The long drawn out drama is all over. In the end, deep down we all knew the ending, with Federico Chiesa getting his dream move to our arch rivals Juventus.
It already seemed like this move would happen over a year ago, when previous owners, the Della Valle brothers, looked to have made a deal to sell their home grown star to the Turin side, but they eventually ended up selling the club instead.
When new owner Rocco Commisso arrived, he probably realized that allowing his top player to leave would not be the best introduction to his new club. With this in mind, he managed to convince Federico, and maybe more importantly his father Enrico, that another season with Fiorentina was the best solution for all. After this came the promise that if a substantial offer was tabled for the player at the end of that season, he would be allowed to leave.
When a player has made his mind up to move on and refuses to extend his contract, it leaves any club in a tricky situation. Fiorentina made the understandable decision that it was better to make a deal now rather than risk losing a top player for free in another couple of years. Most Fiorentina fans had resigned themselves to the fact that Federico Chiesa would be moving on. We had even managed to accept that it was almost definitely going to be the Juventus jersey that he would wear next.
What has upset a lot of the fan base, however, are the terms of the deal, more than the expected loss of the player itself. Rocco himself has often declared that he would only be allowed to leave when they received a significant cash offer. Now that this has turned out to be a loan deal, which although it should eventually bring in 60 million euro to the clubs coffers it does only raise 2 million right now, and a lot of fans see this as bowing to the demands of both Chiesa and Juventus. We should probably keep in mind however how the market has changed with the uncertainty caused by the Covid19 situation. Also the fact that this deal was only confirmed on the last day of the transfer window didn’t please a lot of fans, as again, we had been told that if he was to be sold it would need to be confirmed in time to allow the club to sign a replacement.
Enrico Chiesa has been one of the main players in this whole affair, which leaves an even more bitter taste in the mouths of Fiorentina fans. A former Viola player, a striker who helped the club win their last trophy, the Coppa Italia back in 2001. A player whose serious injury at the start of the following season certainly didn’t help the club’s unsuccessful struggle against relegation. By the time Enrico was fit again, the Fiorentina that we once knew had ceased to exist, and in the end he moved on to join Lazio. A club managed at the time by a man who had recently left Fiorentina with a lot of bad feeling between him and the Fiorentina fans, Roberto Mancini.
It seems strange now to look back at Federico Chiesa’s first ever game in Serie A. With Paulo Sousa promoting him to the senior squad after an impressive season with the Primavera in 2015/16, he obviously saw enough in the then 19 year old to start him in the first game of the new season. That game was a defeat for Fiorentina at the Juventus Allianz Stadium. Rewatching it now, I was struck by how for the opening goal of the game, Chiesa was standing just outside the Fiorentina area watching Sami Khedira make a run into the danger zone without making a move, apart from a gesture to the defenders to pick him up. In the end Khedira scored, and Chiesa was replaced by Cristian Tello for the second half.
Not the greatest of starts then, but that season he would go on to make 27 league appearances, scoring 3 goals. The following season, although Stefano Pioli had since replaced Chiesa’s big admirer Sousa, he became an almost ever present in the starting eleven. The first game of that season hadn’t gone too well either, as Federico was sent off in a 3-0 loss to Inter Milan. This was to prove a very difficult season for the Viola, both on but especially off the pitch. Another 8th place, again failing to qualify for Europe, was vastly overshadowed by the tragic loss of our beloved captain, Davide Astori. The fans of course rallied behind the team to help them through this horrific event.
These fans would not be present for what would turn out to be Chiesa’s final game for the club. They did however have some influence on the event, once information emerged that Chiesa would take over the captaincy for the match with Sampdoria. For many, this was seen as a final insult, a player that had been brought to where he was now by the club, after joining as a 10 year old boy, was already looking to leave at the young age of 22. The fact that this would almost certainly be his last appearance in the Fiorentina shirt before moving to Juventus, made the thought of seeing him line out as captain very hard to accept for many. While accepting that this was a decision for manager Beppe Iachini and the club, they did ask that he not be given the special Davide Astori captains armband to wear. This was a compromise that would be accepted by the club.
There was still admittedly a lot of bad feeling, that our captain for this game was a player no longer attached to our colours but someone that was doing all he could to get a move away, and to our biggest rival. So should we look at this move away from our club as a betrayal, as just the typical actions of a mercenary looking for a bigger pay cheque? Surely there must be more to this than just cold hard cash?
The fact that the last two seasons, despite Chiesa being our top scorer, have been a struggle for the club certainly can’t have helped our chances of keeping him in Florence. Maybe he would have moved on anyway, but if we were a club still qualifying for Europe, and especially the Champions League, perhaps this could have been delayed. We probably need to look at the ambition of the club before completely vilifying a player that looks elsewhere to achieve success.
Rocco Commisso came in and managed to convince Chiesa to remain here another season, but Federico has clearly not seen enough to make him believe he could achieve that glory here. As Rocco has discovered, it’s going to take time as well as money to achieve any kind of success with Fiorentina. He has of course, ambitious plans for the future of the club, finally a new Centro Sportivo, and if allowed, a stadium that the fans deserve.
In every transfer window, expectations are always high, with fans hoping for that star player that could finally turn things around for the team. This of course leads to debate, and disappointment for some. Right now Rocco Commisso will need to convince some of the fans yet again that his ambitions are still as high as ever. There has been a lot of criticism around the work of Daniele Pradè as DS, of the decision first of all to retain Vincenzo Montella on the bench and now to keep faith with Beppe Iachini. Fans have some questions, and questions that they have a right to ask. There are a lot of doubts over the terms of this deal with Juventus for Chiesa, some are wondering why so much focus is being put on the stadium issue when the squad itself still needs improving.
Even though for now we’re still without proper crowds at the stadium, this is not the time for a divided fan base as we have seen happen in the past. Let’s hope that unlike players such as Chiesa, the Fiorentina fans can once again be convinced of the ambition and vision of Rocco Commisso.
As Federico Chiesa made his exit after his medical examination before signing for Juventus, which took place in Florence and not Turin, he was greeted by a number of Fiorentina fans. The insults he received is something he needs to get accustomed to, especially when he makes his return to the Franchi in that hated black and white shirt. Chiesa possibly never really managed to convince the majority of Fiorentina fans of his commitment to the team. He didn’t seem to inspire the affection that would normally be expected with a home grown talent. He has however been one of our most creative and exciting players over the last few seasons, and it will certainly be strange to see our team line up without it’s Number 25. It will be even stranger still to see him play in the Juventus jersey.
Chiesa had actually started this season well, of course this could be seen as a player looking to impress a potential buyer rather than any sort of loyalty to Fiorentina. In his final game though, that disappointing loss to Sampdoria, he seemed determined to score at any cost, desperate to leave a mark on his last performance for the club. It wasn’t to be, and maybe this was just the way it was supposed to end. His final act, a shot hitting the woodwork, that feeling of what might have been.
The way in which he forced his move away from the club has certainly put an end to his relationship with even a lot of his hardcore fans, When he made his debut that day away to Juventus, another Federico, Bernardeschi, was alongside him in the Fiorentina side. Bernardeschi’s move to Juve has been seen, certainly in the eyes of Fiorentina fans, as somewhat of a failure, and this is what a lot of those fans will be hoping for Chiesa too. There isn’t a lot of room for sentiment in football, especially when a player decides to leave in this way. But maybe there are still a few fans who will shed a tear when they re-watch that video of Federico with his father Enrico, when as a kid he already talks of scoring goals for Fiorentina. A dream that actually came true, but now those dreams have changed, as they often do with time. So maybe beneath it all, there is a strange sense of loss, as a home grown hero packs his bags and moves on. Who knows, maybe there is another Chiesa, his younger brother Lorenzo, waiting to make us dream big again. Whatever your feelings right now for Federico Chiesa, anger, sadness, delusion, disappointment, that moment has finally arrived, it’s time to say goodbye.