A couple days after a first emphatic win of the season against Walter Mazzarri's Inter Milan, some unexpected good news trickled into the Viola camp: Standard and Poor had conducted an independent review of the financial health of Serie A clubs, and found Fiorentina to be the healthiest, with next to no outstanding debt. Very high season ticket sales and attendances, low operating costs, and consistent but mild investment from the ownership, as well as astute buying and selling of players have all contributed to Fiorentina's wonderful current financial solidity, a stability which tantalizes. Could bad memories of past financial crises be behind us for good?
The Della Valle swept into town in 2002 to rebuild one of the great franchises in Italy from nothing, and rapidly elevated us both back to Serie A and (more unexpectedly) back into Europe, thanks to big Luca Toni, Cesare Prandelli, and many other good club stewards I could mention. But we didn't seem to have a contingency plan for this first wave of success. Pantaleo Corvino built a great side on very little money, but then the ideas and the money ran out. There was little depth and even less team unity by the end of the 2011/2012, culminating in one of the more embarrassing incidents in the history of the club between Delio Rossi and Adem Ljajic.
I don't mention all this purely as a history lesson, but because I believe (and very much hope) that I am observing an ownership doing what we are all supposed to do when we study history: letting the past inform the future. There are watershed moments scattered all across the past several years, from the initial buying glut of 2012, to getting our asking price for Stefan Jovetic, to bringing in Mario Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi, and now this summer holding onto Juan Cuadrado and supplementing the team with a couple needed reinforcements needed to properly turn over the team in Europe. The Della Valle and the club management are making moves like a "big club" and the quality of play has grown as a result. Forget the sluggish start to the season, and the foolish politics. This is a good team that should compete for the Champions League. Again.
Which brings me back to our new and exciting financial solvency, something that usually hasn't accompanied a good squad of Viola players. Fiorentina haven't "acted" like a big club in recent years by throwing money around, but by handling finances shrewdly and by playing really good football. Which, in this business, is essentially the definition of a long term strategy.
Why do I believe that this is different than the last brilliant Fiorentina under the Della Valle? Well, in my mind anyways (and, as always, feel free to call me crazy below the line), there is no desire in the upper levels of Fiorentina to be content and allow things to stagnate as they did four years ago. A group of players in purple has never looked more unified, on and off the field. Borja Valero, one of our clear star players over the last two years, was benched against Inter and you'll never hear a word from him against it; in fact, if you look at our three usual captains - Manuel Pasqual, Gonzalo Rodriguez, and Borja Valero - and they collectively manage just about the necessary ego to remind me of the protagonist from the Princess Bride. Look at Nenad Tomovic's celebration after his goal against Inter. These are players who care about the club and their teammates.
But still, we the club feels like it is continuing to push itself. It gambles on talented players to improve when our roster is already too large, and we don't sign a mediocre veteran "ringer" like Goran Pandev to substitute Gomez and Rossi (as we might have in the past), but instead try to grow our budding Primavera talents. We are pushing to get better, not maintain. Fiorentina is now in the position where it could relax because it has a good team, but the attitude from both Vincenzo Montella and the back-room staff is a scientific confidence that there is more to come. After a loss Montella sees the positives, and after a win he sees the areas that need to be improved.
And now, as the quality of the team continues to grow, we get fresh news of the potential new stadium, the one the Della Valle have wanted for several years now. Fiorentina executive president Mario Cognini gave an exclusive interview to La Repubblica recently in which he announced that there were plans for the stadium already in motion, with the idea being to have the club as a business "work on two cylinders" (with the stadium being a source of revenue) which would provide €10-15m per year for sports investment. At the moment Diego and Andrea Della Valle put in about that amount per year to keep the books in such pristine condition.
New Florentine mayor Dario Nardella was willing to get even more specific with the proceedings toward a new stadium, saying that there is a meeting scheduled for October 24th to review the Fiorentina proposal, and noted that he is "hopeful" that the city can approve the initial proposal. Until then, the club will look to shore up some contract renewals, including Cuadrado, Alberto Aquilani, Norberto Neto, after already reaching agreements with new potential bandiere Federico Bernardeschi and Khouma Babacar. We'll be eager for more news, and confident that the group behind the scenes continues their excellent work so far.