Why Fiorentina supporters protested during Vincenzo Montella's return to the clubby Chloe Beresford / 23 April 2019, 14:49Tweet
As new Fiorentina boss Vincenzo Montella arrived at the Stadio Artemio Franchi for his first match since re-joining the club on April 10th, you would be forgiven for thinking that supporters would’ve packed in the stadium to welcome him.
This was the man who took the Viola to three consecutive fourth-place finishes between 2012 and 2015 and a Europa League semi-final to boot, and was only fired due to request for more funds to further his ambitions for his side.
Yet what the new Coach found was an empty Curva Fiesole, supporters sitting out the entire first half in protest at the club’s owners Andrea and Diego Della Valle.
Forbes Billionaire’s list cites Andrea alone as worth $1.3 billion and - as Montella himself knows all-too-well from the past - they have continued to anger supporters with a lack of investment, lies, and a number of high-profile gaffes.
The most recent of these involved the treatment of Montella’s predecessor Stefano Pioli. While no Fiorentina supporter would argue that recent results and performances meant that he could no longer continue in his post, the way his eventual exit was handled was absolutely unforgivable.
Following a dreadful 1-0 home defeat to relegation-threatened Frosinone, the club issued a statement to declare that they would consider the future of Pioli over the next 48 hours. Fair enough, you might think, but before that time period was up, they would issue a tone-deaf statement that was insulting in the extreme.
They revealed they would keep Pioli on for the time being, yet the wording of the decree would induce fury among those who reside in the Tuscan city.
“Commitment must be total on the part of everyone,” the ill-advised statement read.
“The club also ask Coach Pioli to manage this period with the competence and sincerity he showed in the first half of the season.”
Let’s put this in perspective. This clearly implies that Pioli - a man who represented the club with a huge amount of bravery and honesty through his personal grief following the shocking death of his Captain Davide Astori less than a year earlier - had been incompetent and insincere in the second half of the campaign.
Unsurprisingly, this proud and honorable man couldn’t continue following such insults and quit his position, offering a statement of his own afterwards.
“I have always taken on my responsibility for choices, strategies, performances and results,” Pioli wrote in an open letter to supporters.
“I always guaranteed in my work professionalism, focus, respect and the utmost effort with the only scope of improving the human and technical resources at my disposal. With a heavy heart, today I see myself forced to leave, resigning because my professional and above all human capabilities were questioned.”
The Fiorentina hierarchy could not even leave it there. This ownership have offended so many of their former employees while themselves taking offense at every finger pointed towards them.
They would brand this man, a faithful ambassador for the club in arguably its darkest hour, “unjustifiable and incomprehensible” before the Italian Coaches Association leapt to his defence.
“Nobody is contesting the freedom of every club to set objectives and evaluate performances, but criticising concepts like seriousness and competence is something that must be done with extreme care, otherwise in a few lines it can doubt the effort of those who work for the club and consequently their professionalism,” their statement read.
“We stand with Pioli, a Coach with an exemplary career who represents a model of fairness and competence in Italian football.”
Despite all the row surrounding the exit of Pioli, at least in Montella, Fiorentina now have a Coach that has himself been on the receiving end of the Della Valle’s incompetence. He of all people would get why the supporters were not present during the first 45 minutes of the second stint of his Viola career.
Now is the time to move forward following this ugly incident, and for the new boss to improve on the style of football that had certainly stagnated and lost effectiveness under Pioli. He did just that in his second game in charge away at Juventus last weekend, Fiorentina having outplayed their hated rivals despite a 2-1 defeat.
The crunch for Montella comes this Wednesday night as the Viola compete in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final with Atalanta, the score locked at 3-3 from the first leg played in Florence almost two months ago.
An opportunity to reach the final and the possibility to lift a trophy is the only thing this side have left to play for this season, and with the new man on board, they have the best possible chance to achieve it.