Fiorentina: Will the famous Viola ever flourish again?

Gabriel Batistuta, Francesco Toldo and Rui Costa; just three of the most standout names commonly associated with the famous Viola of the late 1990s, yet three names who nonetheless wound up leaving the Stadio Artemio Franchi for arguably bigger and better things before lifting ACF Fiorentina right to the very top of the respected Italian game.

From the awe-inspiring architecture, breathtaking cathedrals and the distinct style of its people, to the long and winding cobbled side streets, each packed to the brim with numerous renaissance-themed motifs in almost every direction you happen to look – there are many things about the city of Florence that remain timeless and special.

It’s just a shame that the club’s long-standing desire for top-flight Serie A success has seemingly failed to match the burgeoning expectations of their passionate and spirited fan-base.

Fiorentina previously won many football onlookers over for their sophisticated, yet equally dogmatic approach in the late 1990s. Spearheaded by the notorious Argentine hitman that is Gabriel Batistuta up top, with the infamously hot-headed Giovanni Trapattoni working his well-worn magic in the Viola dug-out, this was a team considered more than worthy of claiming that elusive Serie A Scudetto as their own.

Trapattoni’s Viola were domestically dominant whilst also carving out a growing reputation for themselves among the Champions League. But like a flawed and dysfunctional Italian renaissance artist, with all the determination and guile to set the world alight but none of the accompanying durability or endurance to see their lofty ambitions through to the very end – Fiorentina never did win that evasive league title during their famed golden period, subsequently failing to disrupt the usual status-quo among the Italian top-flight as many had once predicted.

Since then Fiorentina have witnessed a stark period of adversity, after suffering relegation in the early 2000’s and facing numerous issues both on and off the field. The famous Viola were forced to stare down the barrel at a whole host of troubling outcomes, just a short matter of seasons on from achieving almost worldwide respect and recognition.

From growing fears surrounding impending bankruptcy, to the threat of losing each of their name, colours and once highly coveted footballing traditions – Fiorentina have seen it all among their ongoing stint within the Italian game.

The club risked parting ways with much of their hard-earned footballing identity throughout those unmistakably bleak days, yet once Viola’s finances were finally restored and progressively implemented across the entire club as a whole, it was only a matter of time before the Florentines successfully reinstated their precious top-flight status, something they eventually achieved by the summer of 2004.

“Fiorentina is life or death. Life when we win, death when we lose. We don’t have half measures.”

Patrizia Fiorini

The purple-shirted Serie A favourites were back among the big-time – but barring a brief renaissance period under each of Vincenzo Montella and Paulo Sousa in recent seasons – the Viola have been unable to restore those once widely renowned golden days of many moons ago.

Now they are looking to reassert their once promising dominance with former Lazio and Inter manager – Stefano Pioli – seeking to pick up where his many predecessors have seemingly left off. Whether or not the experienced Italian tactician really has what it takes to restore that collective purple smile back among the Stadio Artemio Franchi faithful remains something to be decided, but with several distinct talents currently operating within the Viola ranks, such a task isn’t entirely impossible.

Life among the top-flight of Italian football is rarely straightforward however. As star man Federico Bernardeschi is reportedly keen on switching the Stadio Artemio Franchi for pastures new this summer, Fiorentina’s ongoing unwanted tradition of losing their very best players to their big spending Serie A competition looks to have carried over well into the modern era. Some things seemingly never change.

They may have indeed been knocking on the door of automatic Champions League qualification just a handful of seasons ago, but without the adequate finances to see them through onto such a well-respected world stage, Fiorentina’s dream of finally reigning triumphant upon the grandest club platform of all remains pretty much just that, a poignant yet somewhat distant and unattainable dream.

After coming oh so close to that prestigious Seria A Scudetto in the late 1990s, suffering relegation and near financial insolvency in the early 2000s, and subsequently restoring their once precarious top-flight status just a few short years after facing possible commercial ruin – the fans of the famous Viola arguably deserve better than their side’s current fortunes.

Yet with the prospect of heavy financial investment remaining some way off for Stefano Pioli’s outfit right in the here and now, it seems as if this team are destined to hover well within the shadows of their fellow Serie A counterparts for a good while yet to come – regardless of all the well-defined history, passion and distinctly Florentine culture that makes ACF Fiorentina one truly great club.