Rangers need a weekend in Tuscany…

July 6, 2012 in Scottish Premier League, Serie A

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This past week the Newco Rangers we’re denied entry into the Scottish Premier League by a group of their former peers and now face next season in the Scottish Football League. This almost seems unpresidented in the world of football, a team of such size falling down the pecking order so sharply due to a few poor decisions. But if they look into the history books, they will see that a decade ago, a team of similar stature fell to a similar fate.

Fiorentina we’re one of the big teams in Serie A in the 90′s. Having such players as Rui Costa, Gabriel Batistuta and Francesco Toldo in their midsts. Finishing in the top half of Serie A consistantly, winning many Coppa Italia’s and reaching European finals - Fiorentina was one of the most recognizable teams in Italian football’s heyday in England (Football Italia on Channel 4 - memories). But around 2002, the wheels started to fall off. Vittorio Cecchi Gori and his family stabilized the club, leading them to Serie A but once the team started to haemorrage money, star players started to be sold. Many pin-point the issues for the Viola to the untimely death of Vittorio’s father Mario in 1993, as they felt he was the calming influence on the board. Once he has departed, the owners got ideas above their clubs station.

The first big sale was their talismanic striker Gabriel Batisuta to Roma, then followed Rui Costa, Toldo, Repka as they had a complete fire sale to try and make back some of the money they lost, but it just wasn’t enough. They had debts of US$50,000,000 and could not pay anyones wages. The owner tried to raise money to keep the club afloat but the debt mounted could not be sorted to sustain the club. With no star players and their only big player left (Enrico Chiesa) out for the season with an injury, they we’re relegated in 2002, followed by judicially controlled administration in June of that year.

This meant they we’re denied entry into Serie B that same season, and Mr Cecchi Gori was blamed for the Tuscany sides fall from grace. Something that Craig Whyte needs to remember, that fans can forgive - but they won’t forget. But in his case, I’m sure they won’t forgive either. Fiorentina ended up in the worst case scenario that Rangers could face, the reformed team known as Associazione Calcio Fiorentina e Florentia Viola was placed in Serie C2, the Italian fourth division. A former Champions League team was now playing with provincial sides in and around Tuscany - utter humilation. Something that Rangers could be facing in a matter of weeks.

But this is where Rangers need to take heed and learn that it might be dark times now, but it is always darkest before the dawn. The new Fiorentina was owned by Italian shoe entrepreneur Diego Della Valle and began their journey back up the leagues. They retained Viola legend Angelo Di Livio and thanks to 30 goals from striker Christian Rigano, they easily gained promotion to Serie C1. They then gained a stroke of luck. Thanks to the bizarre circumstances of Caso Catania (another interesting footbal finanical story) they skipped that league and went straight to Serie B. They then also managed to buy back the old Fiorentina name and shirt design, and renamed themselves at ACF Fiorentina.

They then completed their pheonix-esque comeback by finishing sixth in Serie B in 2004, and winning the relegation/promotion play-off against 15th placed Serie A side Perugia 2-1. They went from nothing to back in the big team in two seasons. Remarkable. So, the Newco Rangers side have a great template to follow, and they can put the Whyte era behind them, and hope that Charles Green is their Della Valle.

The comparisons are scarily accurate between the two clubs. Both big spenders and regulars in Europe, reduced to rubble by an inept businessman and poor decisions. But Fiorentina turned that negative into a postive and are now a regular in the top-half of Serie A, with players like Juan Manuel Vargas, the highly coveted Stefan Jovetic and former Manchester United prospect Adam Ljajic

So you see, it might be dark times for Rangers and its fans, but this could be the making of the Scottish Club. The fans may be blue for now, but if they think viola, it might get them back into the black.