‘The moment to show they count again’

‘The moment to show they count again’
Sofyan Amrabat

NOS Football

Both Prague and Florence are turning completely purple today. After far too many lean years, the hunger for European success among fans of Fiorentina is almost insatiable.

At 8 p.m. tonight La Viola in the Czech capital, the Conference League final against West Ham United. Led by ingenious coach Vicenzo Italiano and midfielder Sofyan Amrabat, the club’s recent resurgence should be cashed in.

Because the fact that Fiorentina hasn’t won a prize since 2001 stings. Back then, players like Adriano, Predrag Mijatović and Nuno Gomes won the Coppa Italia. Then began a long period of harrowing drought.


The iconic purple shirt – especially the one with ‘Nintendo’ as a sponsor on the chest – and the memories of cult heroes like Rui Costa and Batistuta continue to capture the imagination of soccer fans worldwide. But in Italy, Fiorentina’s sporting role actually became more marginal by the year.

Fabio Bianchi, who follows the club for the Gazzetta dello Sport, saw the club sink. “Fiorentina is all history. It was the first Italian club to play the European Cup 1 final. That final was lost against Real Madrid because of a penalty that should never have been given. And in 1960/1961, Fiorentina was the first Italian club to win a European top prize.”

Fiorentina coach Vicenzo Napolitano at the Grolsch Veste, where they faced Twente in the preliminary round of the Conference League

The pain of 22 years without a prize was palpable in Florence. A week ago, Fiorentina missed out on a cup win against Internazionale in the final of the Coppa Italia. The Conference League is therefore considered an absolute top prize.

In 2019, American-Italian investor Rocco Commisso bought the club, for between 150 and 200 million euros. He invested heavily and under his leadership, the young coach Italiano of Spezia was acquired in 2021. That turned out to be the beginning of something beautiful.

Under Italiano, Fiorentina definitely rebounded, says Bianchi. “He is praised throughout Italy for his attacking style of play. Italiano makes Fiorentina play soccer in an un-Italian ‘European’ way, with sliding defenders and high pressure. They do often get counters as a result.”

Double coverage

Who manages to defuse a huge number of those counters is Sofyan Amrabat. The Morocco international, who played a great World Cup in December, is the engine of the team. He developed into an absolute mainstay after his arrival in 2020.

His brother Nordin Amrabat says he has grown even further under Italiano. “He is a very interesting man and trainer. Before his arrival, Fiorentina played in a classic Italian way. Now they try to play much more soccer and put high pressure. Sofyan only thrives better with that.”

Sofyan Amrabat gives his shirt to a young fan at the Artemio Franchi

Things didn’t get any easier for Amrabat after he reached the semifinals of the World Cup in Qatar with Morocco. “Opponents have started to take more and more notice of him. He always gets a man on him in almost all Serie A matches now: someone who has to shadow him constantly.”

Still, it is up to the 26-year-old former FC Utrecht and Feyenoord player to take care of the build-up. “Sofyan constantly tries to be on the move. That way he can be played on. He has enough soccer intelligence to play under the pressure.”

Last trick

Nordin Amrabat acknowledges that his little brother will probably play his last game in the Fiorentina shirt against West Ham. The international world top beckons, with clubs such as FC Barcelona, Manchester United and Atlético Madrid keeping an eye on him.

But it is not just for Amrabat that the Conference League final is a final trick. According to Bianchi, there is a good chance that the current attractive squad will fall apart this summer.

“Italiano is a top candidate to succeed Luciano Spalletti as coach of Napoli, Amrabat is going to leave anyway and also tastemaker Nico González is in the interest of big clubs. This is the chance to show with this group that Fiorentina counts again.”

Kayleigh Williams