There was always a bit of skepticism surrounding Rocco Commisso’s decision to bring Daniele Pradè back as the sporting director at Fiorentina in 2019. While Pradè possesses a wealth of experience—he’s had excellent spells at AS Roma, Sampdoria, and Udinese—his win-now strategies had torpedoed the Viola just a few years prior and led to his replacement with Pantaleo Corvino.
While there was a flicker of optimism about pairing Pradè with Vincenzo Montella again, that quickly flamed out as a workable solution and led to the Aeroplanino’s dismissal. Despite a brief moment of competence under Giuseppe Iachini, particularly after the restart last year, the decision has felt, to many fans, like the dreaded zuppa riscaldata, and despite some clever signings, that feeling has only grown over the past few months.
With the team looking just as forlorn under Cesare Prandelli as it ever did under Montella 2.0 or Beppe, the spotlight has shifted away from the technical area and towards the office. While this squad has talent on paper, the ledger book is a mess: Fiorentina spend the 7th-most on wages and, in two years under Pradè, have gone from the youngest club in all of Europe to around league average. On the field, they’re at least as bad as their 17th-place standing suggests.
More specifically, Pradè’s reliance on older players means that he inflates the wage bill for players who have no resale value, which saps the club of spending power. While free signings like Franck Ribery, Martín Cáceres, Borja Valero, and José Callejón are all fine players, they’re all on the wrong side of 30 as well. Meanwhile, none of Fiorentina’s younger players are Pradè purchases. His inability to spot young talent is a massive liability for a club of Fiorentina’s size, and his insistence on old players hamstrings the team financially.
It’s no surprise, then, that he’s likely heading for the exit this spring. TuttoMercatoWeb’s Niccolò Ceccarini (who’s fairly reliable as a source) claims that Commisso and company will evaluate Pradè this spring. Should he be found wanting, Ceccarini reports that the club has already identified three potential replacements, which, if true, indicates that Joe Barone is getting out in front of this as much as possible; that would inspire at least a bit of confidence.
The names mentioned are Marcello Carli, Massimiliano Mirabelli, and Gianluca Petrachi. Carli, 56, is the sentimental favorite as a native Tuscan; his hometown Colle di Val d’Elsa is just 50 km south of Florence. After leading Empoli to Serie A in his first DS job, he took over at Cagliari in 2018 before signing with Parma this summer. He’s got a knack for finding excellent coaches, having snapped up Maurizio Sarri, Marco Giampaolo, and Rolando Maran, although current Gialloblu boss Fabio Liverani is struggling a bit. Carli’s never worked at a club with Fiorentina’s budget, so it’d definitely be a big step, but he’s built different kinds of teams for different managers and would likely be a safe choice.
Mirabelli is a whole different story. After working as a scout at Inter Milan and Sunderland, he got the DS job at AC Milan in 2017 at the start of Li Yonghong’s bizarre tenure. He showed a willingness to splash vast amounts of cash out and brought in some excellent players. However, it’s hard not to look at some of his signings and not shake your head: €42 million for Leonardo Bonucci, €40 million for Lucas Paquetá, €38 million for André Silva, €28 million for Nikola Kalinić, €20 million for Lucas Biglia, and countless millions on other players who’ve since flamed out. You can’t blame Mirabelli for Milan’s acquisition by Elliott Management (boo hiss), as he thought that Li was solvent, but you can blame him for overspending on guys who didn’t make any positive impact at the club.
The dream choice would probably be 51-year-old Petrachi. Most recently at AS Roma, he did some excellent business for them in his single year in charge (2019-2020), acquiring guys like Amadou Diawara, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jordan Veretout, and Chris Smalling while making money on sales for Kostas Manolas and Luca Pellegrini. He missed on a few signings—€24 million for Pau López and €21 million for Bryan Cristante are ouchies—but that’s the business for you. He also spent a decade masterminding Torino, where he showed an excellent eye for Italian talent in particular and helped lead them to Europe in 2014. He’s got a reputation for prickliness and impulsiveness, but neither of those discount a good career.
Again, it’s a bit early to prepare the white smoke for Pradè’s successor. Daniele hasn’t been sacked yet, and could save his job if the team picks itself up under Prandelli. More than anything, if Ceccarini’s got this right, it’s evidence that Fiorentina is finally starting to make decisions in an intelligent manner. That would be a pleasant change of pace indeed.