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Déjà vu as Fiorentina fight for Europe

Hop in the Viola time machine for a brief foray backwards.

Cagliari v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Enrico Locci/Getty Images

Imagine, if you can, a far-fetched scenario. Fiorentina has 2 matches left: one against a relegation-threatened underperformer and one against a side in the European places. The Viola are led by a gritty, bald Italian manager, a guy who’s turned a rather boring style of play into a high-intensity pressing scheme based around energy and an exciting young group of attackers.

No, this isn’t the current Fiorentina team. This is Fiorentina in 2018, when Stefano Pioli had led an unlikely late surge up the standings to leave his charges on the verge of Europe. With 2 games left, they’d scrapped their way to 8th place on 57 points and only had showdowns with 18th-placed Cagliari and 6th-placed AC Milan.

Further, a little scheduling quirk meant that the 3 teams fighting for Europa qualification—Milan, Atalanta, and Fiorentina—all played either each other or Cagliari in the final 2 games, which meant the Viola’s European fate was in their own hands. Win both games and they’d guarantee continental competition. Simple enough.

Simple enough, at least, until it wasn’t. Because Fiorentina rolled into the Artemio Franchi and, instead of playing like they wanted to win, dribbled down their respective legs, resulting in an unbelievably dreary 0-1 loss to the Sardinians that pretty well scuppered any chances of qualifying. Even then, there was a minuscule chance of sneaking in, but the Viola, instead of playing like they wanted to win, projectile vomited all over the San Siro en route to a 5-1 loss.

That may be Fiorentina’s biggest sliding door moment of the past decade. Pioli’s squad had plenty of quality, and a European campaign would have likely prompted the Della Valle brothers to sink some more money into the team. The abject failure of the following season would’ve been, at the very least, mitigated, and Pioli would’ve never been sacked in favor of Vincenzo Montella, setting the club down the path to two years of BeppeBall.

Fast forward four years and Fiorentina has 2 matches left: one against a relegation-threatened underperformer and one against a side in the European places. The Viola are led by a gritty, bald Italian manager, a guy who’s turned a rather boring style of play into a high-intensity pressing scheme based around energy and an exciting young group of attackers.

I really don’t think that the fixtures Sampdoria and Juventus are going to have quite as much weight as those two did in 2018. Even so, though, remember how hopeful we all were back then? Remember how we thought we were on the cusp of something great? Remember how quickly it fell apart? What I’m saying is that we should enjoy this while it lasts, because we never know when it’ll vanish in a puff of smoke and Iachini.