So it’s the day after the closing of the Summer transfer window. As we know, that last day is when Daniele Pradè seems to do most of his work, and this time around was certainly no exception.
Pradè arrived for the press conference a few minutes fashionably late, and before taking any questions from the journalists present he announced that he wanted to say a few words himself. “In my opinion we have an excellent squad, a strong squad and a complete squad.” He went on to talk about how they had changed 19 members of the squad since last year, he also mentioned the club’s wage bill for players. In the 2018/19 season that wage bill was 49 million euro, and has now increased to 70 million. This takes up 81% of the clubs total income, which is 87 million euro.
He spoke of how this is not a Post-Covid era but a Covid era, and economically very difficult. They have however strengthened the squad and increased the wage bill as they have now brought in players that were on higher salaries. They have managed to move on 40 players since last year that they didn’t consider could be a part of the first team squad. “We still have players such as Riccardo Saponara, he’s an important player but he doesn’t create any problems by remaining, but it won’t be easy for him to get game time. Valentin Eysseric and Montiel are the other two players left.”
He reviewed the teams start to the season, an excellent win over Torino, an impressive game at Inter even though they lost, and then the very unexpected disappointing performance against Sampdoria. He did think though that when injured players are recovered and the new guys are integrated into the squad that things will improve.
The first question that he faced, surprisingly not about Federico Chiesa, was whether or not it was true that the manager, Beppe Iachini, had actually asked for a regista for the midfield and a striker to be brought in? He seemed to get a little defensive here already, asking if Iachini had ever said that publicly, because he speaks to the manager every day. He then claimed that the club already had 3 players capable of that regista role in the squad, Sofyan Amrabat, Erick Pulgar and Alfred Duncan, and that according to most experts, we have one of the strongest midfields in Serie A.
Regarding the strikers, he said that they had a lot of inquiries about their 3 forwards. Christian Kouamè had many offers from England, a lot of clubs looked for Dušan Vlahović and there was also some interest in Patrick Cutrone, but in the end nothing happened. He claimed that they weren’t able to find anyone better than what they already have. “There hasn’t been a lot of movement of strikers in Italy, apart from Morata to Juventus and Osimen to Napoli” He didn’t want to talk about the likes of Cavani or Suarez who’s wages were out of Fiorentina’s reach. He mentioned that Kouamè and Vlahović have already scored in the first three games of the season. When asked about Milik, he said that the player has been very clear, he wanted to stay at Napoli. It wasn’t a question of whether he had refused Fiorentina, he had said no to moving.
Of course the Chiesa issue came up next, as he was challenged on the fact that they knew 15 months ago that he would be leaving, and even if it ended up happening only on the last day, couldn’t they have looked for a replacement sooner? He started off by replying that De Paul wasn’t suitable for Fiorentina, and told them that they are underestimating José Callejón. He claimed that the player had a lot of other offers but that he believes in Fiorentina and that the squad is prepared.
When asked if he had deliberately set out to find more experienced players this time around he responded that the average age of the squad is under 27, that they wanted a mature squad ready for difficult moments. “Last season we had a very young squad, this season we wanted men who know how to deal with success but also defeat”
It was put to him that as they now have the 7th highest wage bill in Serie A and an improved squad, shouldn’t they be challenging for a place in Europe. He agreed that the squad is stronger and they need to be able to compete, not necessarily for European places but to try to win every game.
There was a journalist who disagreed that there weren’t any better options out there, and asked if he would consider looking at those players that are still out of contract and available? His answer was short, but not so sweet “Absolutely not!” While he agreed that while there may always be something better, he’s happy with what they’ve done and happy with the squad they have now.
Another two questions followed about Chiesa, the first was about him wearing the captains armband in his final game for the club. He was very clear on this, “About the captaincy, it was a mistake, stop”. The other question was whether the deal with Juventus was an advantageous one for Fiorentina? Here we saw the romantic side of Daniele, he explained that when there is a lot of love on one side of a relationship but none on the other, it’s impossible to continue. He then went on to say that it was a good deal both economically and technically.
He then spoke about Martinez Quarta, about how they had already tried to sign him last year but the asking price was too high. Now, post-Covid, they were able to get a better deal. He did say it had taken time as it’s always difficult to deal with Argentinian clubs. He spoke of how an ex Fiorentina star, Daniel Passarella had recommended him, and other ex players such as Samuel and Burdisso had also spoken very highly of Quarta. He explained that he is a highly versatile player, he has played in both a 3 and 4 man defense, and is capable of covering all 3 positions at the back.
Again the Chiesa question, and why the deal happened so late? He said that there had been a lot of issues to iron out, first they needed to renew his contract, and renew it on Fiorentina’s terms, and also to agree the terms of payment. “In the end we got an excellent deal, I’m relieved to have this weight lifted, it’s been like a soap opera, constant questions about Chiesa” He spoke of how he had told the Commisso family that this deal was the right thing to do even though they would have been very happy to keep the player. He certainly didn’t hold back too much when speaking of the players father, ex Viola Enrico Chiesa. He claimed that Enrico had never seen his sons future with Fiorentina, they were never anything more than a stepping stone to get to where they wanted.
When asked if he hadn’t expected to get the whole fee for Chiesa up front he explained that economically this was the only way to do it, you need to be creative. “There have only been 3 or 4 big deals in Italy this transfer window, including this one. Before Covid we had offers from two Premiership clubs, which Chiesa was not aware of. However, he’s always wanted to stay in Italy and this was the only option to make that happen” He said that a total of 60 million euro was a great deal for the club, and that the only instructions he had received from Rocco Commisso were on the total price and also that Chiesa’s contract was renewed on Rocco’s terms. “Of course we tried to keep him, we offered him a new contract, right up until the end, if there’s even only a 5% chance that a player will stay, I will try my best to convince them, but with Chiesa there wasn’t even that 5%” Clearly, Federico Chiesa, and his father, had made up their minds on this one a long time ago!
He cleared up the question of the three conditions put in place on the loan deal, confirming that it is only one of these that needs to be met for the deal to become permanent.
It was then put to Pradè that it could be the same story with Nikola Milenković and Germán Pezzella. He admitted that they could have left if the right offers had come in for them, the only offer for Pezzella had been a loan offer from AC Milan at 6:30pm yesterday. He said that they will try to renew the contract with Milenković and will talk in the future with Pezzella. He said that Chiesa had been an inherited problem, and that they had managed to keep him last season. He said this wasn’t an economic question and also claimed that they would have brought in Callejón anyway, regardless of whether Chiesa had left or not. Something that the new man will be happy to hear- “ They are two different players”.
There were two subjects that he refused to be drawn on, the Rebic situation and also what had been reported some time ago in the New York Times, that the previous owners had an agreement with an agent (Ramadani) and whether this affected the new owners. Pradè said that it wasn’t his role to talk about those issues, that he already had enough to deal with, “If I take on any more I would be a dead man!”
Back to the Federico Chiesa deal, he said that the Commisso family had expected a lot more from the player, and that Rocco is someone who still goes with his heart and gut instinct.
It was then put to him that a lot of Fiorentina fans were not very enthusiastic about the deals done in this transfer window. He explained that he has had times before when he’s got an 8 or 8.5 out of 10 vote on his work and then the season didn’t go so well, and vice versa. “We’ve done our work with a lot of energy, passion and sacrifice, I’m pleased with what we’ve managed to do, but of course it’s only on the pitch that we will see the final result”
He mentioned that the January transfer window was only 90 days away, and taking into consideration international breaks etc, that gives him 8 weeks. “In 90 days we can see if I made mistakes”
Back to our last game, the loss to Sampdoria, he had already said that without Ribéry we lose some of our identity. He was asked if we are stronger now, a complete squad? “Without Messi, Barcelona is not Barcelona, without Ronaldo, Juventus is not Juventus, without Totti, Roma were not Roma and without Bati, Fiorentina were not Fiorentina” He spoke of how great champions are always decisive and Ribéry is a great champion.
Again speaking about the next transfer window, he said that it was too soon to answer any questions about it now but that in January he hopes to be able to tell us that we don’t need to buy anyone. If there is a need, they will be ready.
He was then asked about the manager, “Iachini is a man (I know some of us may have our doubts about him, but I don’t think this is one of them) and has so much experience that he can overcome any difficulty, and I am the person who needs to be by his side” He laughed about how he always jokes with Beppe by telling him that this is the strongest squad he’s ever managed, and now it’s up to him.
“Have you or the club reached the conclusion after the first three games that maybe Iachini is not the man for this job?” “Of course he’s the man for the job, am I happy with Iachini? Yes. Do I see him in Fiorentina’s future? Yes. Obviously you all know that this depends on results and he needs to get the best from this squad.”
Speaking about the skepticism that is around at the moment, that we hear on the local radio, about whether they should be limiting the teams objectives to the top half of the table, he said that this was normal. He has spent 4 years here before, that he knows the city well, better even than some locals and that the club needs to reignite the enthusiasm, with success and consistency. “ A team like Atalanta took a lot of time to build, a lot of work and sacrifice.”
He spoke of how the city of Florence is an asset for the club, Callejón chose Florence, Ribéry chose Florence”
The final question, one many of you may have wanted to ask- Do you see yourself in Fiorentina’s future? “Are you joking??” He explained that he has always worked in this manner, with annual contracts, but that he is happy here and happy to stay here.
“I want to be Fiorentina’s DS when the new Centro Sportivo is ready because I’m sure it will bring important growth, also for the youth sector, and I want to be here for that”
Pradè seemed in good spirits despite getting a little defensive on some issues. However, when it seemed like the press conference was coming to a close, they were told it was the last question, he said he was happy to continue and wanted to answer all of their questions.
So there we have it, Daniele Pradè is unsurprisingly proud of his work, yet again. He believes that the squad is now stronger, can be more competitive. He gave quite a detailed explanation of the Chiesa transaction, and it’s good to see that Rocco stood his ground on the renewal terms. Whatever about Federico, his father definitely did not come out of that looking too good. Did that answer all your questions? Happy with the answers and explanations? Is our DS right? Only time, and what happens on the pitch, will tell.