Fiorentina not living up to expectations despite new ownership promises

FLORENCE, ITALY - OCTOBER 27: Rocco Commisso president of ACF Fiorentina during the Serie A match between ACF Fiorentina and SS Lazio at Stadio Artemio Franchi on October 27, 2019 in Florence, Italy. (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)
FLORENCE, ITALY - OCTOBER 27: Rocco Commisso president of ACF Fiorentina during the Serie A match between ACF Fiorentina and SS Lazio at Stadio Artemio Franchi on October 27, 2019 in Florence, Italy. (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images) /

Fiorentina, under new owner Rocco Commisso, were hoping to impress this season. Instead, they find themselves again mired in the relegation zone.

A new owner often brings excitement to a club. After all, the thing any struggling team needs most is an owner that cares and isn’t afraid to spend money.

That’s how Rocco Commisso was hailed when he purchased Fiorentina last summer, vowing to buy new players and make the club competitive again in Italy and eventually Europe. Florence was thrilled that a new owner, this one an Italian who had moved to the United States as a 12 year old, would invest his millions into the city’s beloved team.

Six months later and Fiorentina has had an up-and-down season.

Commisso, a billionaire businessman who already owns the New York Cosmos, has been a lifelong fan of Serie A. Now he finds himself making decisions that affect the fortunes of one of the league’s most-storied clubs.

As Commisso has quickly learned, being a fan across the Atlantic is one thing, being an owner sitting in the stands is quite another. Trying to do everything on an American-style timetable in Italy isn’t easy. His motto, “fast, fast, fast” has hit some roadblocks in regards to building a new stadium and finding success on the field.

“This ‘fast, fast, fast’ that I’ve been quoted on revolves around the fact that I know the bureaucracy in Italy and I know that it’s killing Italy from an investment perspective,” Commisso said in an interview this past November.

“We need to do this as fast as possible. One, because of my age. And two, because I’m not going to wait 10 years” to build a stadium, he added. “I already told [the city of Florence], ‘If the price is not right and the timing is not correct, I don’t want to do it.'”

On the field, Fiorentina have also had their bumps in the road. The season began with Vincenzo Montella as coach, but he was fired in December after a 4-1 defeat to Roma. The defeat, the team’s seventh in the row at the point, pushed Fiorentina to 14th place in the standings. Montella was replaced with Giuseppe Iachini.

Nonetheless, Fiorentina’s fortunes haven’t changed much. The team was in 14th place going into this past weekend and fighting to avoid relegation.

It’s not what Commisso envisioned when he purchased the club for $180 million. Commisso had tried, and failed, to purchase AC Milan the previous year. A 2-1 defeat at home to Atalanta this past Saturday ended in a chorus of jeers from fans that have grown quite impatient the past few weeks.

The team, known as the Viola, hasn’t won much in recent years. The club totally lost its way under former majority owner and shoe magnate Diego Della Valle, who took control of the club’s board 18 years ago after the team had fallen into bankruptcy.

Despite having a group of young and/or talented players like Federico Chiesa, Dusan Vlahovic, Patrick Cutrone, and Kevin-Prince Boateng, Fiorentina’s attack has been lackluster this season. Through this weekend, the team had scored just 26 goals in 23 league matches. During the same span, Fiorentina’s defense has conceded a whopping 34 goals. It hasn’t helped that the summer’s biggest signing, former France striker Franck Ribery from Bayern Munich, has been injured for the past two months.

Commisso’s frustrations came alive last week after Fiorentina’s 3-0 defeat to Juventus. Commisso, echoing the sentiment of many team owners and fans, whined that referees had gifted Juve good calls.

“I’ve been here for six months, I’ve never criticized the referees, but I say now that referees cannot decide the games,” Commisso told DAZN. “I am disgusted. Maybe the first was a penalty, but the second certainly was not. The referees cannot decide the games, they need to let the players do their work on the pitch.”

Whether Fiorentina can do what it takes on the field to avoid relegation remains to be seen. Last season, the team avoided the drop amid fan displeasure at ownership.

Under Commisso, Fiorentina has lofty ambitions. He made lots of promises. What’s happened on the field is a different matter.

Any growth Fiorentina hopes to achieve would come to a halt if they play in Serie B next season. That would force Commisso to rethink his “fast, fast, fast” motto in a country where change is slow and success against the traditional clubs is hard to come by.

Next. Inter Milan keep pace with Juventus as title race heats up. dark