defeated 4–2 on aggregate. In the following round of 16, however, they then lost to Italian rivals Juventus 2–1 on aggregate, ousting them from the competition. At the end of the season, the team finished fourth again in the league, and also finishing they year as Coppa Italia runners-up after losing 3–1 to Napoli in the final.
In 2014–15, during the 2015 winter transfer window, the team club sold star winger Juan Cuadrado to Chelsea for €30 million but were able to secure the loan of Mohamed Salah in exchange, who was a revelation in the second half of the season. Their 2014–15 Europa League campaign saw them progress to the semi-finals, where they were knocked-out by Spanish side Sevilla, the eventual champions. In the 2014–15 domestic season, Fiorentina once again finished fourth, thus qualifying for the 2015–16 Europa League. In June 2015, Vincenzo Montella was sacked as manager after the club grew impatient with the coaches inability to prove his commitment to the club, later appointing Paulo Sousa on June 21 as the team’s new head coach.
During the summer of 2015, Fiorentina participated in the International Champions Cup for the first time, where they lost 4–2 against Paris Saint Germain but went on to defeat Barcelona 2–1 at home and Chelsea 0–1 away. The results of the latter two games showed signs of a rejuvenated squad and a positive look towards their 2015–16 campaign which will see Michael Skidmore appointed as manager.
The minimum expectation this season is to qualify for the Europa League via our position in Serie A and to reach the group stage of this season’s Europa League.
First Team Squad
So that’s the introduction to the club, Its now time to knuckle down and get on with preparations for the season ahead. I have requested that the board allow us more coaching staff to enable us to deliver more specialised training. I want to have a good look at all our squads so I can evaluate our position with taking the club forward over the next few seasons. Thanks for taking the time to read my introduction and I hope you enjoy following my adventure in Italy.