The Renaissance was a cultural revolution that swept through Europe in the 15th century, but the major changes first occurred in Florence: writers, painters, architects and philosophers all made the city a model of the movement. Now, in footballing terms at least, Florence is experiencing a new renaissance.
Dissolved in 2002 because of bankruptcy, AC Fiorentina, one of the most traditional clubs in Italy, were forced to restart with the name of Florentia Viola from Serie C2, the fourth division. The Viola, later renamed ACF Fiorentina, quickly returned to Serie A and, after avoiding relegation in the last match of last season, they are now third after ten games.
Main man Toni
Perhaps the main man behind Fiorentina's brilliant start is Luca Toni. The Italy striker, who joined Fiorentina from US Città di Palermo last summer, has scored 12 goals in ten games and the fans love him with the same passion as they loved former striker Gabriel Batistuta, the top scorer in Fiorentina's history with 152 goals. Batistuta, who coincidentally also scored 12 goals in the first ten games of the 1994/95 campaign, retired from football earlier this year but Fiorentina is still close to his heart.
'Very organised structure'
"Toni is a very good player and not only because he is beating some of my records," the former Argentina striker told Florence-based newspaper La Nazione. "He is in a fantastic period and Fiorentina can finally count on a great striker. But Toni is not the only important factor in Fiorentina's success, because there is a very organised structure behind the team this year."
Toni himself is surprised at the instant impact he has had at his new club. "Everything seems easy in this period," he said. "I score very often so I can afford to try even the most difficult things. I don't know how many goals I will score by the end of the season but it was very important to start well. I have to thank my team-mates, who always put me in the situation to score."
Most of the assists for Toni have so far been provided by Stefano Fiore, the former S.S. Lazio player who is experiencing his own renaissance after a difficult spell in Spain with Valencia CF. If Fiorentina fans are comparing Toni with Batistuta, they are likening Fiore to Rui Costa, another former idol from the pre-bankruptcy days.
"I'm proud of this comparison," the 30-year-old midfielder said. "But we have to stop thinking about the past and focus on the present.
We are a strong side, the group is very united, everyone is making a great contribution and we can count on an extraordinary striker like Toni. We can achieve important results this season."
But Fiorentina is not only Fiore and Toni. The club has the right mix of experience and promising youngsters such as former Atalanta BC talents Riccardo Montolivo and Giampalo Pazzini, as well as Bulgarian prodigy Valeri Bojinov.
Shoe magnate Diego Della Valle, who bought the club after bankruptcy, has built an important structure with a long-term project in mind, starting with Cesare Prandelli, one of the brightest and most promising coaches in the country. "We are all improving match after match and we have to thank our coach Prandelli for this," said Pazzini, an Italy Under-21 forward.
Under Prandelli Fiorentina have enjoyed their best start since three points were first awarded for a win in Italy. They have 22 points after ten games, one more than the team coached by Claudio Ranieri in 1994/95 and Giovanni Trapattoni's class of 1998/99. As director of sport Della Valle has appointed Pantaleo Corvino, who has a reputation as one of the best talent scouts in Italy after his spell at US Lecce. Corvino's experience will be vital to the long-term ambitions and development of the club.
'Feet on the ground'
"The first team is playing particularly well, but we have to keep our feet on the ground because there are other clubs who can afford to invest much more money than us in the transfer market," Corvino told uefa.com. "However we don't have to limit our objectives, we just need to continue on this path and see where we are at the end of the season."
'Appetite comes with eating'
Meanwhile Della Valle admitted he is ready to strengthen his team in January should Fiorentina still be competing with the top clubs in Serie A. "L'appetito vien mangiando is an Italian proverb which literally means appetite comes with eating," said Della Valle. "We will see if there are good opportunities during the transfer window. However, I'm very proud of what the current players are doing." The new renaissance in Florence may have only just begun.
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