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A frustrated Rocco Commisso once again tells it like it is

The stadium situation, Chiesa, Iachini, and Covid: just some of the topics discussed in a typically frank and honest interview.

Rocco doesn't hold back
Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Rocco Commisso is never anything but straightforward. Unlike a lot of people involved in football, or any other business for that matter, he doesn't hide behind the usual banal cliché answers.

It wasn't any different when he sat down with journalist Agnese Pini at the Excelsior Hotel in Florence for an interview published in Saturday's local newspaper, La Nazione.

His opening remark kind of set the tone-"You remember when I was the god of Florence? These days they call me Attila."

When challenged that this may have something to do with him saying he wanted to demolish the Franchi stadium, he remarked that here words are used in a very strange way. "My Italian has improved eh? But I continue to be misunderstood. If you think, that in America, Biden said he was disgusted by Trump, disgusted, and nobody batted an eyelid. After the Juve-Fiorentina game I said I was disgusted by the referees and ooh it was the end of the world. The fact is that in Florence you're all good at being the Monday morning quarterback, you know what that means? It means that you're the critics of the day after: they criticize everything, but afterwards. It's too easy that way."

Have you ever regretted coming to Florence? "No, no, well maybe for a minute. But no, and I still don't, I'm happy to be here, this is my last venture."

A year ago it seemed like you could realize everything that you said, and straight away. Do you still believe that you'll manage to build the stadium? "We need to see how long it takes. When I arrived they told me I was Superman, but now I just cause confusion."

In the end someone suspects that you don't really want to build the stadium? "The point is that maybe that someone would like me to say, okay I'll give you the money, and you do what you want with it. But this won't happen, with my money, it gets done my way."

Do you like the idea of redeveloping the Franchi? "It was my first idea, remember? But now I believe that as the stadium has been the property of the State for 90 years, they should get the money from the State and redevelop it if they want to. That suits me even better. But why have they waited for Rocco to say it needs to be redeveloped? Why didn't they put it out to tender? Why didn't they hire the likes of Fuksas or Renzo Piano to design the project? Here everything is useful for criticizing. But in the end I realized where they want to go with this. “

Which is? "Now someone wants to redevelop the Franchi with Rocco's money, now somebody is interested in not only controlling Rocco, but also to profit from Rocco's money."

You're saying they want to use you? "No, they want others to make decisions for me."

You're referring to the Mercafir story? "The Mercafir! There have been a lot of meetings about Mercafir, and they've been talking about Mercafir in this city for 15 years. I wanted to play by the rules as I've always done, but I thought that everything was ready. Instead, nothing was ready. Mercafir was just a big waste of time."

Have relations broken down with Palazzo Vecchio? "It's not that anything broke down, it's that from that moment I learned something: here to do anything it takes time, even when you find someone who has the money to invest."

But you really didn't know how things worked in Italy? "How could I know you've worked for 15 years on an unrealisable project like Mercafir? It's a problem of substance, of mentality. I remember taking my kids on a boat trip in New York to see the skyline. The new skyline has been built and rebuilt continuously over the last 20 years. So, you all say that I criticize too much. I on the other hand think that you don't criticize enough, you settle. There's no need to destroy the beauty of Florence, but if someone says that the Franchi stadium is another Ponte Vecchio, then I'm sorry but I can't accept that, I'm not an architect or an archaeologist, I don't know anything, but you can't listen to things like that."

You haven't given up on the possibility of building the stadium in Campi Bisenzio. You're not worried about offending the people of Florence? "The fans or the people of Florence? Well maybe the 5,000 architects that are in Florence but don't work will be offended, they told me there were 5,000. One thing is for sure, there's a lot of jealousy in this city. And there's a lot of rich people, but they haven't made their money themselves, they inherited their riches from their fathers or grandfathers"

You didn't expect any of this a year ago? "I didn't expect, and I mean it, this much attention around me. The name Rocco gets used every day, all the time, and not always in a good way. At the same time I see that the vast majority of fans are behind us"

How are your relations now with local council? "I'm good with everyone, and I'm straightforward, maybe too much. I say things to your face. I don't accept people who criticize behind your back. If the criticism is fair, I'll accept it, but whoever criticizes me needs to know that I'm not afraid to respond in the way they deserve"

And has there been fair criticism? Is there something you think you made a mistake with this year? "I have to take the good with the bad. When you're a businessman this happens all the time. Some things have gone well for me, others not so good. That's business and that's also life"

Your critics say you don't like to respect the rules in Italy, that you pretend not to know them, and that you don't actually care all that much about Fiorentina, you just want to make money. "But you see, nobody says this to my face: in front of me nobody dares because I have the answers. I like people to look me in the eye, I also like to argue but I'm honest and I want honest people around me"

"They say Rocco's biggest mistake was not getting rid of Montella, but how could I not confirm Montella? He has a 3 year contract at 1.8 million a year. And then they criticize and criticize, but nobody has spent money for Fiorentina and in such a short time in Italian football as I have. If you say that I haven't spent then you're liars. I bought Fiorentina in 3 weeks. We arrived at 70 million in wages. Rocco has bought, and if anyone says that I haven't done anything for Fiorentina then they need to look at the numbers: 40% more than a year and a half ago. In total over 300 million with the new Centro Sportivo at Bagno a Ripoli, the first one owned by the club in its history. Nobody has revolutionized like this in such a short time. Now everyone is saying I should spend the money from Chiesa, but I haven't even received any of that money yet!"

Have you spoken with Chiesa recently? "No."

Were you disappointed? "I called Chiesa during the lockdown, in Chicago I went to meet him for the first time and he was with me in my suite. I treated him like a son, and with me and my family, the staff, he didn't do the right thing. He's a kid, so let's just leave it at that."

What things weren't done right? "First they insisted on what club to sell him to, he didn't want to go to England, in Italy he only wanted Juve. When there's only one buyer and one seller, it's not an ideal situation. And I had to satisfy him to make the right business choice. In America there's a saying, even if you leave, don't burn your bridges. They taught me this 50 years ago. It's the only way to become a leader."

And Iachini? "What about Iachini?"

Is he staying? "Here's another hoax that's going around. Iachini has the full support, of me, of Joe Barone, of Pradè. He knows and he's the manager. I told him that with Sampdoria we were awful, and he knows that results count here. But he has our backing"

Is he on trial? "We're all on trial, even I'm on trial."

What is your favourite memory from this year and a half? "The fans, serenading me at the Savoy, the first day at the Duomo, my gift of the Centro Sportivo"

And of the team? "There have been ups and downs, and then we had Covid."

But your business went even better during the pandemic? "Mediacom deals in broadband, so yes, it was a very good period for our business"

Are you afraid of Covid? "Rocco isn't afraid for himself, maybe for others. But I'm not an idiot, I also did the lockdown with my wife in our home in New Jersey"

In Florence do you manage to feel at home? "Well this is where I work. By now, when I go back to America, it's like a holiday, because they leave me alone, nobody recognizes me."

What does Rocco Commisso want to do when he grows up? "Win something here. It's my last venture, my last challenge. I've never failed, you know what I mean?"

I think we do Rocco, I think we do. One thing is for sure, it's never boring when Rocco decides to speak. He doesn't dodge the difficult questions, and always gives a straight answer. And in football these days, that really is a breath of fresh air.

After today's disappointing draw with Spezia though, maybe Beppe Iachini's trial just got a little more difficult to win.

While other clubs struggle with forced absences because of Covid, Iachini decided to use the excuse of injuries and not having all of his players available during the international break. If he's trying to get his defence in early, he may need a better alibi.

Rocco Commisso spoke about not liking the criticism he received after confirming Vincenzo Montella when he took over the club. Right now, judging by local radio in Florence and social media, there is even more criticism of his decision to stick with Beppe Iachini.

It wasn't the most popular of choices when it was initially announced that our current manager was keeping the job. With recent performances and results that decision is coming under even more scrutiny.

Rocco mentioned in this interview that for his manager, results count. He should also know however, that ultimately this is what Rocco will also be judged on. The most pressing issue right now for Fiorentina fans is how their team is performing, or rather, under performing. The long running stadium saga might be to the fore in Rocco's battles with Florence and Italian politics, but all the fans want right now is to enjoy watching their team play, and to achieve even just a little success.

Whether Beppe Iachini keeps his job or not, in the end this will be Rocco's decision. He may decide it's too soon, he needs more time. He may want to stay loyal to the man who pulled Fiorentina away from the danger zone last season. Whatever he decides, for now, this is the issue that really matters to the clubs fans.