MILAN (Reuters) – Fiorentina signed a remarkable 18 players during the close season and their drastic overhaul appears to be paying off after a lively start to the new campaign.
After two turbulent seasons following the departure of former coach Cesare Prandelli, Fiorentina, who visit Inter on Sunday, are once again looking capable of challenging for a place in Europe at the very least.
Sixth in the table with eight points from five games, they outplayed defending champions Juventus on Tuesday and would have ended the titleholders’ 44-match unbeaten league run had they been sharper in front of goal.
Their new South American contingent was especially impressive with David Pizarro, signed from AS Roma, dominating the midfield and Argentine pair Facundo Roncaglia and Gonzalo Rodriguez unflappable in the three-man defence.
Roncaglia, signed as a free agent from Boca Juniors, also looked dangerous going forward, nearly scoring after a mazy run which took him past four Juventus players.
Another player with huge potential is Pizarro’s fellow Chilean Matias Fernandez, signed from Sporting, who has not quite fulfilled the early promise he showed as a precocious teenager with Colo Colo.
The contrast to the same fixture last March, when Juventus won 5-0, could not have been greater, although coach Vincenzo Montella, another newcomer, did not want to get carried away.
"We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves," said the former Sampdoria and AS Roma striker, who led Catania to a respectable 11th in the table last season.
"We have 18 new players and we have to keep on this road with determination and conviction. The club has made our choices but there is still a long way to go."
Prandelli was at the club for a record five seasons, leading them to the last sixteen of the Champions League in 2010, before leaving to take charge of the Italian national side following the South Africa World Cup.
He was replaced by Sinisa Mihajlovic, who led Fiorentina to a modest ninth but never won over the fans and left amid angry protests in November, roughly one third of the way into his second season in charge.
Delio Rossi replaced him but was fired after a bizarre incident when he lashed out at forward Adem Ljajic, one of the few survivors from last season, after substituting him against Novara.
Inter have lost their first two home games of the season at San Siro but are one point ahead of Fiorentina thanks to three away wins.
Titleholders and leaders Juventus, who had won their first four games before the Fiorentina draw, are at home on Saturday to AS Roma, who have won their first two away games.
The only other unbeaten teams meet on Sunday when Sampdoria, third on 10 points, host Napoli.
Napoli went level on 13 points with Juventus by beating Lazio 3-0 on Wednesday and appear to have overcome the departure of forward Ezequiel Lavezzi, sold to Paris St Germain in the close season.
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by John O’Brien)
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