Why Fiorentina's rivalry with Juventus is so bitter, from Roberto Baggio's exit to losing Dusan Vlahovic

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Most clubs in Italy would consider themselves bitter rivals of Juventus due to some historical injustice. Everyone has tale of a "robbery" committed against them by the Bianconeri throughout the years, though few are as personal, damaging and unrelenting as Fiorentina's.

While Juve fans will admit they, too, hold a dislike for La Viola, this is generally a very unbalanced rivalry in which one side takes and the other is always forced to give. Fiorentina have won 10 major trophies in their history, with the most recent arriving 2001, while Juve have won the same amount in the past six years alone.

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The latest bitterness came in January when Dusan Vlahovic, Fiorentina's star player -- and a target for several of Europe's biggest sides -- opted for a move to Turin over the Premier League. The move came just 18 months after Federico Chiesa, one of the stars of Italy's Euro 2020 triumph, had also crossed the divide -- while three years before that transfer Federico Bernardeschi, another member of that Azzurri side, made the same switch.

Fiorentina's U.S. owner Rocco B. Commisso has faced major criticism from fans for his role in Vlahovic's departure to Juve, with ultras displaying a banner depicting Commisso as a clown from Florence's famous Ponte Vecchio.

Commisso came in promising to make big changes with Fiorentina fans openly frustrated with his predecessors, the unambitious Delle Valle brothers. However, since his arrival, Commisso has overseen the transfers of the club's two main superstars to their most bitter rivals.

It's difficult to say exactly when this historic rivalry began, but many will point to Fiorentina's anger at the circumstances which allowed Juve to pip them to the Serie A title on the final day of the 1981-82 season.

Way before the 2006 Calciopoli scandal (where Juve were relegated after being found guilty of attempting to select and influence referees along with other clubs, including Fiorentina), the idea that referees in Italy looked upon Juve favourably was rife in Serie A.

Fiorentina felt they had a strong claim when, with the two sides level on points going into the final match of the season, they had what they viewed as a perfectly good goal ruled out during their 0-0 draw with Cagliari. Meanwhile, Juve's opponents that day, Catanzaro, had a strong penalty shout turned down before the Turin giants were awarded a more controversial spot kick. Liam Brady tucked it away to claim a 20th league title and, in doing so, a second star on their shirt.

That, in many ways, set the scene for what was to come just eight years later in 1990 when, just weeks after Juve had beaten Fiorentina in a two-legged UEFA Cup final, superstar Roberto Baggio was forced to leave Florence for Turin in a then-record transfer deal worth $10.83 million. As rumours of a switch to Juve grew, Baggio had made it clear the move was not his preferred choice. On the day the transfer was made official, the headline in Gazzetta dello Sport read: "To Juve by force, not for love." Meanwhile, fans rioted in the streets of Florence, with up to 50 injuries reported as well as nine arrests. Owner Flavio Pontello was forced to lock himself in the Artemio Franchi stadium as fans showered the club's headquarters with bricks and Molotov cocktails.

Baggio's return to Florence on April 6, 1991 was a seminal moment in Italian football as he refused to take a penalty against his former club: his teammate Luigi De Agostini took the kick instead, and it was saved by goalkeeper Gianmatteo Mareggini. Later in the match, Baggio was substituted and as he walked off, he picked up a Fiorentina scarf and wore around his neck in the dugout. Scores of Juve ultras demanded an explanation from Baggio over his refusal to take the penalty when they arrived at the club's training ground, and his justification was that he feared his former goalkeeper would have known his penalty methods too well.

While Juve continued to dominate Italian football through the 1990s, things went the other way for Fiorentina, who were declared bankrupt and briefly ceased to exist in 2002. They were reborn as AFC Fiorentina Viola and started again in Italy's third tier after they were bought by clothing magnates Diego and Andrea Delle Valle. By 2004, they were back in Serie A and soon became regular challengers for a Champions League spot. Following Juve's relegation to Serie B following the Calcipoli scandal, Fiorentina were able to hold off interest from Juve in their best players.

In the late 2000s, Stevan Jovetic was the latest star at Fiorentina and just days before his 20th birthday, he made headlines with both goals in a 2-0 victory over Liverpool in a Champions League group match. He'd also scored a crucial goal against Sporting CP to qualify for the competition, and netted another brace in their 3-2 win over Bayern Munich in the round of 16 that saw them eliminated on away goals.

While the club continued to transfer its best players -- Jovetic joined Manchester City in 2013 despite heavy interest from Juventus -- they at least ensured their stars stayed out of the clutches of their most hated rivals. But it became clear towards the end of the 2010s that the Delle Valles had lost their enthusiasm as Fiorentina stopped being Europa League regulars and became annual battlers against relegation.

Their position was untenable when they decided to let academy product Bernardeschi, who had been likened to Baggio and was even handed the famous No. 10 shirt, join Juve in the summer of 2017 for €40m. Naturally, he scored in a 2-0 win on his first return to Florence amid a barrage of insults from an angry home crowd.

Commisso bought the club for approximately €160m in 2019 and the American arrived with big plans and ambitious promises. However, as the club's on-pitch struggles continued -- Fiorentina finished 10th and 13th in the past two seasons, failing to get beyond the Coppa Italia quarterfinals -- he committed the ultimate sin of offloading two star players to Juve in quick succession.

Bitter it may be, but this is as one-sided a rivalry as you will find in Europe. For Fiorentina, Wednesday's Coppa Italia semifinal is more important than the final. To knock Juve out would spark wild celebrations, street parties and roads painted in violet. For Juve, it would be another match. Perhaps, to put it cruelly, a scouting mission for future transfer targets.