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Rocco is ready to tear down the Franchi or head for Campi

After seeing a piece of the stadium literally fall off, the Viola owner sounds like he’s reaching the end of his tether.

ACF Fiorentina v Torino FC - Serie A
Pictured: Something that’s probably not about to collapse. Maybe.
Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Fiorentina’s season-opening win over Torino was about as perfect as it could have been. The Viola dominated the game, imposed themselves, created chances, defended well, and walked away with all three points in front of owner Rocco Commisso, who made it to Italy for the first time in more than half a year. For the fans, it was a good result made even more exciting by the fact that, if Christian Kouamé can routinely nod home simple crosses, this attack could prove devastating.

You know what could have really sapped all the joy from that? If Rocco had gotten squished by a chunk of the legendary but badly-in-need-of-help Stadio Artemio Franchi. After the game, the Mediacom billionaire held up a small piece concrete that he saw fall off the upper deck during the game and showed it to news cameras as an example of why the stadium needs to be addressed fast, fast, fast.

We’ve been doing this dance for a decade now and it shows no signs of slowing down. The Della Valles hemmed and hawed about building a new arena at the old Mercafir site but never got past some concept drawings and an endlessly recursive back-and-forth with the city about permitting. Rocco has done a lot more in his brief time in charge, firmly rejecting the Mercafir proposal and submitting several plans of his own, but the syrup-slow bureaucracy of Italian politics have frustrated him at every turn.

Commisso has clearly made the new stadium his personal project, leaving the day-to-day running of the club to Daniele Pradé and Joe Barone (exactly what you want from an owner), and he fired another round of warning shots towards Florence mayor Dario Nardella yesterday after repeating earlier this week that, although finding space on the Campo di Marte has always been the top priority, he’s got a meeting with Campi Bisenzio mayor Emiliano Fossi this week to discuss creating the facility there.

“I want to destroy the Franchi. You thought I was joking,” is quite a sound bite. The 70-year-old continued, “The stadium must be built, for the fans and for Florence.” After again relating the incident with the chunk of concrete, he revisited the points he’s made previously about why the club needs to own its own matchday facilities; at this point, we surely don’t need to explain the reasoning.

His final words on the subject were a pretty stark rejection of those who believe the Franchi’s historical significance renders it untouchable: “A monument? They’re even in Marina di Gioiosa, and yet people have left to make their fortunes. I’m not saying we should throw it away, but there’s a need to look at the economic side. I’m not to destroy the Colosseum or the Palazzo Vecchio.”

While that sounds pretty harsh, Rocco’s made it very clear that he wants to keep the club in the heart of the city. Figuring out a solution (a free 99-year lease for the land and club ownership of the new stadium?) with Nardella and company sounds like Fiorentina’s preferred option, and the new laws mean that some sort of new project could get done. If the authorities allow the Viola to basically tear down the whole Franchi, barring the iconic Maratona tower and maybe the facade, Commisso will pounce. Otherwise, it’s Campi Bisenzio. Either way, things are pushing forward, even we can’t see the progress.