Fiorentina will not stand in Cesare Prandelli's way if he decides to accept an offer to coach Italy. Prandelli is under contract with Fiorentina for a further year but has an offer from the Italian football federation to replace Marcello Lippi as national team coach after the FIFA World Cup™.
"We saw our future with Prandelli," Fiorentina vice-president Mario Cognigni told the club's official website. "Then last Wednesday (Italian football federation president Giancarlo) Abete called (Fiorentina president) Andrea Della Valle. Once we got the call, it was very difficult but we gave our okay. Neither the club nor the coach had had prior contract with the federation until then.
"It would not have been fair to say no to him for two reasons: first, it is a sign of respect towards our highest football body; secondly, because of the gratitude we feel towards Cesare. To coach Italy is everyone's dream. You cannot deny a coach that choice or tell them not to consider such a prestigious offer. We gave him the choice with absolute calmness of either accepting the national team offer or continue with our project. Prandelli is confused but happy with the offer he has received."
Giving Prandelli the choice of whether to stay or depart was not an easy decision for Fiorentina executives, considering the impact the coach has made since arriving from Roma in summer 2005. He transformed the 'Viola' from relegation strugglers into a team worthy of a UEFA Champions League spot in his first season in charge.
Despite the 15-point deduction handed to Fiorentina for the match-fixing scandal, Prandelli was able to guide the team to a sixth-place finish in Serie A in 2007. The following year, he steered Fiorentina to a fourth-place finish and qualification for the Champions League group stages. After the departure of Carlo Ancelotti from AC Milan to Chelsea last summer, Prandelli became the longest serving manager in Serie A.
"We will miss him a lot," said Cognigni. "A place in the presidents' box at the Franchi Stadium will always be available to him. I don't want to say goodbye to Cesare, only arriverderci. I hope he wins a World Cup and then returns to us after four years. We will wait for him."
Abete confirmed this week that he will announce Lippi's successor before Italy travel to South Africa on 6 June. Fiorentina are expected to confirm Serbian coach Sinisa Mihajlovic as Prandelli's replacement. Mihajlovic parted company with Catania earlier this week.