Here at VN, we all have various ways of dealing with Fiorentina-related trauma. For Nicky, it’s ranting. For Tito, it’s spouting out Tapir facts. For me, I escape by playing Football Manager (FM).
At the moment, Fiorentina is doing its best to make me binge FM. The sudden resignation of Cesare Prandelli has only further exposed organizational incompetence which runs at least as far as Rocco Commisso’s right-hand man, Joe Barone, and Sporting Director Daniele Pradè. The two reportedly attempted, in vain, to keep Prandelli around, but like many of their efforts in the past two seasons, it was a failure. For the third season in a row, the Viola head into the home stretch of the season closer to relegation than Europe, and barring some drastic changes over the summer it’s hard to see Rocco maintaining the support of the fanbase.
For a second, consider an alternate reality. One where at the end of the 2022-23 season, the Viola finish in third place with 76 points and qualify for the Champions League. Then consider that in this reality, Pradè is still the club’s Sporting Director. Impossible, you might say.
According to Sports Interactive, you would be wrong. The London-based video game developer is best known for producing FM, which has snared thousands of footy fans in addictive pursuits of glory. Sports Interactive pours copious amounts of detail into each game, whose realism is its biggest draw. When I began my own save with French club Strasbourg last December, FM still simulated every other top league in great detail. After three seasons in this virtual reality, Pradè has done a fantastic job in his role and given Fiorentina a clear template to return to European glory.
The question is, what could the actual Pradè learn from his work in this game? I’ll provide a three-step plan below to help him, which according to FM should guarantee an ascent up the table.
Step One: Overhaul the entire roster
We’re starting with an obvious one. In the starting lineup of the Fiorentina in my FM save, just one player on the current roster remains, that being Sofyan Amrabat. Below is the starting lineup, where some surprises await.
Some highlights of this team are Amrabat himself, who posted four goals and six assists while having a 7.27 (very good) average rating. Pradè’s best piece of business has to Ruslan Malinovski, who was brought in for €18 million and made the most appearances (41) and scored the second-most goals (8) last season. To be honest, none of virtual Pradè’s moves seem too out of character for him. If Fiorentina were to sign any of Joao Mario, Gustavo Gomez, or Matias Vargas, I would be thoroughly whelmed. If Fiorentina were to actually hire Sérgio Conceição, Wilson Manafá would be a very interesting option to replace Cristiano Biraghi.
As for current players, Gaetano Castrovilli has gone to Inter (ugh) for €26 million, while Nikola Milenkovic sold for €32 million has become one of the world’s best defenders at PSG. Biraghi ironically left for AC Milan, Bartolomej Dragowki to Napoli for €4 million (excuse me), while Dusan Vlahovic is backing up the man who I’ll focus on later. In addition, yours truly snapped up Dimo Krastev (sorry Hesanka).
The major takeaway from this section is the fact that FM felt the need to blow up the entire Fiorentina roster to make the Viola good again. While we all already know this is necessary, it’s nice to get some confirmation, no matter how insignificant, in the form of a video game.
Step Two: Rehire Paulo Sousa
Now, this is where things become a little bit spicier. We already know Pradé has a thing for working with rehired managers. After all, all three of Vincenzo Montella, Prandelli, and Iachini fit that description. After Prandelli was sacked in March of 2021, current U15 coach Marco Capparella was hired as interim manager. Then, Pradè made the bold choice of bringing back yet another former Viola mister, Paulo Sousa.
Sousa was best known for his... let’s just say pragmatic style of play. The Portuguese excelled at the beginning of his Viola tenure with the best ever post-bankruptcy Serie A start. From there it was a slog, with notable collapses against Borussia Monchengladbach in the Europa League and in Serie A twice in a row spelling his doom. Of course, it’s laughable to imagine a Viola manager being sacked for not finishing in the European places today, but I still can’t imagine Sousa would receive a warm, much less lukewarm reception if he were to return to the Viola bench.
What we should take away from this is that Pradè needs to able to make unpopular decisions that look destined to fail from the fans’ perspectives if it means that the Viola will improve as a result. Wait a second...
Step Three: Don’t sell Pedro
We’ve reached the impossible. My save began before Pedro was officially purchased by Flamengo, so he returned to Florence at the end of 2020. Pedro’s first half-season was solid, scoring seven goals in 21 appearances. After scoring 12 goals in 2021-22, it was the following season where Pedro truly broke out. He proceeded to score 22 goals in 35 appearances, fourteen more than the next highest on the roster and the second most in Serie A.
Strangely, Pradè then proceeded to sell Pedro the following season to Flamengo for €24.5 million. That’s right, Pedro is now back in South America for a ridiculously low fee for someone with his scoring record.
If Daniele Pradè were to overhaul the entire roster, hire Paulo Sousa, and not sell Pedro, Fiorentina would be in the Champions League according to FM. Due to Pedro already being owned by Flamengo in real life, this is sadly not possible to do. As a result, I conclude that it is impossible for Fiorentina to reach the Champions League in real life with Pradè as Sporting Director, and thus he should be fired immediately.