Fiorentina are clearly struggling under current manager Giuseppe Iachini, just as they struggled under Vincenzo Montella the previous year, Stefano Pioli the year before that, and Paulo Sousa the year before that. With Beppe seeming less and less likely to be the long-term solution in the technical area, we’re looking at some of the top candidates to replace him. Having glanced at Daniele De Rossi (in what would be his first job ever) and Luciano Spalletti (who seems happy cashing Inter Milan’s checks right now), let’s take on perhaps the most popular candidate.
As soon as Rocco Commisso announced last summer that Guiseppe Iachini would remain as Fiorentina’s coach, it was inevitable that fans would be calling for his head as soon as Fiorentina hit a bad patch of form. It’s only taken four Serie A games to reach that point, and Beppe’s modest resume and unpleasing style of play are under serious scrutiny. Rocco Commisso has said that Iachini will still be on the touchline this weekend against Udinese, but his future afterwards is murky. At this point, it’s clear that Iachini’s dismissal is a matter of when rather than if.
Rocco’s next pick for coach (and likely sporting director) will be the most important decision he’s made for Fiorentina. A swing and a miss would cause both the relationship with the fans to go downhill fast, as well as the club’s standing in Serie A. Rocco needs a coach who will bring an identity to Fiorentina, be loved by the fans, and win. Who is that man? Maurizio Sarri.
Like Luciano Spalletti, the 61-year-old Sarri has deep roots in Tuscany. Although he was born in Naples, Sarri moved to Tuscany as a child and grew up in the region. As a young man, he juggled both a calcio and banking career (in Florence!), eventually settling on the latter. In 1990, Sarri began coaching on the side throughout Tuscany, becoming a full-time coach in 1999. It would take another 15 years before Sarri gained a national audience, when he led local rivals Empoli back to Serie A in 2014, and finished 15th the next season. From there, Aurelio De Laurentiis signed him for Napoli on a one-year deal, and the rest is history. Sarriball proceeded to take Italy by storm, pushing Juventus to the brink as the Azzurri finished second twice in three seasons, averaging well over eighty points.
Following Napoli, Sarri joined Chelsea in 2018. Although he was openly despised by a large portion of Chelsea’s fanbase, Sarri over-performed and lead the Blues back into the Champions League, finishing third. Sarri also added his first piece of silverware, winning the Europa League. With Chelsea’s defensive struggles today, Sarri’s defensive record with the Blues becomes more and more impressive, while attacking-wise he harnessed Eden Hazard’s quality to the tune of 21 goals in 52 games, his best mark in London.
After just one season, Sarri left to join the hated Juventus. Sarri lead the Bianconeri to their ninth consecutive scudetto, but his failure in the Champions League lead to his sacking, and the appointment of Andrea Pirlo.
Tactically, Sarri is famous for his 4-3-3 which he deployed the majority of the time at his three most recent stops. Other than José Callejón, there isn’t a Sarri-style winger on this team, meaning that we could see a return to the 4-3-1-2 which he used in Empoli (who’s ready for the Cheese’s redemption arc?). Sarri is famous for his emphasis on a regista (Mirko Valdifiori, Jorginho, Miralem Pjanić), who does not drop deep between the center-backs, but instead receives the ball, turns, and hits long and accurate passes up to the forward lines, bypassing the midfield.
In attack, Sarri is versatile. At Napoli, allowing Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne to interchange, with Callejón staying high and wide, wreaked havoc. At Chelsea, Hazard was also given license to roam. Defensively, Sarri will prioritize central defenders who can carry the ball and are athletic. Fullbacks-wise, Sarri tends to overload one side of the field, meaning that one fullback is typically more defensive (think Nikola Milenković) while one is given license to bomb forward (think Cristiano Biraghi).
Sarri would be an excellent hire for many reasons. He teaches an exciting brand of calcio, has improved almost every team he’s coached, and would bring a pedigree to Fiorentina that is currently lacking. Hiring him may be difficult, due to the fact that he still has to orchestrate his exit from Juventus’ salary books. Add in the fact that Fiorentina look bang-average right now, and it may take some convincing. Although, if what Sarri’s friends say is true, both Sarri and his parents want him to coach Fiorentina one day, so this could be more realistic than one might think.
Regardless, hiring Sarri would be a massive sign of intent from Rocco, and would put Fiorentina on the map again. If Sarri is hired, there is no doubt he would he would force Rocco to open up the checkbook for players who fit his system. Despite the cost, given time, he would transform the team. If Sarri is backed in the mercato and is given time to implement his tactics, I have no doubt Fiorentina will return to Europe sooner rather than later. Sign him up Rocco.