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Fiorentina has everything to play for. Do its players?

This squad has looked checked out for months. Getting everyone engaged is the best chance Montella has of dodging the drop.

ACF Fiorentina v AC Milan - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Fiorentina have been very bad this year. That’s why they’re just 4 points above the final relegation spot and need points in their final two matches at Parma and against Genoa. It’s obviously a humiliating position for one of Italy’s most iconic teams.

The fans and the ownership both have every motivation to avoid relegation. The former hasn’t had to witness a demotion since the Cecchi Giri era came crashing down in 2002, and have enjoyed Serie A football since 2004. The latter probably don’t care that much about the team’s pride, but would take a significant hit to the pocketbook with a relegation given that revenues would plummet.

The players, though, have roughly zero motivation to perform right now. The arrival of Vincenzo Montella was a clear sign that the new project they joined is dead, and many (most?) of them will be wearing different colors next year. With Jordan Veretout reportedly Napoli-bound; Gerson, Kevin Mirallas, and Edimilson Fernandes returning to their parent clubs; and a host of others—Vitor Hugo, Giovanni Simeone, Bryan Dabo, Cristiano Biraghi, Nikola Milenković, and, most importantly, Federico Chiesa—lined up by the exit, only a handful of these guys have a future in Florence. The sudden influx of Primavera players to the first team is evidence that Montella won’t fight too hard to keep anyone on this roster as he tries to figure out a squad for next year.

While a bit more professionalism—defined here as fire and drive—would be nice, you can’t blame the players too much either. The owners have seemed disinterested, the fans critical, and the coaching uninspired. Nevertheless, seeing the main culprit of that uninspired coaching railroaded has to have an effect, given how much the squad seemed to genuinely respect Stefano Pioli, who has conducted himself with ironclad dignity and grace. Seeing him get turfed out probably took a lot of wind out of a lot of sails.

So what do these guys have left? Those who are gone at season’s end are auditioning for new employers and higher salaries, but Fiorentina have been such a sinkhole this year that no one will judge them on the last few months alone. Chiesa and Federico Ceccherini are the only native Tuscans in the senior side, so regional pride can’t really buoy everyone up. As we’ve discussed, professional pride is fine, but the club has undermined it this year. They can’t even really play for the fans, who have rightfully been protesting the matches at the Franchi by skipping the opening halves.

Much like this stupid and awful season, there’s no real reason to go on. Even if Fiorentina lose these last two matches, they’ll probably avoid the drop. The fans will yell at the Della Valles, who will huff and puff in return. Players will leave and be replaced by other players. Nothing will change.

I don’t have any way to wrap this up optimistically. The players don’t have any reason to work hard and risk an injury that could harm their earning power next year. All we can hope is that some pale vestige of the esprit de corps that carried them for stretches of the past two years remains. For this pale vestige of Fiorentina, that’s altogether fitting.