Who knew that Fiorentina fans would be dreaming about the scudetto just a little more than a year after they feared relegation? But after a surprisingly great last season and exciting transfer dealings this summer, that's exactly what Viola supporters are hoping for. There are still some uncertainties about this team, however, and with much higher expectations than last year, it remains to be seen if Vincenzo Montella's purple army can repeat or even better their performance of 2012-13.
This is the story you all know, but in short - low expectations, spectacular football, almost a dream finish. Fiorentina were 10 minutes away from that dream finish, third place and Champions League football. Still, last season cannot be described as anything short of wonderful. It was a successful in more than one way: not only is Fiorentina back in Europe, but the supporters regained the enthusiasm lacking in the seasons after Cesare Prandelli left.
A lot of players left viola, and few more might before the end of transfer market, but without a doubt the biggest name to leave is Stevan Jovetic. After five years in Florence, JoJo's departure wasn't unexpected, but the destination was. Most expected he'd go to arch rivals Juventus, but they weren't ready to pay the €30m asking price, so Jovetic is now at Manchester City. It is a bit strange, perhaps, that Jovetic's transfer left fans practically indifferent, but on the other hand, the tiresome telenovela dragged on for far too long. It helped that viola brought in a couple of pretty exciting signings.
Luca Toni was a surprising signing last season, brought in after Fiorentina failed to sign Dimitar Berbatov, to the skepticism of both fans of the club and football fans in general. A few years had passed since Toni's peak, but the world champion showed that he still has what it takes. He scored 8 goals in Serie A, making him the club's third goalscorer behind Stevan Jovetic and Adem Ljajic. He left for newcomers Hellas Verona, where he continued in the same rhythm, scoring in summer friendlies and the Coppa Italia.
Emiliano Viviano's story is a sad one, as the lifelong Fiorentina fan only spent a year playing for the team he loves. The goalkeeper spent some time on the bench last season, but the main reason he didn't stay at Fiorentina is the high asking price set by parent club Palermo. Viviano is now back in Sicily, but may change clubs before transfer market closes.
Romulo, an unspectacular but hard working and versatile Brazilian, joins Luca Toni at Hellas. He didn't play much at Fiorentina, making his transfer potentially a much bigger catch for Verona than a loss for Fiorentina.
Mattia Cassani came to Florence from Palermo a few years ago as one of the best right backs in the league, but failed to show his quality in the viola shirt. The former Italian international spent last season at Genoa on loan but is now a Parma player. He'll be joined there by Felipe, who won't be missed by anyone in Florence, with his €9m cost making him one of the worst Fiorentina signings in recent memory.
Giulio "Vin Diesel" Migliaccio, a real soldier on the pitch, had a good season despite spending most of it on the bench. but whenever he did play he did what was expected of him - interrupt opponents, commit small fouls in the midfield etc. Migliaccio is now an Atalanta player.
Haris Seferovic certainly didn't leave much of a mark in viola, but his six months on loan at Novara were a great success, earning him a move to Spanish side Real Sociedad, where he's off to a bright start.
Mario Gomez. Virtually no one expected a striker of such high quality to come to Fiorentina. The German international won 3 trophies in his last season at Bayern Munich, and even though it was known that he would leave Bavarian capital, it was a real surprise that he signed for viola. That more than 20,000 fans came to his presentation at the Artemio Franchi shows how big a deal this signing is in Florence.
Josip Ilicic is one of those players that can make you realize why you love football in one game, then a week later frustrate you. His inconsistency is his biggest problem, and the €9m spent to bring him in from relegated Palermo means he'll be under pressure to perform regularly. It remains to be seen how will he be used, as he doesn't seem to fit in the system, but Montella is a great man manager and he should be able to get the best from the Slovenian.
Joaquín Sánchez is perhaps the most underrated signing of this Serie A transfer window. He isn't that young anymore, and he wasn't paid a lot, but he is a player of immense quality. His signing forces Juan Cuadrado to stay alert in order not to lose his starting spot to the to ex- Malaga, Valencia and Betis player. Yet the two can also co-exist, as Joaquín can play on the left side or even in the center.
Massimo Ambrosini, the AC Milan legend, didn't extend his contract with the rossoneri. Director of sport Daniele Prade, counting on Ambrosini's vast experience and quality making him a good alternative for the midfield, quickly procured the veteran's signature.
Little known to some Italian football fans, Marcos Alonso nevertheless has potential to be a solid signing for Fiorentina. The left back is a product of Real Madrid's cantera and signs from Bolton Wanderers.
Alexander Yakovenko is a versatile Ukranian player signed from Anderlecht. The forward can play on the left or right, representing a valid alternative to Cuadrado, Joaquin, Ilicic and Adem Ljajic (if he stays at the club)
Gustavo Munua, most recently at Levante, has spent more than decade as a reserve keeper with various La Liga clubs. He will fill the same role with the viola.
Finally, he's not a new signing, but he's perhaps the most important cog in the machine: Vincenzo Montella renewed his contract until 2017, securing of the best young coaches in Europe for Fiorentina.
Keep an eye on
Giuseppe Rossi. He's basically a new signing, having joined the team in January and playing just a few minutes last season, in the final round against Pescara. His signing was a risky one for Fiorentina, after his long layoff due to injury, but it is a risk worth taking. Pepito is an amazing player who, if healthy, could be one of the best forwards in Serie A.
The pressure this season will be much greater than the last.. Losses in two friendlies, against Villareal and Sporting Lisbon, might be seen as a warning for fans not to get their hopes up. But this Fiorentina side possesses a lot of quality and many expect them to at least equal their performance of last season, securing a Europa League spot. Depending on how the Adem Ljajic saga ends, Fiorentina might even be the best of the rest (behind Juventus).