Earlier today, the Corriere Fiorentina reported that Fiorentina DS Daniele Pradè and top lieutenant Joe Barone drove down to Castelfranco Piandiscò (about halfway between Florence and Arezzo) for dinner last night. Sounds lovely, right? The village is nestled into le Balze, a national protected area (think a big park) that’s perhaps most famous as the inspiration for the Mona Lisa’s backdrop. With the Viola’s recent struggles, maybe Pradè and Barone needed to get out of town and reset, you know? Glass of wine, clean air, quiet streets, gorgeous scenery. Not bad at all to talk shop and unwind.
Except that Castelfranco Piandiscò isn’t just notable as the inspiration for the Mona Lisa’s backdrop. It’s also the hometown and current residence of a certain cigarette chomping manager who’s technically under contract with Juventus until June but is likely looking for a job immediately afterwards. A manager who’s spoken previously about his family connections to Florence and Fiorentina. Okay, yeah, Pradè and Barone went to Maurizio Sarri’s house for dinner and AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAA IT’S HAPPENING IT’S HAPPENING AAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
Ahem. Sorry. Anyways, the Corriere didn’t report on what exactly was discussed, but it doesn’t require a great leap of faith to believe that it was the pending vacancy on the Artemio Franchi’s touchline. Cesare Prandelli is keeping the ship afloat but hasn’t proved to be much of an upgrade on Giuseppe Iachini. It’s been glaringly obvious for years that Fiorentina needs a competent mister with a vision for at least the next several years. It’s an issue that predates Rocco Commisso’s takeover; probably the last time a manager fit that criterion was Vincenzo Montella’s first time in charge.
Before you invest in every tobacconist within a 10-block radius of the Franchi and buy yourself a custom jersey with SarriBall on the back, though, let me hit you with a blisteringly cold dose of reality. Sarri’s agent followed up that Corriere report with a curt text to Sky Sport (as reported by Football Italia) flatly denying any meetings between his client and the Viola.
Before you sink into gloomy visions of a decade of Ballardinis and Marans, though, let me hit you with another cold dose of reality. Sarri’s agent is Fali Ramadani, whose exploits in Florence are pretty well known. He had a very close relationship with Pantaleo Corvino, but Pradè’s done business with him too. Ramadani also represents Nikola Milenković and Tòfol Montiel, so he’s certainly in touch with the Viola brass regularly.
While it’s impossible to say what exactly is going on without direct knowledge (of which I have none), what seems likely to me is that Pradè and Barone made that 40-minute drive to the southeast to sound Sarri out on taking the job and maybe discuss some preliminary terms: possible budget, what kind of financial support Rocco’s offering, stadium updates, pending personnel moves, and all that jazz. Again, nothing official; just several men talking off the record about some things. As private citizens. Which sounds very Italian indeed.
Most importantly, nobody’s mentioned Sarri’s rep being there, and you’d expect the agent to be in attendance if there had been an official offer. Since these are still very preliminary overtures, it makes sense for Ramadani to shoot down any rumors about the move. If everyone knows that Sarri’s going to sign for Fiorentina when his J******s contract runs out, other clubs will be less likely to chase him, which in turn whittles away at his bargaining power with the Viola. Fiorentina could also be hit with sanctions for tapping up a manager who’s already under contract, too, so it’s best to be safe and deny, deny, deny.
In short, it’s very early days and there’s less than a guarantee that the 62-year-old coach will be prowling Fiorentina’s technical area next year. His reputation and achievements elsewhere make him an obvious candidate, and possibly the best one available, but it’s likely that Pradè and Barone will meet with other candidates as well, although those meeting may not garner headlines. It’s all just due diligence and, while it’s not entirely divorced from causality, has minimal bearing on what will actually happen in the future.
On the other hand, when you think about a core of Gaetano Castrovilli, Sofyan Amrabat, Dušan Vlahović, Igor, and Lucas Martínez Quarta in Sarri’s system, it’s hard not to feel just a little bit of excitement. And at this point in this season, we could all use a little excitement.