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Can the Rift Between Fans and the Dalle Valle ever be healed?

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Relations between fans and owners reached boiling point once again this week in Florence, but can the Della Valle ever win the supporters back?

@ChloeJBeresford

Following the 4-1 defeat to Hellas Verona, Fiorentina fans once more took to the streets in protest. A peaceful crowd of around 3,000 viola fans formed outside of il Stadio Artemio Franchi to voice their discontent with the current state of the club. Whilst the protestors, were no doubt incensed by the dismal performance on the pitch, the main targets of their dissatisfaction remain those off it, chiefly Director of Football Pantaleo Corvino and the club’s owners Diego and Andrea Della Valle.

Neither Corvino nor the Della Valle - who haven’t been seen at the Franchi in months - met with the fans, though club Vice President Gino Salica did speak to a number of the club’s supporters outside of the ground before the crowd dispersed.
Relations between the fans and club have been frosty since the sacking of Vincenzo Montella in 2015 and have steadily worsened since. A combination of uninteresting football, poor results, and a lack of investment in the first team have turned many fans against the Marche-born brothers, who responded to the persistent criticism from Fiorentina fans last Summer by offering to sell the club, should a serious offer from a ‘true Florentine’ come in.

Seven months down the line there has been no news of a potential sale, plans for the construction of a new team stadium have been delayed so often it seems to many as though they’ll never come to fruition, and the team sit 11th in Serie A.
The fans displeasure with the situation has been clearly expressed, the protest last week was the fourth in the last twelve months, and the team’s average home attendance has fallen to around 24,000 – the lowest since Sinisa Mihajlovic’s tenure, and less than two-thirds of the average under Montella during the 2014/15 season. Clearly, the fans have had enough.

But to some outside the club, the fans’ attitude has seemed to be something of an overreaction. Whilst many of Fiorentina’s better players left the club for domestic competition last Summer, two of the big names to depart (Bernardeschi and Kalinic) had publicly voiced their desire to leave, somewhat forcing the owners’ hand. In addition, the club has reinvested the majority of the money brought in by the Summer’s high-profile transfers on talented young players in what is ostensibly an effort to rebuild.

It’s easy to see how a person outside of the club could see the negativity surrounding the club currently as unwarranted. Napoli, Lazio, and the Inter, three teams of at least equal stature to la Viola have all gone through similar periods in the last decade and emerged better for the time and patience they took in rebuilding their squad, and so too could Fiorentina, in a few years, benefit from enduring a season of lacklustre football if it provides their young players the time and experience needed to deliver on their potential.

However, the promise of future success has done little to satiate the fans or heal the rift between fans and the club’s hierarchy. Nor should it. Whereas Lotito’s Lazio have shrewdly built an impressive squad on a budget, De Laurentiis at Napoli has reinvested the turnover of marquee departures to inferior strengthen his team, and the Suning group have thrown absurd amounts of money at anyone who might improve Inter, the Della Valle continue to turn a profit out of Fiorentina. Jovetic, Savic, and Bernardeschi – to name but a few of the many talents have broken through in Tuscany as young players - were sold on for profit as soon as a bigger club came along, and replaced with either cheap players, or more young players to repeat the cycle.

As such, in the event that la Viola’s current set of young players deliver on their potential, believing that the Dalle Valle’s Fiorentina would keep them for more than a year would take a level of optimism beyond anyone in Tuscany.

This selling club mentality is the problem that keeps the Fiorentina fans and the Della Valle brothers from ever happily coexisting again. The discontent and the protests won’t stop, until the standard of the football improves, and even if there should be a spike in performances next year, or the year after, the peace they bring will only ever be temporary. Be it Chiesa, Simeone, or any other member of the squad, as soon as a player’s performances warrant the attention of a club with a big enough chequebook, the ownership will once again sell, until we reach the current position again. The ownership will continue to expect fans to wait patiently for the next group of young players to find their feet, and the supporters simply won’t.

Whilst the situation in Florence has not yet become unfixable, the possibility of a solution seems unlikely. The Della Valle’s actions make it clear that they will never make the financial commitment necessary to meet the fans’ ambitions, and as such the resentment between supporter and owner will never fully be alleviated.

At this point, should an offer come in, be it from a ‘true Florentine’ or not, it’s in both parties’ interest for the Della Valle to go.