In recent days, a fellow Viola Nation writer discussed Fiorentina’s place in the grand schemes of the mercato. After years of heavy investment in a few key players – Rossi, Cuardrado, Gomez – the club have been unable to reclaim an elusive place at Europe’s top table. Instead of spending big on superstars, Chris noted the need for a squad overhaul and the removal of the dead weight in the squad.
With clever spending - rather than chasing glittery superstars - the Viola could build a team designed to challenge for the top three. Under the guise of a pair of former Viola managers, however, things are shaping up differently elsewhere in Serie A. For the Milanese clubs, the opposite seems to be true.
Inter have already spent big on Monaco midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia (€35 million) and have secured the services of Atlético defender Miranda on a two-season loan worth €15 million. Davide Santon’s temporary return to San Siro looks set to be made permanent, as does the move of Xherdan Shaqiri after half a season of being borrowed from Bayern Munich (combined total of over €20 million). Added to this, all of the new arrivals are likely to be on high wages as Roberto Mancini reshapes his squad.
In Milan, plans are not going quite as smoothly. After pursing Jackson Martinez in a €35 million move, the Colombian seems set to switch to Atlético. The club have turned instead to his international colleague and are now on the verge of signing Carlos Bacca from Sevilla for €30 million, with rumours of Adil Rami heading in the opposite direction to sweeten the deal. Added to this, Andrea Bertolacci has signed from Roma for €20 million and the club have taken total ownership of Luca Antonelli for just under €5 million. Under the tutelage of manager Siniša Mihajlović, the days of Galliani attempting to put together Europe’s thriftiest squad are long gone.
So, clearly the money is moving in Milan this summer, after years of exits and cut-rate deals, and it's not coming out of nowhere. Despite the tricky state of the euro, both clubs have received serious backing from foreign owners. Putting three decades as the sole owner of the Rossoneri behind him, Silvio Berlusconi has sold a 48% stake to a Thai investor named Mr Bee. Numbers from the club’s holding company, Fininvest, suggest that the sale was worth €470 million, valuing the club at close to a billion euro. As well as retaining a controlling stake in Milan, it is rumored that Berlusconi demanded immediate investment in the team as part of any deal.
Elsewhere, Massimo Moratti sold 70% of Inter to Erick Thohir for a reported €250 million in 2013. Traditionally heavy spenders, Inter had entered a fallow period following their post-calciopoli domination of Serie A, as Moratti’s oil interests in Libya entered troubled waters. As ever when Jose Mourinho exits a club, the scorched earth pairing of high wages and old ages meant the treble-winning side was quickly disassembled. However, the increased spending from their city rivals has finally forced Thohir to get out his cheque book.
Together, the Milanese clubs look set to easily break through the €100 million barrier this summer, making it a rich-blooded summer for Serie A compared to past years. And this is before spending elsewhere in Italy is taken into account, with Juventus, Roma, Lazio, and Napoli all already making moves in the market.
The mid-table finishes in Milan have seemed to jolt both clubs into life. With neither set to cease spending before the start of the season, the need for Fiorentina to spend their smaller budget wisely is increasingly apparent. And without the crowded schedule of Europa league football, could the renaissance of Milan and Inter pose real problems for Paulo Sousa’s side?
It might not be so clear cut. Despite the spending, it can help to take a long hard look at the current squads plying their trade on either side of San Siro. Even after the arrival of new players, it’s hard to remember a worse Milan side in the last twenty years. The defence is leakier than Ed Snowden’s colander and the midfield has less sparkle than a pile of soggy carpets. Coupled with Mihajlović’s management, ‘workmanlike’ is the word than comes to mind.
And even though Inter have assembled a reasonably good squad and reinforced in key areas, they can typically be relied upon to mess up everything somehow. Mooted sales of Samir Handanović and Mateo Kovačić would remove two of last season’s best performers, while any team would struggle when fielding either The Ghost of Vidic Past or Andrea ‘oh God, he’s so slow’ Ranocchia. If Danny Baker once described Chelsea as the exploding clown car of British football, you can also count on some sort of daft decision emanating from – and eventually undoing - the Nerazzurri.
For those in Florence, this transfer window is a case of one step at a time. With the board focused on renewing the loan of Mohamed Salah, as well as shifting away some of the higher-paid, under-performing members of the squad, getting Fiorentina in order should remain the priority before looking over at the other clubs.
With a much smaller budget and more pressing issues, worrying about the other sides will never end well. As Serie A steadily gets back on its feet, however, investment elsewhere in the division can only help heighten public interest and bring more attention, more fans, and more money to the Italian game. And as the upheaval continues, breaking into the top three is admittedly looking difficult.