Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fiorentina bound to climb in Serie A

Influx of new talent should strengthen every position

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There has been a different kind of Renaissance taking place in Florence this summer.

Following a three-year dark age without European soccer that reached a low point last spring with a 13th place finish, Fiorentina owners Diego and Andrea Della Valle launched a revival of the Serie A club when they appointed Vincenzo Montella as manager in June.

The three months since have seen footballers flocking to Tuscany to work with the former Roma and Catania boss, who will be expected to both introduce an artful style of soccer at Fiorentina and turn the club into a contender for the European places. And if he can end a 12-year trophy drought while he's at it, even better.

So far no fewer than 13 new players have made their way to Stadio Artemio Franchi ahead of the upcoming Serie A campaign, and their arrivals will surely strengthen the side in every position.

Of course, the introduction of so many new faces can sometimes destabilize a team with an already-entrenched sense of character, but after a tumultuous season that saw the comings and goings of three managers, Fiorentina are looking to create a new identity -- not preserve an old one.

For the club's fans, the changes are reason for excitement. In Ahmed Hegazy and Facundo Roncaglia Fiorentina have acquired a pair of young defenders with tremendous upside, and former Ajax marksman Mounir El Hamdaoui should provide a much-needed shot in the arm up front. Only Chievo, Novara and Cesena scored fewer goals than Fiorentina last term.

In the centre of the park, midfielders Alberto Aquilani and Matias Fernandez will be encouraged to express their artistry while David Pizarro and Borja Valero ensure the ball is moving in the right direction.

If Montella's project comes off -- and the club is able to retain highly-rated striker Stevan Jovetic -- there's no reason why Fiorentina can't spring a few surprises near the top of the table over the next few months. Few Serie A clubs aside from Juventus have improved over the summer, which means La Viola can only trend upwards.

Their first match of the 2012-13 schedule -- today's home date with Udinese -- should provide a good, early test. Udinese came third in the league last season and will likely be one of the clubs Fiorentina is jockeying with for position in April and May. They also play the sort of attacking, free-flowing football Montello will be looking to emulate.

His, after all, is a stylistic revolution. But to truly emerge from the Italian soccer wilderness, Fiorentina will need to couple its new approach with results that not only herald a new era, but also prove it's more than a false dawn.

jerradpeters@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 25, 2012 C7

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Updated on Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 12:41 PM CDT: adds fact box

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