Tuesday, September 29, 2009 by Paul Grech
The over-riding reaction at seeing Fiorentina's name being drawn in Liverpool's Champions League group was something of a surprise. Perhaps it is an indication of the falling standards of the Serie A that, where once Italian teams were feared now they are met with a feeling that is somewhat akin to relief. Which is how Fiorentina were viewed; a sort of lucky draw.
Despite the internet making it much easier to follow football from across the globe, certain misconceptions are hard to eradicate. Looking through Fiorentina's squad, for instance, it is hard to identify any big name players. The only possible exception is Adrian Mutu and he isn't going through an overly positive patch, particularly after the verdict that requires him to pay millions in compensation to Chelsea after he was sacked in reaction to being found guilty of doping.
Dig a little bit deeper, however, and you'll start to find just why Fiorentina have made it to the Champions League. There you will find Claudio Prandelli, one of Italy's brightest managers and a man who always seems to get players to play better than what everyone assumes they are capable of. Just as he has done with Alberto Gilardino, laughed out of the San Siro during his spell at AC Milan but who at Fiorentina has rediscovered his form as one of the Serie A's leading goalscorers.
Then there is Pantaleo Corvino, their sporting director and the man who choses which players to buy. There are few people around who can spot talent better than Corvino, whose CV includes discovering Fabrizio Miccoli, Valeri Bojinov, Javier Chevanton, Mirko Vucinic and Felipe Melo.
His biggest find, however, could be the most recent one. Stevan Jovetic was hardly an unknown quantity when he joined Fiorentina from Partizan Belgrade last year. Having played more than forty games for the Serbian champions - an incredible statistics for someone who was still eighteen at the time - his progressed had been monitored by a number of top European sides including Real Madrid and Manchester United.
Yet Fiorentina and Corvino trumped them all by getting him for £7m, a deal that can already be labelled as a bargain. Consistency has been added to last season's occasional flashes of brilliance as Jovetic has become a permanent fixture in the side. Class and elegance coupled with good physical strength have seen him take over the reigns of the team and lead to inevitable comparisons with Roberto Baggio, a Viola legend.
Jovetic himself won't hear of such comparisons but it is difficult for the Fiorentina fans not to get excited, especially after he scored the goals that got them through the qualification rounds of the Champions League. By his own admission, it is on this stage that Jovetic wants to test himself to see exactly just how much he has progressed. And it is how he does here that will really underline his abilities. Liverpool have been warned.