Fiorentina’s 4-1 demolishing of Internazionale on Sunday evening could potentially be the start of a great revival for La Viola, and not just a flash in the pan.
The club sit on the top of Serie A for the first time since this writer first fell in love with Italian football during the days of Gabriel Batistuta in the late 90s. Since then, the club have been bankrupt, have ceased to exist, have come back into existence, and had spells of general success in both league and cup; this time, however, Paulo Sousa really seems to have hit on something.
Sousa had spells in England with Queens Park Rangers and Swansea City, as well as a very short period with Leicester in 2010, but none of these seemed to take off for the former Juventus man. The ex-Portugal international then had stints at Videoton, Maccabi Tel Aviv, and FC Basel, winning a top trophy during each of these runs. The Stadio Artemio Franchi was next on the list of Sousa’s European tour, and the early signs suggest that this stop could potentially breed the same success that he has previously had everywhere but in England.
Fiorentina were by no means failing under former coach Vicenzo Montella, with European finishes and cup runs all featuring in the former Roma striker’s locker. However, the financial gamble on Mario Gomez didn’t quite work for Montella, and following Sousa’s arrival, the German is now on loan at Besiktas.
Other notable players that the new boss has let go include Neto, Stefan Savic, Alberto Aquilani, Juan Vargas, and Joaquin – quite a stellar cast to lose all at once.
Luckily, La Viola have replenished their squad brilliantly; Davide Astori has come in on loan to replace Savic, whilst Mario Suarez and Nikola Kalinic have also joined the club. Jakub Blaszczykowski has also signed on loan from Borussia Dortmund – a player that sums up the hard-working attitude of Sousa’s side.
The club has a number of players known, like the manager, for not doing too well in England. Vice captain Borja Valero hardly got a kick at West Bromwich Albion, but is a main cog and vice captain of Fiorentina. Nikola Kalinic got minutes but not goals at Blackburn Rovers, and the outstanding Marcos Alonso has really come of age since his time at Bolton Wanderers and Sunderland.
Sousa seems to have brought a hard-working and, more importantly, winning mentality to the club. On Sunday night, Inter brought the stellar names, but Fiorentina brought the hard work, not giving their experienced players a moment’s rest on the ball. Milan Badelj ran the midfield, while Josip Ilicic and hat-trick hero Kalinic didn’t give Inter’s defence or goalkeeper a minute to settle.
Giuseppe Rossi and Khouma Babacar, both fantastic options in attack, stayed on the bench at the San Siro, and serve as examples of the fantastic squad that Sousa now has at his disposal.
It may have been a while since the legendary Batigol in his Nintendo-emblazoned purple shirt was scoring goals for fun in Florence, but those days of success may not be far off again. Sousa and his group of unlikely lads could upset the Italian apple cart once again if this early season form is anything to go by. It’s all starting to feel slightly nostalgic.
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