Did you know that the Primavera didn’t have a manager for more than two weeks? Well, now you do, and you also know that the new mister is ex-Viola midfielder Emiliano Bigica. The 43-year-old had spent the past year in charge of the Italy U17s, although he’s well-acquainted with the Tuscan youth football scene from his year in charge of the Empoli U17s.
Bigica was a hard-working defensive midfielder who played 79 matches for Fiorentina between 1995 and 2001. He hung up his boots in 2007 after a spell with Novara, but returned to the game in 2014 to take charge of Empoli’s schoolboys. His spell with the Azzurini wasn’t terribly impressive as he compiled a W7 D3 L8 record, with 21 goals scored and 21 conceded across 18 matches. At the U17 level, though, it’s not just about results. Player development is more important, and Bigica has a pretty good reputation for helping his charges grow, even if it means some adjustment periods.
He generally favors a 4-3-1-2 system, but is also happy to use a 4-4-2. It’d make a lot of sense for the youngsters to use the same shape as the senior side, so he could end up using Stefano Pioli’s preferred 4-2-3-1, especially since the cupboard is well-stocked with wingers at the youth level, particularly Josip Maganjić, Joshua Pérez, Mattia Trovato, and Giuseppe Caso.
Given the focus on youth that Fiorentina is taking, Bigica is going to have a lot on his plate. New players like Petko Hristov and Marco Meli will need to be integrated quickly, and guys like Rafik Zekhnini and Nikola Milenković could also see time with the Primavera. More to the point, though, the Viola are gambling on the strength of the academy right now. By allowing established stars like Borja Valero leave the club for a pittance and not replacing them, Pantaleo Corvino is saying that he believes the club’s youth ranks will churn out adequate replacements. And nobody will have more responsibility for that than the Primavera boss.
Former Primavera boss Federico Guidi left Fiorentina at the end of June in rather mysterious circumstances. After all, he’d won the Campionato Primavera in 2014 (his debut season with the kids), placed fourth in 2015, and came agonizingly close to winning again last year before finishing second to Inter Milan. That his contract wasn’t renewed when it ran out is definitely strange.