Fiorentina are one of the biggest and most successful clubs in Italian football history. Since their founding in 1926, they have regularly competed at the top of Serie A and also at the highest level of European football. They have played at the top level of Italian football for the vast majority of their existence, with only four other clubs having played for seasons in Serie A. Following bankruptcy in 2002, they were refounded and named AFC Fiorentina.
Their list of achievements is as long as any other Italian club and includes two Italian Championships, six Coppa Italias, one Italian Super Cup, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. They also came close to winning the European Cup in 1957, narrowly losing out to Real Madrid in the final, as well as finishing as UEFA Cup runners up in 1990.
Nicknamed Viola because of their stand-out purple kit, the club has been playing in the Stadio Artemio Franchi since 1931 and it currently has a capacity of 47,282. However, the stadium has undergone many renovations and name changes since Fiorentina started using it as their home.
The year 2001 was when Fiorentina’s real struggle began. The club’s woeful financial state was revealed and they were over 50 million US dollars in debt, as well as not being able to pay their players’ wages. The club’s owner at the time, Vittorio Cecchi Gori, was unable to raise sufficient funds to keep the club afloat and they were relegated in 2002. In June of the same year they went into administration and bankruptcy meant that the club was refused a place in Serie B, the league they had been relegated to, and AC Fiorentina ceased to exist.
The club was swiftly re-established just two months later under the name of Associazione Calcio Fiorentina e Florentia Viola, with Diego Della Valle taking over as the new owner. The club was sent to play in Serie C2, the fourth tier of Italian football, with Angelo Di Livio the only player staying on to help the new cause, which only further cemented him as a legend in the fans’ eyes.
Di Livio, combined with 30-goal striker Christian Rigano, earned the club immediate promotion from Serie C2. This would have usually meant promotion to Serie C1, however because of the Catania Case, the club skipped this level and went straight into Serie B, something made possible by the Italian Football Federation’s decision to resolve the Catania Case by increasing the number of teams in Serie B from 20 to 24.
In 2003 the club bought back the right to use the name “Fiorentina” as well as the club’s old shirt designed, and re-branded itself as ACF Fiorentina. In the 2003-04 season, the club finished Serie B in sixth place; however they managed to achieve promotional via the play-offs after beating Perugia in the final.
In their first season back in the top flight, the club survived relegation by the skin of their teeth and were only guaranteed successive seasons in Serie A on the last day of an extremely nervy season. From here on in, the club started tasting the success it had done prior to going out of business. Cesare Prandelli, the current manager of the Italian national team, was appointed as head coach and he made some astute signings in the summer transfer window, with the most notable being striker Luca Toni and goalkeeper Sebastien Frey. Toni’s was in superb form that season, scoring 31 goals in 38 games earning himself the European Golden Boot, and he was the catalyst in the side’s stunning season which saw them secure a Champions League place.
However, just a year later, the club once again became embroiled in scandal and were relegated to Serie B because of their involvement in the 2006 match fixing scandal. On top of this, they were given a 12 point penalty, however they retained their place in Serie A after a successful appeal to the Italian courts. After all appeal processes had been completed, Fiorentina were left with a 15 point penalty at the start of the 2006-07 season and lost the Champions League place they had so fantastically earned the season before. Despite the heavy points deduction, they still managed to finish high enough to secure a UEFA Cup place.
Talismanic striker Toni then left to join Bayern Munich, however this didn’t stop Fiorentina making a good start to the 07/08 season. They were tipped by many as dark horses for the Scudetto but failed to live up to these predictions as their inconsistent form saw them drop away from the top of the table. They still managed to qualify for next season’s Champions League on top of a good run in the UEFA Cup which saw them go out to Rangers on penalties.
The next season saw Fiorentina maintain their consistency at the top of Serie A as they finished fourth and yet again qualified for the Champions League. However, they suffered a similar European fate to the season before as they came third in their Champions League group and were subsequently eliminated by Ajax in the UEFA Cup.
In the 09/10 season, Fiorentina had an impressive start to Serie A coupled with a five match winning streak in the Champions League group stages, which saw them qualify for the knockout round as group winners. However, they were knocked out in controversial fashion as possibly the biggest European refereeing of the year saw last 32 opponents Bayern Munich awarded a clearly offside goal. Fiorentina succumbed to the away goals rule, however the incident was one of the main flagship moments in goal line technology finally being unanimously agreed upon as a necessity.
Since then, Fiorentina have always been a force in Serie A without challenging the Champions League places. Last summer they signed two Chileans, Matias Fernandez and David Pizarro, who helped them to a fourth place finish in Vincenzo Montella’s first season in charge, desperately close to a Champions League place.
After an impressive first season under Montella, Fiorentina will be hoping to keep hold of key men, such as Stevan Jovetic, in a hope that they can build and once again become a force to be reckoned with in Serie A and throughout Europe.