Fiorentina can’t go through a coaching change without flaming the previous mister on his way out the door, and we’ve now hit that stage in Stefano Pioli’s exit. After a bad-faith statement from the club questioning his “seriousness” (which has never been in question) prompted his resignation, Pioli sent a typically gracious open letter to the fans defending himself against the allegations and praising the players and the supporters.
The manager explained that his “professional and above all human qualities have been questioned,” making it clear that the the charges were what had prompted his departure more than the fact that his charges had won just one league match since the start of February.
His protests, in fairness, are completely valid. After he handled the shocking death of Davide Astori with utter grace and radiated warmth and professionalism at all times, making him very popular with his players, it’s hard not to see this statement as a cynical move on the part of the Della Valle brothers to force the mister out and thus avoid paying his wages for the rest of the year.
The Fiorentina brass, of course, couldn’t just quietly accept even the smallest bit of criticism, however justified, and once again showed an embarrassing sensitivity even the slightest perceived slight. The club released a response to Pioli’s letter this morning, branding his actions “incomprehensible and unjustifiable,” before trying to gaslight everyone into thinking that its previous statement had nothing to do with Pioli’s departure. It’s a bad look, honestly, and is so transparently false as to be almost comical.
And now it’s getting even worse, as the Italian Coaches’ Association (AIAC) returned fire with a statement of its own, in which it called for solidarity with Pioli and fairly called out the Della Valles’ attacks on Pioli’s character. This is yet another battle that the Della Valles can’t win and inscribes another embarrassing defeat into Fiorentina’s ledger. Picking a fight with the managers’ professional organization is really stupid for any number of reasons, not least because the club just hired a member of the AIAC to replace the guy that the AIAC is defending. It’s enough to give you a migraine.
The whole thing also puts new boss Vincenzo Montella in an awkward spot. In his introductory press conference this morning, he told reporters that he thought Pioli deserved a chance to coach the team in the Coppa Italia quarterfinal against Atalanta, which seems like common sense. On the other hand, nobody knows better than the Aeroplanino exactly how petty and small the Della Valles can be. This latest episode has to have him looking over his shoulder already, and that’s hardly conducive to achieving good results.
But more than anything, this whole dog-and-pony show has done nothing but remind everyone that the DVs need to learn when to shut the hell up rather than trashing a guy who’s never been anything short of exemplary as a leader. If the Della Valles are concerned with incomprehensible and unjustifiable attitudes, they should should have a long, hard look at how they treat members of their own organization and then sit quietly.