The 2013/14 season was tipped to be Fiorentina’s return to prominence, and for all intents and purposes it started off that way. Guiseppe Rossi inspired La Viola to an impressive 11 wins and only four losses in their first 18 matches, scoring 14 goals in the process. His subsequent knee injury sidelined him for effectively the remainder of the season, and Fiorentina missed out on a Champions League spot by eight points.
This season they had nothing promising to look forward to. Rossi tore his MCL before the season started, offers were flying in left and right for Juan Cuadrado and newly acquired striker Mario Gomez suffered an injury that would sideline him for months. They only managed to secure three wins in their first 10 matches, scoring a measly 10 goals in the process. Things just weren’t going right for the uninspiring Viola until late November when they began scoring goals in droves. A 0-0 draw with Juventus in December boosted confidence and suddenly things started to click. The loss of Cuadrado to Chelsea was then softened by the arrival of a certain Egyptian winger.
Mohamed Salah has been an outcast during his time with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. The season before his move to Stamford Bridge he had single-handedly knocked the Blues out of the Champions League, becoming a sought-after commodity in the process. His move to London has been unfruitful, however. His young career was stagnated by occasional appearances from the bench and rare starts in league cup matches. His loan to Fiorentina seemed like a win-win for both parties, especially considering Chelsea had just snatched up Cuadrado. It’s a little early to say whether or not Salah is Fiorentina’s savior, but since his arrival he’s made an instant and significant impact.
Statistics can be misleading, but in his seven matches for La Viola he’s scored six goals and assisted one. They are yet to lose a match he’s played in and Salah’s brace against Juventus in the Coppa Italia handed Juventus their first home defeat since Bayern Munich won in Turin in 2013. He’s four years younger than his predecessor Juan Cuadrado and has a whole lot more to prove. His determination to shine is evident every time he steps on the pitch and as of now he’s only gone 115 minutes in that famous purple shirt without scoring or assisting a goal. His lightning-quick pace, deadly left foot, passing ability and clever movement makes him arguably more dangerous than Cuadrado.
His immediate impact has been praised by head coach Vincenzo Montella, who hinted that Fiorentina did much better than Chelsea in the swap.
“Who did better out of the Cuadrado exchange? Fiorentina earned a lot of money and, on the pitch, they are similar players,” said Montella.
Striker Mario Gomez was also eager to heap plaudits on the speedy winger. “We’re still a team that likes to impose our passing game on opponents but with Salah we have another weapon; quick counter-attacks. And you saw that against Spurs,” the German said.
Salah doesn’t offer the versatility that Cuadrado does, as the Colombian frequently operated as a fullback in addition to a forward role, but his impact has been almost immediate. Fiorentina were unbeaten in six matches before Salah’s arrival and with him they have extended that run to 13. La Viola sit one point below third place Napoli, whose inconsistent form could see Salah’s invigorated side usurp them and claim a coveted Champions League playoff spot. At this rate it seems very likely that Fiorentina will banish the ghosts of seasons past and return to the biggest stage in Europe, either via third place in Serie A or by winning the Europa League.
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