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What does it mean to be a Viola realist?

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Sousa’s recent comments have certainly given fans plenty to think about. So let’s start thinking.

ACF Fiorentina v FC Crotone - Serie A
Sousa, pictured philosophizing.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Paulo Sousa delivered a controversial interview ahead of the Bologna match. You can get the full text here, but there was one moment that’s already become a typhoon in a teacup. When asked about his expectations, the Portuguese mister responded, “Last year I was pushing a dream. This year it’s reality.”

Not surprisingly, there’s already been considerable fan blowback as the Viola faithful have attacked Sousa for his pessimism. It’s a criticism that’s not entirely without merit, as it evidences a certain lack of belief on the part of the coach which could easily spill over to the players. With a team that’s streaky by nature, you definitely want a manager who’ll inspire the squad to give their all no matter what. By even admitting the possibility of defeat, Sousa’s pretty well swept that option off the table.

On the other hand, let’s look at where Fiorentina sits relative to the other sides in Serie A. We’ve shown you how much this Viola squad has cost relative to others in Italy and the big European leagues. If you haven’t read that, I’ll spoil it for you: it’s not much. Fiorentina have spent the 10th most money out of the Italian clubs in assembling their squad, setting them right in the middle of the pack (and just a couple million ahead of next opponent Bologna). Given the inevitable correlation between money spent and final position in the table, it seems a bit unrealistic to expect Fiorentina to outperform their spot by at least 6 places.

While these two points of view can be argued one way and the other indefinitely, it’s still a deeply problematic question. The Viola under Vincenzo Montella were always the bridesmaid but never the bride, an attractive and enviable side that was congenitally incapable of beating the big teams. Those 4th-placed finishes, though, were as much as result of the Milanese clubs’ collapse as they were of brilliance in Florence. With foreign megabucks pumping into Lombardy, Fiorentina are now, in financial terms, the 6th- or 7th-biggest club on the peninsula. Competing for the Europa League, then, seems like a reasonable goal. Anything beyond that is pure gravy.

So which is it? Obviously, we want a Viola scudetto and Champions League trophy, but we can all agree that such goals are simply unattainable. Even the most pragmatic of us will agree that competing for a CL spot is pretty much the most we can ask out of Fiorentina, and—given the very strong positive correlation between money spent and final position in the table—that’s probably not realistic.

So, we once again need to re-set our expectations. What’s the dream, and what’s the reality?