In the opening scene in The Sopranos, Tony laments to his shrink Melfi that he got into the mob when it was already on the decline and that in life you should always thrive to join something from the ground up so you can enjoy the rise to the top.
In many ways Rocco Commisso got in at Fiorentina at the ideal time, the previous owners were despised, the team had just avoided relegation on the final day of the season and all of the club’s supporters were desperate for a breath of fresh air after some frustrating seasons.
Commisso showed a lot of enthusiasm for his new venture, he immediately started talking about an ambitious plan to get the team back to Europe, build a new training facility and work with the city on a new stadium. When it came to the actual squad, Fiorentina’s new owner had to however deal with a crisis from jump street- Federico Chiesa, the club’s most famous player, had agreed to personal terms with Juventus and was pushing to join them.
Commisso didn’t want to lose his most beloved star to the team’s hated rival right at the start of his tenure, so he was able to convince Chiesa to stay. While Commisso got off to a slow start in the transfer window, in the final weeks of the summer window, sporting director Prade’ was able to acquire Boateng, Pulgar before splurging on Frank Ribery, who would go on to win the award for best Serie A player of the month.
By the end of September there was a lot of enthusiasm surrounding Fiorentina. After a brutal schedule to start the season, the Viola started playing quite well with midfielder Castrovilli breaking out. While many were puzzled with the decision to keep Vincenzo Montella despite the fact he had been hired by the previous ownership, Commisso was praised for his patience.
But then the losing streak started, Ribery got injured, Chiesa started missing games again with some questioning his commitment to the club and following the home defeat to Lecce on November 30th, many expected Montella to be gone. But instead Commisso and Prade’ showed faith in their manager, a rare occurrence in Italy, but in the process they lost out on hiring Rino Gattuso who officially joined Napoli on December 11th with a contract that guaranteed him a salary just through the end of the current season.
During multiple interviews, Commisso had praised Gattuso publicly by pointing to his grinta and their common heritage from Calabria. Considering how much Milan struggled under his successors Marco Giampaolo and Stefano Pioli, Gattuso’s reputation had also improved quite a bit as a manager when you consider he had the rossoneri still contending for a Champions League spot going into second half of final match of the season.
Gattuso would have checked a lot of the boxes for what Fiorentina was looking for- he had Serie A experience, had taken over a team mid season and was a very recognizable name that would have brought some positive press to the club. Instead Commisso ended up hiring Beppe Iachini to replace Montella.
Iachini’s last job was at Empoli where he took over at the beginning of November only to be replaced by his predecessor Andreazzoli by mid March. At least you can say Iachini has a lot of experience trying to save teams- prior to Andreazzoli, he had also replaced Gattuso at Palermo, De Canio at Udinese and Bucchi at Sassuolo during the season.
Numerous reports state that Commisso wanted someone used to fighting in the relegation race as well as a candidate familiar with Florence. Iachini was a very popular player for Fiorentina in the late 80s and is well liked by the fan base, but he’s certainly not a name that will excite people abroad who had started following Fiorentina following the Ribery signing.
In fact, all the buzz surrounding Fiorentina from the late summer had some assuming the Tuscan club would be in the mix for huge names like Pochetino, Allegri or at least an intriguing name like Marcelino or Spalletti. But the former Spurs and Juventus managers have much higher aspirations (and a significant paycheck from their former employers), and while Spalletti is a Tuscan and a Fiorentina fan, hiring him would have been a very expensive proposition as Milan found out when they were replacing Giampaolo.
Ultimately Commisso went with a familiar and pragmatic choice with Iachini rather than gambling on a bigger name like Marcelino or Laurent Blanc who was the last second candidate. The hope is that Iachini can get the squad to calmer waters in the short term and set the club up for an ambitions summer transfer window, but at the moment his hire feels like a step down from all the excitement from the beginning of the Commisso era- even starting at the ground floor with the best intentions does not guarantee success.