Today we had the opportunity to hear from Rocco Commisso, for the first time since Cesare Prandelli rejoined the club. He spoke for almost 2 and a half hours on the Florence radio station, Lady Radio.
Rocco, as we have learned by now, does not hold back, and spoke honestly and directly about the criticism he has received and about the stories and lies that have been told around Fiorentina in recent times by certain journalists in the city.
Rocco started off joking that they had made him get up early for this interview, the time was 6:30am in New York. After that it was straight into saying that he was here to tell it like it is, and that from now on he doesn’t want to hear any more lies about him, from journalists, fans or on the radio.
Speaking about when Beppe Iachini’s contract was extended he mentioned that a lot of journalists invent stories that aren’t true and that he never spoke to any other manager. He admitted that this doesn’t mean Daniele Pradè or Joe Barone didn’t contact someone else as that is their job. He said that before Fiorentina were safe from relegation, over 10 managers were mentioned as potentially joining Fiorentina. He specifically spoke about the Daniele De Rossi story that had been put forward by people such as Gianluca Di Marzio. He said that he’s only ever seen De Rossi in TV, that he’s never spoken to him.
He said that Pradè and Barone would of course have been prepared for other eventualities but when Rocco made the decision to continue on with Iachini, it was agreed with all of his staff that this was the right thing to do, to give Beppe another opportunity. Like it or not, it’s Rocco that invests the money so he makes the call. He spoke of how he rewards people for their work, that Iachini had done his job and taken Fiorentina to safety.
On the question of Ivan Jurić, he stated that Iachini in the time he was with Fiorentina actually won more points than Jurić did with Verona. He also said that nobody could guarantee him that if he did bring in Jurić that he wouldn’t end up having to fire him after a few months, and then he would need to bring in someone else leaving him with 4 managers on the pay roll.
The conversation then moved on to the arrival of Cesare Prandelli and the end for Beppe Iachini. He reminded us that he had called Iachini to his hotel and reconfirmed him but that he had also stated, outside the hotel, that results are what count, and in the end he didn’t like the results since then.
He joked that if Prandelli is so good how come nobody even mentioned him in the previous months, he was given so many names, Mazzarri, Allegri, Spalletti, De Zerbi, De Rossi but never Prandelli. He admitted that so far he’s only managed to speak to Cesare for about 10 minutes, as it all happened after he had returned to the US, and that he still needs to sit down and have a proper discussion with the new manager.
When it was mentioned to him about Prandelli’s short-term contract he went on to talk about how when he was 34 years old, and working as Senior Vice President at the Royal Bank of Canada in New York, he left this secure job to join a small company, with no contract, and that he has arrived where he is now by taking risks as he’s always believed in his own abilities.
He spoke about there being plenty of people stupid enough to say that he shouldn’t do things this way, that Prandelli should have a longer contract, but he said Prandelli will do his job while all that these people will do is criticize him on the radio. When asked why he didn’t mention Maurizio Sarri when he gave that list of managers proposed, he said that again Sarri is someone he’s only ever seen on TV, but that doesn’t mean his staff didn’t speak to him.
He mentioned the people that are always first to criticize are those with empty pockets, with nothing to invest. He said that he needs to look at the overall situation, that up to now he spent 170 million to buy the club, unlike a lot of other club owners, and now we have the whole Covid situation. He spoke of how he invested in players in January and again before this season, how the wage bill for players has increased by 40% despite having a much lower income now. All of this means he’s invested another 50 million at least, which means a total of 220 million including the money he spent to buy the club and now with the new Centro Sportivo it will be a grand total of at least 300 million. No other club with an income of 85 million would spend 300 million.
When challenged on whether he needs to bring more football minded people into the club he asked how many Serie A club owners have ever played football. People say Rocco knows nothing about football, and he’s the first to admit that. But he mentioned that people like Zhang at Inter also know very little about football. He revealed that he even had trials for the US Olympic team back in 1972, that he captained his team at Colombia and that for 15 years he was manager of kids teams. He said that when people criticize him they never mention these things, and that while he admits he doesn’t know as much as people like Pradè and Barone, this doesn’t mean he knows nothing. He said that the Americans at Liverpool, Manchester United or Marseille know less than he does about football and didn’t have the passion for football that he has had since he was a boy.
He informed us that they have brought in football people in every department, including Marketing and HR. He’s changed three managers and has people like Giancarlo Antognoni and Dario Dainelli so what else do they want him to do.
He said that just because he doesn’t speak Italian very well doesn’t mean he’s stupid and that he knows where a lot of these accusations come from; from people that came looking to him for work and didn’t get it and now they come out with all these stories.
When asked what kind of club he found when he arrived at Fiorentina he said that those people that worked directly for the Della Valle were sent away, that there was a big change, fast fast fast as he liked to say back then. That together with Pradè and Barone they decided that keeping Vincenzo Montella on was the best thing to do, that he doesn’t like to ruin anybody’s career.
He then spoke about those critics who always speak out after the fact. He said it will be the same with Prandelli, those supporting him now will be the first to complain as soon as things go wrong. He also spoke of his disappointment in some of the journalists, especially in Florence. He’s someone who has invested so much, put his whole heart into things, that before Covid he came over here 9 times, but when he’s here they tell him he says too much and when he’s not here they complain that he isn’t present.
He mentioned the journalist Massimo Basile in particular, as someone who has made his name through Rocco. He said that he made the big mistake of inviting him to his office and now he goes around claiming to know what Rocco is thinking even though they haven’t spoken in over a year.
Speaking about the current economic problems facing Italian football he reassured Fiorentina fans that with Rocco they will never need to worry about the club falling into financial difficulties. But he also said that with the financial fair play situation and also as a good business man, he can’t keep investing his own money year after year. They need to increase the clubs income. He referred to the recent Deloitte report which stated that having their own stadium could bring in 225 million for the club, but that if he can’t do that then it will be impossible in the long term to reach certain levels. That doesn’t however rule out qualification for Europe.
He then spoke further about the stadium and Centro Sportivo situation saying that in Bagno a Ripoli, after some difficulties things were moving again and he expected work to begin there by January. He said that he wants to build and not destroy but that the Franchi needs to be rebuilt from scratch just like the Yankee Stadium and Wembley Stadium. He invited others who had the money to come forward and do the job if they can do it better, but that Rocco actually wants to do something and he is the one prepared to invest the money.
He said that he’s optimistic up to a certain point that the Italian state will do the right thing. He explained that he can’t understand why the people who make these decisions can’t take everything into consideration, including people’s everyday lives and the fans, as they are the ones who will use it. While those people are concerned with covering the stadium to protect the concrete, he said that his concern is protecting the fans.
He admitted that there is a chance that the stadium will never get built, and that the people need to know this. Asked whether he would leave if it didn’t happen he spoke honestly about how he didn’t know that now, it’s a decision that would need to be made at the time.
He also suggested, that as Florence is a UNESCO site and the stadium is apparently a monument, perhaps the city mayor, Dario Nardella and the Minister for Cultural Heritage Dario Franceschini should go around the world to look for money from investors.
Rocco asked whether he had made any promises that he hasn’t kept, he said that for 50 years this is how he has lived his life, never promise things that you can’t achieve. But lies have been told by other people.
He spoke of how he suffers when Fiorentina loses, about how long he needed to wait to see the team win with him at the stadium. He wants a team he can be proud of and that the fans can enjoy and be proud of too. He also needs to look at the reality of the situation and if they can’t compete with clubs that have the income of Juventus, Inter, Roma and Napoli that maybe we need to look at how other clubs have done it, such as Atalanta and Sassuolo who are doing very well.
Asked about the players also needing to take responsibility he first mentioned Federico Chiesa who has still never called him to say goodbye. He said that he will speak to his players man to man as he always does. He has already spoken with his staff and told them how they need to be united and not let stories out that can damage Fiorentina. He said if one of them wants to speak to a journalist they can talk about their wife and kids, but when it’s to do with Fiorentina they need to be careful.
He said that Prandelli and Pradè have already spoken to the players, that everyone has their own responsibility to take Fiorentina to where it belongs. He spoke of how he’s convinced that they have the squad to do that.
Speaking of the recent elections in America and Donald Trump he mentioned that he had worked at Pfizer after he finished university, and that they were now bringing forward a vaccine for Covid that would help not only Americans but also Italians, and this was done under Trumps Presidency.
He mentioned that the House will belong to the Democrats and the Senate to the Republicans, that it’s important not to give complete control to one person. That’s how it was with Trump and he hopes that’s how it will be with Joe Biden.
He told those that accused him of interfering too much in football matters at the club that up to now Pradè has worked on around 150 different moves, and that apart from when it comes to managers, and also Amrabat, he has never entered into any of his decisions. He also referred to recent stories that Pradè wanted to resign calling these more lies.
He said that in the future he intends to use a yellow card/red card system. In private he will decide on these cards and when the new Centro Sportivo is ready there will be people who won’t be allowed entry. He said this is why in America he created Mediacom Park, as this made it private property and nobody, not even the local mayor could enter without his permission and it will be the same with the Viola Park.
Rocco doesn’t know when he’ll be able to return and with many people at the club affected by Covid, including Joe Barone at present, he wanted to send everyone sincere good wishes as he can’t be close to them at present. He said people should think about the fact that these are people who work for the good of Fiorentina every day.
His final message was about unity and how he hoped that everyone will understand and accept this concept of unity and working together for the club.
We can only hope that his words will have hit home with certain people, and that also with the return of Cesare Prandelli to the club, that unity will be possible, and maybe finally we can see a city united and getting behind Fiorentina and it’s owner. This is exactly what is needed right now when the world of football, like the rest of the world, is going through a very difficult and uncertain period.