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Aapo Virtanen: Don’t Look Back In Anger

Started on 6 November 2018 by Jack
Latest Reply on 5 September 2019 by Justice
A very busy window for Aapo. Some very promising signings in Venturelli, Zapata and Frankel who i am interested to see in Aapos side in the coming years!

ACF Fiorentina have today unveiled their home and away kits for the upcoming 2024/25 season - their first season back in the Champions League since 2015.

La Viola unveiled their home strip having the main dominant colour being the traditional violet colour. However, unlike previous years there is a red vertical stripe going down from the left shoulder, bound by two smaller white stripes either side of the larger white stripe.

The away kit is a dominant white colour with a violet and purple gradient of hexagons going from the neck downwards.

The kit is manufactured and distributed by French producer Le Coq Sportif who have manufactured Fiorentina’s kits of the past. Fiorentina’s main sponsor this season is Japanese electronic giants Sony who are said to have paid a substantial amount of money into Fiorentina’s accounts to sponsor the team this season in both Serie A and the highly televised Champions League.

The squad numbers for upcoming season have also been picked and announced by Aapo Virtanen as they accompany the kit in their release to the public so fans can have their favourite players embedded onto their new shirts.

Nikola Boskovic replaces the outgoing Koen Casteels as the Fiorentina number one as he wears the number given to him at Oulu by Virtanen. Rostislav Hora is also given his previous AC Oulu number of six handed to him by then-and-now-manager Virtanen.

Leonardo Venturelli dons the number two shirt this season meanwhile the left-back Vanni Vezzosi takes up the number three shirt.

Davide Merola finally takes hold of the well-deserved number nine shirt from Miguel Borja who left the club earlier this summer to join Sporting CP for €5million. His record of 14 goals in 18 games earned him the starting striker number, meanwhile new back-up striker signing Alberto Cerri takes the number 19 shirt.

Suprisingly, Florence-born 16-year-old Massimiliano Scanu, a defensive midfielder who featured frequently in the Under 18s last season has taken the number 23 shirt this season which could imply that he will be involved in first-team proceedings this coming season.

LFCFan: This window had huge significance as thanks to the Vignato money coming in, I was able to fully transform the first-team squad into my own image and build on the January window rather than still be inheriting the average players I had when taking over from Mandorlini.
Some beautiful looking kits! Lets hope we see them lifting some silverware come the end of the season!
Frenkel looks like a frighteningly good player! A lot of young players coming in, you must be planning a long stay in Firenze!
Some huge signings there. Although some poor management in over-sighting the fact you can only have two non-EU players. ;) I can see you making good business on some of those players, especially Frenkel as others have stated, but also Bettella and Gibson.

Love that home shirt, can you deliver? ;)

After a preseason involving a visit from FC Barcelona as well as travels abroad to Goodison Park and BayArena, we have finally got the Serie A season off to a start and it would not be unfair to say that Fiorentina are on a blistering run of form at this part of the season. The signings from August have bedded in superbly thanks to getting business done early, giving them time to get to know their new teammates.

With the season beginning in mid-August, we only managed to fit two fixtures in that particular month. Napoli - who came 3rd last season - were our first opponents of the 2024/25 season in which we fought hard at San Paolo to earn a draw from Per-Ola Ljung’s team. Our return to our home of Artemio Franchi was welcomed with a stunning 4-0 victory over AS Roma, with Davide Merola back on the scoresheet for this season, followed by a Carrasco brace.

Our unbeaten beginning to the new season continued straight into September with victories against SPAL 2013 and Torino, with our Czech youngster Rostislav Hora netting in both games to guide us to those particular six points. Our entry into the Champions League group stages began in September as we ended up in a group alongside RB Leipzig, Sporting and 2023 Champions League winners Valencia. We faced Sporting Club over in Portugal in which 17-year-old Mamadou Kanté scored the opener and Alberto Cerri made sure of the win with a goal in the 95th minute to send us top of Group E after one game. With a win versus Parma, we dropped points against Lazio and Juventus - who had previously been blitzing their opponents in the league after spending €40million in the recent transfer window.

In terms of league position, we currently lead the division as we top the league, one point ahead of Juventus in 2nd place. However, the position isn’t as concrete as it may appear, with the entire division bar Napoli and Parma having a game-in-hand on us and Juventus. This could lead to AC Milan overtaking the pair of us to top the league in October. The league table seems to be taking recognisable shape already after 6/7 fixtures apart from Sassuolo at the foot of the table despite finishing 6th last season and qualifying for Europa League football. Perugia are the best performing newly promoted side as they sit in 10th, with Benevento in 15th and Parma in 18th.

With regards to the Champions League group stage, we top Group E level on points, goal difference and goals scored with RB Leipzig after our own 2-0 victory over Sporting Club and Leipzig’s own 2-0 victory over Valencia in the first round of fixtures of the group stage. With five games remaining, the group could be set to switch at any point.

We begin October with a return to Champions League football, playing against Valencia in the second round of Group E fixtures at the Artemio Franchi. Our return to domestic football that month is marked by two away trips to both Atalanta and Brescia Calcio. Our hunt for Group E qualification restarts with another Champions League fixture against Leipzig - currently level on points with us. Newly promoted Perugia and last seasons Champions League qualification rivals Internazionale will round off the month of October.

The beginning of November starts with a visit from Palermo, who currently sit in the relegation spots alongside Sassuolo and Parma. This is followed up by the corresponding fourth fixture of Champions League Group E with the away tie against RB Leipzig. Benevento and Empoli lead up to our penultimate Champions League group fixture against Valencia.

LFCFan: You set me the target of Champions League victory on general chat so I’ve got high expectations from you!
Justice: He certainly looked like he was worth becoming my most expensive signing of the window! I have big plans for Fiorentina, so youth is the way forward for us!
Scott: OK, OK, it was poor knowledge of the system regarding non-EU players, but either way Maddison is worth €28M and upon his return to Fiorentina next season he can either play or be sold for an almighty profit following his return from a high level of football with Feyenoord! Bettella was certainly well discovered given his release clause and his disproportionate ability, meanwhile Frenkel is just Frenkel.
Fantastic start to the season, reflected in your points tally and league position. The Champions League campaign is also off to a bright start, in a group which consists of sides with equal-calibre in Europe I would argue. It will be difficult to predict who will go through, although I suspect Aapo will cruise through in a way only he can do. ;)

Some extremely pleasing fixtures coming up, in which you can aim for maximum points from the majority.

What is happening at Juventus?

After a decade-long spell of domestic dominance in Serie A, Juventus have failed to win a league title in two seasons and after a 5-0 loss to newly promoted Perugia, questions are being asked of what happens next for the club.

Juventus began their spell of dominance domestically in 2011/12 when they took the title off the hands of reigning champions AC Milan with Antonio Conte at the helm. Conte - a former Juventus midfielder who made over 300 appearances as a play - went on to win three consecutive Serie A title before moving onto the Italian national team after Prandelli left in 2014.

Allegri was named in his place on Wednesday morning. It came as an [unpleasant] surprise to many fans. No other coach divides opinion in Italy quite like Allegri even if within the game itself he is held in high regard.

Sassuolo's rise through the divisions started with him. His first season in Serie A began with five straight defeats at Cagliari but concluded with them finishing higher than they'd done in nearly 15 years. It persuaded Allegri's peers to vote him Coach of the Year ahead of a certain Jose Mourinho.

Then at Milan he duly delivered the Scudetto in his first season. At the time, only one coach in Serie A history had achieved that feat at a younger age [Mancini]. He broke Inter's five-year dominance at the top of the league. For the first time since 2004, the year Milan had last won the title, they did the double over their rivals in the Derby della Madonnina.

Allegri failed to repair broken relations with Andrea Pirlo, who he released at Milan due to his high wages. Regardless of player relations, Allegri was an undisputed success with Juventus.

In the eight years and 249 days he spent at the Allianz Stadium of Turin, he won every single Serie A title, five TIM Cups and reached two Champions League finals in 2015 and 2017 but finished runner-up to Spanish opposition on both occasions.

Allegri left Juventus in March 2023 to take over from José Mourinho at Manchester United. Allegri left Juventus at the top of Serie A at the time of his departure but after a poor five-game spell from caretaker manager Paolo Beruatto, Juventus found themselves fall from a comfortable table-topping position into battling to retain what could have been their 11th consecutive Scudetto.

President Agnelli appointed Marcelino manager in April with ten league games remaining to recover their position at the top of Italian football. The Spaniard had been out of football for four months following his resignation from the Spanish national team after winning the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in December 2022. Their replacement for Allegri only managed to win five out of the final ten fixtures, handing the Serie A title to Napoli who ran away with their first league title in 33 years.

Last season was a closer contest as Marcelino began preparations for his first full season in charge of Juventus after only leading the club for one month the previous season. Renato Sanches became the marquee signing as Juventus got off to a superb start in the league as they only lost one Serie A game before January.

Juventus were wary that after Napoli had driven the division wide open last season, Milan were closing in this time and Maurizio Sarri made sure Juventus felt the heat all the way through. Juventus led the division under Marcelino for the very large majority of the season, however, on the last day Juventus lost to Torino meanwhile Sarri’s Milan defeated Cagliari with relative ease, passing the title onto Milan for the first time since Allegri’s victory in 2011.

Marcelino was sacked by the Juventus board after failing to retrieve the title from Napoli last season and former France and PSG manager Didier Deschamps has been placed in charge of the club this season.

In light of Juventus’ recent failures, fans were shocked to see that their summer spending was being dwarfed by the likes of reigning champions Milan, Fiorentina, Internazionale, Napoli - and even Atalanta. Fans and pundits alike have issues with the fact that Juventus have failed to sufficiently deal with the retirement of Cristiano Ronaldo this summer, with Stanislav Lobotka being their main signing this summer, joining for €24million from Real Madrid, Deschamps has suffered for lack of investment so far this season.

It is possible that people are judging Deschamps’ Juventus far too early with ten games into the season but the 56-year-old has the second-lowest win percentage of all post-1950 Juventus managers with a 36% win rate - second lowest to Sandro Puppo’s 1955-57 reign when Juventus finished 7th and 12th.

After a 5-0 hammering by the newly promoted Serie B runners-up Perugia Calcio, Juventus now sit in 6th place. With the emergence of Napoli, Milan and now Aapo Virtanen’s ACF Fiorentina posing significant threats to Juventus’ superiority over the Italian top division, it could be a while before we see the Old Lady win a domestic title again.

Scott: I agree, you couldn't argue that we have had a poor couple of months there. The CL group stage has been surprisingly kind to us too, in contrast of what I had to deal with at AC Oulu in terms of draws! Exciting times ahead!
Juventus are certainly not in a good place and a revival is certainly needed. Questions will be asked of Deschamps, which could be justified given his current win percentage. The Old Lady are a club who demand immediate success and anyone who cannot deliver it will be deemed a failure. Sadly, not everyone can have Aapo in charge. ;)
Impressive update once again, great insight on a once dominant force. It will be interesting to see if Juve are able to turn it around and push for similar success, however with Aapo at Fiorentina I cant quite see it happening :D

After a superb beginning to the season, we continued our impressive form into October as we remained top of the league at the end of November. We managed to get through the bulk of Champions League group stage fixtures in these two months, leaving no more group fixtures after we finish the month of December 2024.

The month of November got off to a great start with our second win in the Champions League in two games as a Valencia own-goal and an Alberto Cerri header finished off the La Liga side at the beginning of the month. Despite a draw against Atalanta in our first Serie A fixture, we made up the lost points with a fabulous performance against Brescia in which we won 4-1 as Rostislav Hora struck first against Luca D’Angelo, before a Davide Merola brace finished them off. Perhaps our main challenger in the Champions League, RB Leipzig came up next and we drew with them in October despite Hora’s early opener at Artemio Franchi. Our month ended with consecutive wins against Perugia and Internazionale as Andy Frankel bagged his first Serie A goal and Davide Merola scored in both games.

In November, Palermo were our first opponents in the Serie A as Davide Merola once again got his name on the scoresheet with the only goal of the game as the 24-year-old led us to a 1-0 victory. The corresponding Champions League fixture versus RB Leipzig followed with the same score as before as the game finished 1-1 over in Germany. A disappointing draw to Benevento - a team in the relegation zone - came afterwards before an even more disappointing loss to Empoli. The loss to Empoli was the first loss we had suffered since my first ever game in charge of Fiorentina where we lost 2-0 to Lazio on Boxing Day in 2023. The unbeaten run of competitive fixtures had lasted 41 games from the end of December 2023 through to mid-November 2024. Nevertheless, the disappointment from earlier in the week transferred into revenge with an outstanding 5-1 demolition job against Portuguese outfit Sporting Club in the Champions League. The month ended with a 1-1 draw against AC Milan on 30th November with Mattias Svanberg bagging his 2nd goal of the 2024/25 campaign.

In terms of league position, at the end of November we top the Serie A once again, but with Roma breathing down our necks with a game-in-hand and being level on points heading into December, that is subject to almost immediate change. The rise of Roma has come as a shock to some, with most predicting a Europa League finish at best following 11th and 8th placed finishes in the most recent years.

Juventus made a good comeback after a shocking 5-0 loss to newly promoted Perugia early on in October, with wins against mainly mid-table sides restoring some form of confidence in the bruised team. However, fan confidence is at a modern-day low after being knocked out of the Champions League in favour of Shakhtar Donetsk and Liverpool qualifying for the last 16. Lazio rounds off the top four, with both Milanese sides in 5th and 6th.

2022/23 Serie A champions and predicted title-challengers Napoli have tumbled even further down to 15th after finishing September in an already lowly 12th place. Despite still having a chance of progressing into the Champions League last 16, serious questions are being asked of the gaffer Per-Ola Ljung on the basis of domestic performances despite rounding off November with two consecutive 4-1 victories against Benevento and Zenit St. Petersburg.

Sassuolo lifted themselves from the foot of the table to rise into 12th place, meanwhile Parma replace them at the bottom of the table on only 7 points with just two wins against fellow strugglers Benevento and Napoli to their name so far after being promoted from Serie B last term. Perugia, Sampdoria, SPAL and Benevento are all beginning the scrap for survival in the relatively early stages of the season, with only three points splitting 19th and 16th place.

In the Champions League, we have successfully confirmed our qualification for the next round of fixtures with one game remaining in Group E. With this peace of mind, we can send RB Leipzig into the next round with us in December as long as we either draw or defeat Valencia in our return fixture against the 2022/23 Champions League winners.

With the last two months covered, it’s time to look ahead of our next upcoming couple of months, including the New Year of 2025 ahead of us. December begins with a Serie A fixture against Sassuolo, who have risen from the bottom of the table after a recent good spell of form. Our final fixture of the Champions League group stages will take place at Nuevo Mestalla against Valencia - who need to win against us to stand any chance of qualifying for the last 16 of the competition. My one-year anniversary at Fiorentina will hopefully be celebrated with a Boxing Day win against 7th placed Cagliari.

Our TIM Cup adventure will begin with our first game in January as we enter the first round against either Udinese or Bologna (TBC). Serie B side Bologna will be looking for redemption against us as we have taken two of their best players from them during my reign in the form of Mattias Svanberg (€2M, Jan 2024) and Alberto Cerri (€7M, Jul 2024). Our initial involvement in the TIM Cup will be shortly followed by an opportunity for us to bag our first silverware of the season as we take on Milan in the Supercoppa TIM Final, with Milan qualifying on the basis of being the Serie A holders and us being involved after beating Milan in the final of the TIM Cup last season. A key fixture would potentially be the January match-up between ourselves and current 2nd-placed AS Roma in the league as long as both clubs keep up their momentum that has got us both into such high-flying positions against all odds. We finish the first month of 2025 with games in the Serie A against SPAL 2013 and Torino.

Scott: They have gone seriously downhill since Allegri left for Man United a few years back. Their managerial appointments and transfer activity since then has seriously let them down in the past few seasons, and it is looking to be going along the same lines once again this season.
LFCFan: The slow and arguable demise of Juventus has been a huge positive for the rest of Italian football as after ten years of one-club dominance, Serie A has seen two different clubs win the title in two consecutive seasons. The Serie A has really opened up and is absolutely available to win for any team showing any form of aggressive ambition, which Juventus has been complacent in in recent years.

Boxing Day in 2024 marks the first anniversary of Aapo Virtanen’s arrival as manager from Veikkausliiga champions AC Oulu. To honour a remarkable year of Fiorentina’s turn of fortunes with Virtanen, we take a look at his achievements.

With six years under his belt at AC Oulu’s Raatti Stadion, Aapo Virtanen turned what was a struggling and relatively new club in Finnish football following their 2002 merger into a good force in European football to some extent.

His first season at Oulu saw him take the club into the Veikkausliiga in 2018, before converting them into the top-flight champions just two years later in 2020 when Oulu won the domestic double. Virtanen went on to win three more back-to-back Veikkausliiga titles as well as two more Suomen Cup wins.

In Virtanen’s first attempt at Champions League football in 2021, he took Oulu from the first qualifying round to make Oulu the first Finnish club to reach the Champions League group stages since Helsinki’s 1998-99 appearance in Group F. The season straight after in 2022, Virtanen took Oulu one step further to the last 16 - the first ever Finnish team to do so in the competitions current format.

Following his astonishing back-to-back domestic titles and European achievements, Fiorentina paid Oulu €625,000 for their manager’s services on the sixth anniversary of his arrival at AC Oulu, and just one month after taking the Finland national team’s managerial post.

Virtanen’s first fixture as Fiorentina manager was certainly a rough beginning to proceedings, as he lost 2-0 to Lazio on Boxing Day 2023, with La Viola languishing in 13th place in Serie A. The final fixture of 2023 saw Virtanen win his first game as Fiorentina manager as Yannick Carrasco scored to win 1-0 against Atalanta.

Virtanen’s first transfer window opened just 6 days after his arrival in Florence. This was lucky for the Finn as he had prepared a huge overhaul of the playing squad in conjunction with the director of football Carlos Freitas and assistant manager who he brought with him from Oulu, Thomas Jorgensen.

January 2024 saw Virtanen sign his Oulu #1 Nikola Boskovic for €1.8M to become his first-choice goalkeeper at Artemio Franchi, with other notable signings being Amadeu Neves from Deportivo Alavés as well as Davide Merola from Internazionale. Merola, signed for €2.4M, went on to bag Fiorentina Champions League football in 2024/25 with his unbelievable goalscoring record of 14 goals in 18 Serie A appearances.

Before the end of the 2023/24 Serie A campaign, Virtanen won his first piece of silverware at Fiorentina as his partially revamped side defeated the eventual Serie A winners Milan on penalties, with his loyalty to Nikola Boskovic paying off as he saved Jules Koundé’s decisive penalty for the Rossoneri.

Things went from good to even better just one week after his first cup win. On the last day of the Serie A season, Fiorentina snatched Champions League football away from the hands of Internazionale. Despite drawing to Atalanta in a dull 0-0 fixture, Inter failed to beat the already relegated Frosinone and Fiorentina bagged the 4th spot on goal difference only.

The summer transfer window brought a full personalisation by Virtanen to be implemented on the Fiorentina squad. Keeping the likes of Yannick Carrasco and Vanni Vezzosi, Virtanen changed the face of the entire team. With funds streaming in from the €70M sale of Emanuel Vignato to Real Madrid, La Viola added 13 more players to their team between July and August. With the likes of Davide Bettella and Andy Frankel joining, along with another Oulu player in Wilson Gutiérrez, Fiorentina became a force to be reckoned with.

From picking up the job in December 2023 in 13th place, Fiorentina began the new 2024/25 campaign all guns blazing. After a 2-0 win over Parma in late September, Fiorentina topped the Serie A table for the first time in years and have not dropped out of contention since. With the demise of Juventus’ dominance in full-flow, Virtanen has capitalised by showing ambition and shrewdness in the transfer market.

With the likes of Davide Merola consistently firing goals in and Boskovic conceding the least goals in the division, Fiorentina have been extremely hard to stop, with only Empoli standing in their way so far this season by defeating them.

In Europe, their first appearance in the Champions League since 2015 has begun immensely as the group stage ended with Fiorentina topping a group involving RB Leipzig, Sporting Club and recent Champions League winners Valencia.

At 5PM this evening, the referee whistled for full-time in Aapo Virtanen’s 50th competitive game in charge of Fiorentina, and he was rewarded with a 2-1 victory over Europa League hopefuls Cagliari. He finishes his first 365 days in charge of Fiorentina in 3rd place, just two points behind the league leaders AS Roma in what has been a marvellous turnaround and Fiorentina on course for one of the club’s best finishes in over 25 years.

With the Italian Supercoppa coming up against AC Milan in January, it is an opportunity for Virtanen to win his second piece of silverware as Fiorentina manager after his TIM Cup victory in 2024 as he continues the violet revolution.
Good work from Aapo, as we have come to expect. That loss against Empoli will be a disappointment, but it marks the end of a terrific run - which only highlights the genius of the Finnish boss. Merola has been excellent and seems to be pivotal to the success this season with his goals, once again. It's tight at the top, to say the very least and consistency will need to be maintained if Fiorentina want to surprise Italian football and lift the Serie A title at the end of the season. Excellent work to secure progression in the Champions League, too.

To maintain such a great win percentage over 50 games shows how Virtanen has positioned himself as one of the games elite managers. He has certainly improved this Fiorentina side and signings such as Merola have shown this, coming in for such a measly fee but playing some world-class football. His price-tag must be so much higher now. It's only a matter of time before he adds to his trophy cabinet in Italy.
Top of the league, Aapo's Ace Application. The real AAA battery.

Under the leadership of Aapo Virtanen, Finland have been promoted into the UEFA Nations League B Division after going undefeated in the C Division Group 4 this year.

Finland began the Nations League’s inaugural season in 2018 in the C Division until their promotion in 2020 ahead of the likes of Bosnia & Herzegovina and Romania. Their first ever year in the B Division sent them straight back down as both Iceland and Austria overpowered them, but Finland only went down by two goals more conceded.

This year has seen Finland competing against FYR Macedonia, Turkey and Ukraine in the Nations League Division C.

After a rocky start back in September with two consecutive draws against the favourites Ukraine and Turkey, the Finnish public still had their doubts about their national side. A 2-0 win and a 1-0 win against Macedonia and Turkey respectively eased these tensions as Finland took top spot in Group 4.

Another 2-0 win against Macedonia in the final group match ensured a return into the B Division of the UEFA Nations League with goals from Azzedine Rahmani and Rasmus Karjalainen. Finland finished top of the group but just one point ahead of Turkey, meanwhile Macedonia were relegated after failing to gain a single point in the entire campaign.

Aapo Virtanen already masterminded a route to the European Championship final in 2024 as they eventually came to lose to France in the final thanks to a late Antoine Griezmann goal. Finland had beaten the likes of Croatia and Spain to reach the final as they overachieved massively in their first ever major international tournament in the country’s footballing history.

With the promotion being welcome news to Finnish football supporters around the country, the nation’s World Cup qualification group has also been announced for the 2026 World Cup which will be hosted by the U.S.A, Canada and Mexico.

The main threat to Finland’s potential qualification will be Germany who won the World Cup for a fourth time all the way back in 2014. Another threat is Norway, but the rest of the group appears to be relatively harmless with Macedonia and Belarus making up the numbers in Group 8.

Scott: Our run seemingly lasted forever and Merola has played a huge part in that particular success. I feel like I have spent money wisely in the transfer windows that I have had and completely transformed the Fiorentina squad into one of my own image, which is only to my benefit.
Justice: Much better than Duracell, I’ll tell you that.

A huge thank you for the second month in a row to all my readers who voted for my story in the Story of the Month poll in the past week! It’s hugely appreciated and I hope you all keep enjoying my work with Finland and Fiorentina.

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