Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Little more than a year ago, Fiorentina were playing in the Champions League and rightly earning admiration all across Europe for their exciting play built upon a team of extremely talented young players. Yet as this season resumed following the Winter Break the team and club were almost unrecognisable from the one that had stood proud in those prestigious ties with Bayern Munich and Liverpool.

The President Andrea Della Valle had stepped down amid the on-going issues over a new stadium complex, new coach Siniša Mihajlović was under immense pressure, ostensibly due to him not being Cesare Prandelli - his fantastically successful and much admired predecessor - and a relegation battle looked far more likely than a return to continental competition.

As a result of all these problems the team was in terrible shape on the field. Robbed of its greatest asset - Montenegrin star Stevan Jovetić, out with a long term injury - the side looked devoid of ideas and starved of creativity. When it appeared change was essential the club backed the coach and made two other key changes were made, the first of which was the return to action of Adrian Mutu, excluded from first XI duties on disciplinary grounds.

The Romanian’s issues are well documented but he remains a supremely gifted footballer who clearly relishes life in the Viola of Florence and his restoration to the line up has vastly improved the side, adding one goal and being involved in a number of others since making his comeback at the start of this month.

While Mutu grabs the majority of the column inches, another player new to the team sheet is Valon Behrami, signed from EPL side West Ham United in late January. In the six games since he arrived back in Serie A Fiorentina have earned eight points, losing just twice and the the winger has been highly influential in this resurgence and is already second in the clubs assist charts behind only Adem Ljajic.

His career has undoubtedly taken a strange path, from humble beginnings at Swiss club sides FC Stabio, FC Chiasso and FC Lugano before his 2003 move to Udinese. The Friuli outfit immediately sold half his rights to Genoa, then in Serie B and they bought out the Zebrette share before loaning him to Hellas Verona.

Another impressive campaign in the second tier would see Lazio buy him outright and his winning goal in 2008′s derby tie with Roma would endear him to fans who enjoy nothing more than winning bragging rights over their neighbours. Just a few months later he would leave for England however with the Upton Park club signing him after he threatened to invoke FIFA’s Article 17 rule to free himself from Lazio.

His first six months in the Premier League went very well, Behrami establishing himself as a first choice right-back and playing to a high standard, much to the delight of his new club. Then in March he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury, ruling him out until the following September. A relapse meant it would be another two months before he began playing regularly again.

Rediscovering that form in Italy has seen the Swiss International thrive under Mihajlović, as yet another player born in the former Yugoslavia thriving in Florence as Panteleo Corvino continues to sign up yet more Balkan talent - a real calling card of the Sporting Director - as a path already trodden by Ljajic, Jovetić, Valeri Bojinov and Zdravko Kuzmanović is now walked by Valon Behrami.

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