2025-26 SECOND HALF : NOT THERE JUST YET
Seemingly on top of the world and facing little competition in Italy, it looked like Fiorentina’s road back to the top was wide open. The Football Gods sometimes have something else in mind, but that doesn’t mean I Viola aren’t still working their way up in the game.
MATCH(ES) OF THE SECOND HALF
Champions League (H) : Fiorentina 5(5) - Barcelona 0(0)
Jesse Marsch would start to be a familiar villain in Florence, and this time around wouldn’t be any different. The Barcelona manager would profess confidence heading into this game and many felt that Barcelona were finally in a better place now that they had taken La Liga for the fourth year in a row. Their fanbase were no longer happy with the league and demanded a Champions League trophy, which Fiorentina denied them in the final last year, but Vincenzo Montella and company would prove to be a difficult roadblock.
A Jadon Sancho and Talles Magno attack would make Barcelona look dangerous, but all they did was look the part. Abdou Fall would start the scoring just 13’ into the game on the end of a wonderful Daniele Albano cross from outside the box that would find the winger crashing at the far side of the goal area. Fall merely had to put his foot out to send it crashing into the net and start a terrible night for the visitors. Hélder Lavado would turn an annoying lead into a dire situation at 21’ after heading in an Albano free kick to make it 2-0. Barcelona were successful at keeping possession, but really couldn’t manage anything series against a crushing Fiorentina midfield. Ilaix Moriba and Houssem Aouar looked lost against Fiorentina’s double pivot with Franck Blanc delivering crunching tackles and Albano seemingly unstoppable with the ball. Their failure to contain Albano would prove fatal in the first half and mute their chances in the second. Xabier Agirre would head in (2) corners near the end of the half, both off Albano’s foot, and Barcelona would head into the locker room with their heads down and a 4-0 deficit.
Marsch was likely over-confident of their ability to turn things around at Camp Nou and it didn’t take long to see that Barcelona were just trying to get out of the second half alive. They spent quite a bit of time on the ball in their third and struggled to be positive offensively, Talles Magno and Sancho left the game a little after the 60’ mark as the game moved further out of reach. Agirre would complete an improbable hat trick on a corner at 60’ to help him edge Albano for PoM honors. It’s a shame Albano didn’t get the recognition, his game was so impressive as he basically single handedly ripped Barcelona apart. (9) key passes went along with his (5) assists, his key passes total was (1) less than both teams combined excluding himself. A 5-0 hole and no away goals would basically be a death knell for Barcelona.
Champions League (N) : Fiorentina 0 - Manchester United 1
A tepid 1-1 draw at Camp Nou would punch Fiorentina’s ticket to the final behind held in Amsterdam at the Johan Cruyff ArenA. Opposite I Viola would be Thomas Tuchel and Manchester United, another familiar foe who has been on the wrong end of Montella in recent years. Last season Fiorentina topped them in their group and outscored United 8-1 across (4) games, including a Champions League semi final series. Heading into this game Fiorentina had won all but (2) games across all competitions, a 0-0 draw with Milan and the 1-1 draw with Barcelona were the only exceptions. That goal scored by Barcelona was also the only goal allowed since a 4-1 win over Bayern Munich in mid-March, things were not looking good for the Red Devils.
Fiorentina were slight favorites to win on betting markets, but the media was pulling for United. Most pundits had picked the English side to win and Tuchel came prepared to do it, he would go with a 4-1-2-3 formation in an attempt to take advantage of a formation that once caused Montella trouble. Portuguese youngster Nelson Lázaro would be deployed in the anchor man / destroyer role with Mateo Kovacic and youngster Lejdi Isufi forming a more defensive minded midfield. Pedrinha and Albano would have their hands full going forward and I Viola might need to depend on the wings more than they would like.
Perhaps it was the pressure, or perhaps it was Albano leaving the game at 33’ with a pulled calf, but Fiorentina just couldn’t get things going. Tuchel’s approach worked very well and once Albano went out it got even better. Mauro Luciano came on for Albano but he couldn’t manage to get around Lázaro who was right there to knock him down whenever he touched the ball, Blanc had to take over and he just doesn’t have the touch of Albano. Things got very dark for I Viola at 42’ when Sebastiano Esposito scored off a Max Aarons cross that Robert Cannata should have cleared. Cannata didn’t step up to clear the ball and Esposito slipped between him and the ball to send it into the net, earning him an earful from Maximo Fazio. An angry Montella followed an angry squad into the break, but all of that anger did nothing for them. Of all the times to lay an egg, today was the worst possible, a team that normally posts ratings in the 8.00 range across the board could only muster (2) performances above 7.0 will Aarons had his way with the right side of the field. Fiorentina had only been shut out once all year, so the frustration in being unable to pull even was understandable. Montella could be seen making his players stay on the pitch as the final whistle blew, with red and black confetti streaming down and a chorus of ‘Glory Glory Man United’ filling the arena Montella made sure his team couldn’t duck the shame of playing so poorly.
Well played Thomas, well played…
Montella’s postgame interview was cut short, if you could even say it started at all, when he slapped the conspicuously placed bottles of Pepsi products off the table and stormed out of the room. The only thing he said that might be considered a statement was a string of profanity as he left the room that was not fit to print.
DEFENDING THE CROWN
With Serie A basically in the bag in January most of the attention shifted to the Champions League and Abdou Fall’s assault on Fiorentina’s goal scoring record. The tales of I Viola in Italy would sound like a broken record, but it wouldn’t make it any less impressive. A 7-0 win over Juventus in March would mark their 27th straight win in the league, a 4-0 win over Inter would close out a rough month (Roma, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Inter) but Montella would make it look easy. Fiorentina would finish that run by outscoring their opponents 19-1 and enjoying a little bit of schadenfreude as the 7-0 beating of Juventus would cost Massimiliano Allegri his job. Nobody was surprised when Fiorentina made it official on April 4th with a 5-0 win over SPAL, their 5th straight title came quite easily.
Fall’s rise to Legend status was not nearly as easy, but in the end he would be able to put up one of the best seasons in Fiorentina history. There were some early struggles thanks to a run of injuries to the right backs, primarily the loss of Federico Marino for almost a month, so Fall was forced to play with youngster Fedi Thamri on a regular basis. Inconsistency at LW also made things harder as teams were able to key in on Fall and he wasn’t getting the crosses he needed to score, but things cleared up near the end of the season and Fall would manage to write himself in the club history books. Fall would finish the year with (43) goals across all competitions, passing Luca Toni’s record of (31), on his way to a record tying Capocannoniere campaign. Fall’s (36) league goals would be a whopping (16) more than 2nd place (Hélder Lavado) and put him into a four way tie for most all time with Ciro Immobile, Gonzalo Higuaín, and Gino Rossetti. Fall openly thanked Florentino Firenze and Mohamed Yellès for helping him to the record, the LW-LB to RW connection has been deadly for I Viola. Firenze (18) led the league in assists with Yellès (14) in third just behind Daniele Albano (15).
With the league in hand and a long season of total dominance it seemed like a Champions League repeat was in the cards. That didn’t work out as planned, but losing in the final is nothing to be ashamed of. Despite Montella’s post game reaction he had great things to say about his team, Fiorentina aren’t on a Win-Every-Year tier just yet so nobody is getting fired over a loss. Montella has built a club capable of making the final regularly, now it’s just up to the players to avoid a total collapse like this year.
SECOND HALF AWARDS & PLAUDITS
Fall’s scoring run was a great story for the club and the league, a new record holder for league and club is always special. Fall’s scoring helped him finish with the highest average rating in the league (8.50) which also turned out to be a new Serie A record. It’s no surprise that he would end up with a number of awards and jump to the top of the 2026-27 Ballon d’Or list, repeating his performance next year would be a huge step toward being a serious contender for the award. Fall has at least made it into the consciousness of Europe, he would win the Best Player in Europe award over teammate Albano and Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva.
Champions League Dream Team
Best Player in Europe : Abdou Fall - (43) goals / (9) assists
European Golden Shoe : Abdou Fall
Best Player in Europe : Abdou Fall - (43) goals / (9) assists
Champions League Golden Boot : Hélder Lavado - (12) Goals
Champions League Best GK : Maximo Fazio
Champions League Best Defender : Xabier Agirre
Champions League Best Midfielder : Daniele Albano
Champions League Best Forward : Hélder Lavado
Serie A Best Player of the Year : Abdou Fall
Serie A Best Young Player of the Year : Daniele Albano
Serie A GK of the Year: Maximo Fazio
Serie A Defender of the Year : Florentino Firenze
Serie A Midfielder of the Year : Abdou Fall
Serie A Striker of the Year : Hélder Lavado
Bundesliga Player of the Year : José Carlos - (12) Goals / (16) Assists
As mentioned earlier, the month of January wrecked the RB depth chart. Mamadou Kanté (calf strain) and Federico Marino (twisted ankle) would both be ruled out for (4) weeks. Marino also brought Lazio’s Christian Oliva with him as both injured a foot / ankle in a collision. Hélder Lavado would also get bit by the injury bug with a pulled thigh but he would make it back just after a week out. February would be really emotional for the squad as Kanté, just back from a calf strain, would damage his cruciate ligament in the same leg and be ruled out for at least (6) months. The injury would open the door for Smoke Monday to take up the second squad starting slot and bring Fedi Thamri up from the U-20 squad, everyone is hoping Kanté can return to form next year. March would thin out the wingbacks even more with an injury to Gérard Michel that would knock him out for (3) weeks. April did a real number on the LB position after the Football Gods had their way with the right side, Florentino Firenze (ankle ligaments) and Francis Itou (sprained knee) would be out for (2) and (6) weeks. Montella would need to dust off his boots at this rate, but the U-20 squad provided enough talent to get through it all. May had the last laugh as mentioned previously, Daniele Albano would pull a calf against Manchester United in the Champions League final and lose (3) weeks of his vacation. Overall the team did well compared to other Serie A squads, but the injury to Kanté would likely stretch into next season as many fans hope his career won’t suffer too much.