It's been a predictably busy week as the season began and the transfer window is mercifully nearing its end, but in the midst of rumors and reactions, arrivals and departures, another European match nears. Fiorentina's home European opener is the return leg against Grasshoppers, a team who proved feisty in the first leg in Zurich, but now faces a huge challenge at the Artemio Franchi. Our Viola enter with a fairly comfortable 1-2 aggregate advantage, and hope to advance in style in front of the home crowd.
Montella has selected very strong roster that excludes promising attacking midfielders Bakic, Vecino, and Wolski. Despite the absence of the young talents and Montella's clearly stated intention to not take this game lightly, we should anticipate several changes from the side that won against Catania on Monday. Cuadrado is almost certain to enjoy an extremely well-earned rest, and I would be surprised if David Pizarro and another midfielder - whoever is more tired between Borja and Aquilani - didn't begin on the bench. Joaquin, Matias Fernandez, and Ambrosini are the probable replacements. From there, the squad selection is more uncertain, with Rossi yet to get a full 90' in his legs and the defensive selections changing match to match.
One name is conspicuously absent from the teamsheet: Adem Ljajic. After a long and (for those involved or invested, exhausting) summer of contractual wrangling, the young Serbian attacker is officially now at Roma for a reported 11 million Euro, with an additional 4 million potentially added in bonuses. Ljajic will be on a 4 year contract with Rudi Garcia's team, although Fiorentina legally retain 20% of the player (it is still unclear to me what this means going forward). The deal with Roma was another show of strength by the Fiorentina organization in that they both A) earned so much off a player in the last year of his contract and B) were able to avoid him passing to Milan. Additionally, Fiorentina have brought in young Croatian left-winger and striker Ante Rebic for a reported 4.5 million Euro, and now have a little bit of cash to make advances on a potential vice-Pizarro. So there are many positives to be taken from this resolution and yet... And yet.
In some ways his move away stings the fans more than Jovetic's anticipated departure, as we finally saw Adem begin to deliver on his promise after years of frustration. He was perfectly positioned to become another bandiera among the several already in this Fiorentina side, a sudden fan favorite after only a couple months of great play. But he clearly wasn't interested, whatever protestations he makes in his final interview to ViolaChannel (actions speak louder than words and all that). I have no elegant conclusion to summarize how I feel about all of this because the matter was concluded far from elegantly. But, as stand-ins for final thoughts on the Adem Ordeal, some brain splinters that I can't seem to remove:
This summer we have now sold the two players who scored in our 4-1 win against Inter at home.
Perhaps in modern football Ljajic doesn't owe Florence, Fiorentina, or the fans anything at all. But he does owe Montella. A lot. And hopefully someday he will remember.
As has happened all summer, the Ljajic story has now distracted, detracted, and depressed us from the point of this piece, which is informing and exciting over the upcoming match. Grasshoppers have to play to win and score two away goals, while Fiorentina will look to slow the tempo when in possession. I personally look forward to seeing how Montella rotates the squad for the first time in a competitive match this year, a potentially bright cameo by Joaquin, and cheering on the strong recent form of BOMBER GONZALO. Hopefully we'll have much to cheer about for a day, and can soon gripe about our Europa League draw like true ultras. Forza viola!
UPDATE: Ambrosini is reportedly sick with a fever, so Pizarro will likely step in.
(My Likely Wildly Inaccurate) Projected XI
3-5-2: Neto; Tomovic, Rodriguez, Compper; Joaquin, Fernandez, Pizarro, Valero, Pasqual; Ilicic, Gomez
Alonso, Ambrosini, Aquilani, Borja Valero, Compper, Cuadrado, Fernandez, Gomez, Iakovenko, Ilcic, Joaquin, Lezzerini, Munua, Neto, Pasqual, Pizarro, Rodriguez, Roncaglia, Rossi, Savic, Tomovic