Juventus
    Juventus
      04.12.2014 11:44 - in: Serie A S

      Fiorentina in the spotlight

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      Founded in 1926, the Viola are currently managed by former Roma fan favourite Vincenzo Montella and play their home matches at the Stadio Artemio Franchi

      Club

      Widely known as the Viola because of the distinctive purple colour of their strip, Fiorentina have long been a notable force in Italian football, and only four other sides have played more seasons in Serie A.

      The club was founded in 1926 by local nobleman Luigi Ridolfi, who orchestrated a merger between two more minor Florence-based clubs to try and create a powerhouse to rival the dominant Northern Italian sides.

      And the plan worked, because his creation reached Serie A in 1931, the inaugural year of the new Stadio Giovanni Berta (now the Artemio Franchi), a marvel of engineering that brought a lot of attention to the club at the time.

      After the World Wars, Fiorentina began to regularly reach the highest echelons, and finished ahead of Milan to win their first Scudetto in 1956.

      They soon achieved European glory, too, becoming the first Italian side to win a UEFA competition when they lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1961.

      A second domestic league triumph was then sealed in 1969, when Bruno Pesaola’s men rose to snatch top spot from Cagliari and clinched the title on the penultimate match-day with a victory against Juventus.

      The 1970s was a relatively fruitless decade for the Viola, but in 1982 - the year that club symbol Giancarlo Antognoni would go on to win the World Cup – they emerged as the main title challengers to none other than the Bianconeri.

      With Fiorentina unable to win against Cagliari on the final day of the season, Juve intensified the rivalry that remains strong between the two sides as they went on to lift the title instead.

      In the ‘90s, buoyed by the form of iconic Fiorentina hero Gabriel Batistuta, Claudio Ranieri’s men became the first non-Scudetto winning side to lift the Italian Super Cup when they beat Milan 2-1 in 1996.

      But their fortunes experienced a big jolt as the extent of the club’s financial difficulties meant they were forced into administration in 2002, although they soon battled back from the Italian fourth tier to reach Serie A in 2004.

      The 2005/06 season saw the managerial arrival of Cesare Prandelli, who, aided by a European Golden Boot-winning season from Luca Toni, guided the Viola to fourth place in the league.

      After the club’s longest serving manager departed to take charge of the national team in 2010, the Viola struggled for a while, but the hiring of current coach Vincenzo Montella and the enormous influx of new players that joined him turned things around.

      Fiorentina missed out on the final Champions League spot by eight points last time out, finishing the season in fourth which saw them qualify for this year’s Europa League group stages.

      Stadium

      The Stadio Artemio Franchi is one of the most distinctive grounds in Italian football. Inaugurated in 1931, it was built by the architect who also designed the Paul VI Audience Hall (where the Pope often carries out his Wednesday morning address during winter). Its most famous feature is the 230-foot ‘Tower of Marathon’.

      Previously known as the Stadio Comunale, the ground was renamed in honour of former Italian Football Federation president, Artemio Franchi, after refurbishments for the 1990 FIFA World Cup.

      The running track was removed ahead of that tournament to allow more fans to enjoy the games, and the D-shaped arena can now hold 47, 282.

      The Stadio Artemio Franchi occasionally hosts the Italian national team, the most recent occasion being their 1-0 Euro 2012 qualifying win over Slovenia back in September 2011, and it has also witnessed the national rugby team in action.

      Transfer Activity

      In keeping with the benchmark set in recent years, Fiorentina have brought in more high-profile players than those sold.

      The most notable acquisition comes in the form of Chelsea’s Marko Marin who joins the Florence-based outfit for the 2014/15 campaign. The diminutive German can either be deployed as an attacking midfielder or winger and has a keen eye to thread through balls to his team-mates. He spent last season with Sevilla in La Liga after failing to recapture his Werder Bremen form whilst in England’s top flight.

      Also joining him from the Premier League is right-back Micah Richards who has arrived on a season-long loan from champions Manchester City. The 26-year-old follows Roma’s Ashley Cole as the second Englishman to take up a new challenge on Italian soil. Plagued by injuries which had seen him limited to only nine appearances over the last two seasons, Richards will be hoping to recapture the form that earned him international recognition at the tender age of 18.

      Much-travelled Jasmin Kurtic has signed for Fiorentina on loan from Sassuolo. Now at his fifth Italian club in as many years, the 25-year-old can play in a variety of positions across the midfield and is a regular in the senior Slovenian national side. Kurtic is also ambidextrous and very good in the air.

      Powerful forward Khouma Babacar has returned to the club following a fruitful loan spell with Modena where he scored 20 times for the Serie B outfit. The 21-year-old Senegalese striker has been likened to Didier Drogba and George Weah for his style of play, and has already begun this season in fine form – bagging five goals in all competitions.  

      Fiorentina also bought out the remaining 50 per cent of Federico Bernardeschi’s rights after previously letting the Italy Under-21 international leave for Crotone on a co-ownership deal. Predominately left-footed, the 6ft winger has a very bright future ahead of him and the experience gained whilst in Calabria could prove invaluable.

      In terms of outgoings, shotstopper Antonio Rosati has returned to Napoli following the expiration of his loan whilst versatile Uruguayan midfielder Matias Vecino has signed for Empoli on a year-long loan deal.

      Current Team

      Club captain Manuel Pasqual has been a mainstay with the Viola since joining from Arezzo in 2005. A dead-ball specialist who provides assists from a variety of set-pieces, the 32-year-old has made over 270 appearances for the club and is a full Italian international.

      Twenty-five-year-old shotstopper Neto has been Fiorentina’s number one since the start of the 2013/14 campaign. Born in Araxa, he began his career with Atletico Paranaense in Brazil before leaving for the Viola in January 2011. He played in all four games against the Bianconeri last season, conceding five goals.

      Montenegrin centre-back Stefan Savic is now in his third term with the Florence-based outfit. Good in the air and strong in the challenge, the 23-year-old continues to earn plaudits for his performances at the heart of the Viola backline. He has league winners’ medals from his time in Serbia and England with Partizan Belgrade and Manchester City respectively.

      Real Madrid youth team graduate Borja Valero keeps things ticking at the heart of the Fiorentina midfield. A wizard with the ball at his feet, the 29-year-old is blessed with pace and can play either behind the striker or just in front of the Viola rearguard. Adept with either foot, Valero is also a warrior who gets back to defend.

      Able Slovenian midfielder Josip Ilicic has been at the club since 2013. Technically gifted, the 26-year-old scored six goals in all competitions during his debut season at the club and will be hoping to make more of an impact this season as the Viola set their sights on a long-awaited return to Champions League football.

      Colombian speed merchant Juan Cuadrado continues to catch the eye on the wing with the variety of dazzling skills he possesses in his repertoire. The 26-year-old – who starred for his country at this year’s World Cup with a goal and four assists – is able to beat his marker with ease due to his incredible dribbling ability. Cuadrado will be the man to watch come Friday evening in Florence.   

      With Giuseppe Rossi out injured, star striker Mario Gomez has put his own troubles behind him to spearhead the Fiorentina attack. A Champions League winner with Bayern, he has been described as an expert finisher who is often in the right place at the right time to finish off moves. Gomez is also a handful for defenders to mark and bagged his first Fiorentina goal in almost nine months when he scored in the Viola’s 4-0 win at Cagliari on Sunday.

      Manager

      Vincenzo Montella enjoyed a successful career as a player, starring in Roma’s 2000/01 Scudetto win and setting the record for the most goals in a Derby Capitolino by netting four for the Giallorossi during the following campaign.

      He became fondly known as ‘The Little Aeroplane’ for his trademark wingspan celebration, something which was seen regularly as he went on to reach fourth position in Roma’s all-time top scorer list.

      Montella also enjoyed two loan spells away from the Giallorossi – the first of those came in the Premier League with Fulham whilst the second saw him return to Sampdoria, the team he left for Roma back in 1999.

      Starting his managerial career in charge of Roma’s Giovanissimi Nazionali, he became interim head coach of the first team in February 2011 after Claudio Ranieri’s resignation, but was released after new club owner Thomas R. DiBenedetto decided to appoint Luis Enrique.

      He didn’t have to wait long for a new managerial opportunity, though, as just a few days later he was offered the Catania job.

      Montella led the Sicilian outfit to a position above that of local rivals Palermo for the first time in eight years, and left by mutual consent in June 2012 for a new challenge at Fiorentina.

      He has steered the Viola to two fourth-place finishes in both of his seasons in charge, narrowly missing out on Champions League football to Milan by two points back in 2013.

      A place in next season’s competition will firmly be at the forefront of the 40-year-old’s mind but Fiorentina - five points behind Napoli who occupy the final lucrative Champions League spot - currently sit in eighth position having started this campaign in indifferent form. Montella will be hoping his charges can string together a run of positive results and shoot themselves up the Serie A table.

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