Saturday, 1 September 2018

THE SARTORIAL ELEGANCE OF SERIE A: FIORENTINA - 1988-90







In 1980 construction magnate Flavio Pontello assumed control of Fiorentina and appointed his son, Ranieri, as president. Within a year they’d changed the club’s badge and struck a deal with the clothing company JD Farrow’s to sponsor the kit, which was not the done thing back then. The new circular emblem comprised of half a fleur-de-lis (a stylised lily, or giglio) appended to the letter F, taking on the appearance of a halberd, and was displayed in the middle of a red-trimmed shirt, occupying a fair proportion of it, with the club’s sponsor transcribed above.
Fiorentina’s new look was not popular, but when Pontello & Son started investing in actual players opinions softened. In 1981-82, the club finished Serie A in second place and would probably have won the championship had a goal not been controversially disallowed against Caligari in the last game of the season. Thereafter Fiorentina’s form was inconsistent: in 1983 they placed fifth, in ‘84 third, and in ‘85 ninth. Meanwhile, Ennerre had taken over as kit supplier and set about reducing the size of the club’s inflated crest, while also accommodating car manufacturer Opel as the team sponsor.
1985-86’s strip could itself be considered iconic. The red trim was discarded and the badge moved to the more usual position over the left breast. This made room for Ennerre’s wonderfully minimal (green) insignia on the right, while the sponsor was set against a white band that wrapped around the trunk of the shirt. Fiorentina managed a respectable fourth place that term, although it’s worth pointing out that they drew 13 of their 30 matches, which wouldn’t now place them quite so high (at the time, two points were awarded for a win, inflating the value of a drawn game). Moreover, their top scorer was the defender Daniel Passarella, prompting Inter to divest Fiorentina of the player’s services.
For what would be club captain Giancarlo Antognoni’s final year at the club, Ennerre handed over shirt making responsibilities to the their subsidiary brand, N2 (or 'Ennedue'), to be sponsored by the non-alcoholic aperitif Crodino. N2 reverted to issuing purple shorts, rather than white, and Fiorentina finished a disappointing ninth, although new signing Ramon Diaz impressed with 10 goals and Nicola Berti was looking like good value after his transfer from Parma in 1985. In 1987, Sven-Goran Eriksson was drafted in as technical director, to be assisted by Sergio Santarini in the role of coach. The managerial partnership coincided with the emergence of Roberto Baggio as a force to be reckoned with after struggling with a serious knee injury the previous season. Fiorentina ended the campaign in eighth place, Diaz scoring seven leagues goals, Baggio six.
The situation for 1988-89 looked precarious. Nicola Berti and Ramon Diaz had both signed for Trapattoni‘s Inter, while doubts still remained regarding Baggio's fitness. Incoming players included defensive-midfielder Dunga, signed from Pisa, and striker Stefano Borgonovo, taken on loan from AC Milan. At the same time, sportswear firm ABM succeeded Ennerre/N2, introducing a micro-patterned shirt utilising subtle shifts in the fabric’s texture [65% polyester, 35% cotton] to make a pattern out of the manufacturer’s logo.
Fiorentina did all right, finishing in seventh place and reaching the quarter finals of the Coppa Italia. Fortuitously, AC Milan went on to win the European Cup and Sampdoria the Coppa Italia, effectively freeing up an extra place in the UEFA Cup, which went to Fiorentina after they defeated Roma in a play-off. Even more auspicious was the fact that Baggio and Borgonovo had formed a very effective partnership – as well as a close friendship – scoring 15 and 14 goals respectively. Or it would have been if AC Milan didn’t then recall their man to provide cover for Marco Van Basten.




For 1989-90, Fiorentina were furnished with white shorts and purple socks. It is this iteration of the ABM strip that is by far the best. Local rag La Nazione took over as sponsor, their uppercase, serif-font emblazoned in yellow (yellow being the complimentary colour of purple). This being the end the 1980s, the shirt was neither tight nor overly baggy and could flatter a variety of physiques. Finally, the red parallelograms that constituted ABM’s logo complemented the simplicity of the giglio, as well as making its presence felt against the whiteness of the shorts.
Fiorentina replaced Borgonovo with Argentine striker Oscar Dertycia, as well as bringing in Czech midfielder Luboš Kubík, winger Renato Buso, and defender Giuseppe Volpecina, among others. The results were mixed. On the one hand Fiorentina only just avoided relegation after beating Atalanta in their final game. On the other they reached the UEFA Cup final, controversially losing to Juventus 3-1 over two legs; Fiorentina were forced to play their home leg in Avellino, despite having played the rest of their European campaign in Perugia, which was far closer to home (Stadio Artemio Franchi was undergoing refurbishment prior to the 1990 World Cup and judged unfit for European competition). Nonetheless, the images of Roberto Baggio and the rest of the team, resplendent in purple and white, are some of Fiorentina’s finest.




ABM hung around for another year but reverted to issuing purple shorts, as well as adding white trim to the neck-line. In 1991, Lotto took over, and all was lost. Not only did the white shorts go for good but so did Pontello’s giglio. In an era where clubs re-design their insignias with mild regularity, one can only hope it might one day make a return.

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