By Kelvin YapFollow @@plevyakin
Seeing an owner inject cash into a club in an attempt to revive their fortunes is nothing new.
Over the past decades, Leeds, Malaga, Blackburn, QPR, Roma and Paris Saint-Germain (among others) have all seen their owners splash out massive sums to rebuild their team, although the degree of success has varied from relegation and economic oblivion to Champions League finishes.
Fiorentina are one of the teams that joined the above-mentioned list this season with 18 new signings to replace the 21 players that left the club over the summer.
To say that their overhaul has been a success would be an understatement.
At the start of the 2011/2012 season, the Viola were struggling to replicate the Champions League quality football produced under Cesare Prandelli, who left the club to take over as manager of the Italy national team in 2010.
Sinisa Mihajlovic was sacked mid-season to make way for Delio Rossi, but it did little to improve Fiorentina's situation. They found themselves in 17th place in May and the pressure of a relegation battle got to Rossi, who was sacked for physically assaulting Adem Ljajic when the youngster sarcastically applauded him after being brought off.
Fast forward to this season - with a new-look side and Vincenzo Montella at the helm, Fiorentina are in fourth place and mounting a serious challenge for Champions League football next season with a mere three points separating them from third-placed AC Milan.
More impressive is the manner in which they have reached such lofty heights in the league; under Montella, La Viola have been putting up displays of free-flowing passing football and are frequently lauded as the most aesthetically pleasing side in Italy. Only Zdenek Zeman's gung-ho Roma and the dominant Juventus have managed to score more goals than Fiorentina.
Here are some facts to put things in perspective:
Fiorentina have spent only €22m on overhauling the squad that could potentially reach the Champions League at the end of the season.
With a similar amount of money, Blackburn signed eight players, only to be relegated while QPR narrowly avoided the same fate having signed 13 players last season.
To reach the Champions League in one season, Malaga spent €52m on 10 players while Paris Saint-Germain splashed out €108m on 13 players.
What, then, have Fiorentina done right?
The man behind it the scene: Daniele Prade
The wholesale changes at Fiorentina last season weren't limited to the dressing room - former sporting director Pantaleo Corvino was also sent packing and Daniele Prade was drafted in to take over the role.
Despite his fairly anonymous status, Prade has actually 'been there, done that' with Roma in a similar situation when he was appointed as their sporting director back in 2004.
At that time Roma were desperately trying to replace the successful Fabio Capello to little avail, with Rudi Voller and Luigi Delneri both failing to impress during their short-lived stints managing the club.
The biggest challenge for Prade back at Roma was finding the right manager to suit their core of talented players which included the likes of Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and, coincidentally, Montella himself.
The man Prade recruited was Luciano Spalletti, a manager who was making waves in the early 2000s after he brought Udinese from the brink of relegation to European football within two seasons with his trademark attacking football.
Prade continued to support Spalletti in the background by helping the manager sign players like David Pizarro and Mirko Vucinic to suit his famous withdrawn 4-2-3-1 formation.
Spalletti's reign at Roma ushered in a successful era for the club, which included a two straight Coppa Italia win from 2006 to 2007 and runners-up finishes in the Serie A from 2005 to 2008.
Hiring the right manager seems like an easy task, but many owners/sporting directors seemed to overlook the importance of it.
For example, Roma's sporting director Walter Sabatini (Prade's successor) brought in Zdenak Zeman at the start of the season.
Zeman is a well-respected coach who is famous for his attacking 4-3-3 and was credited with developing Totti's career at his previous stint at the club back in 1997, but his time at Roma was fraught with controversy after he insisted that De Rossi had no space in the team.
What Prade is doing at Fiorentina is similar to what he did for Roma - he brought in Montella, a manager who has shown promise, and worked with him to bring in the kind of players he wanted.
The manager: Vincenzo Montella
Montella shone last season when he made his managerial debut at the helm of Catania. Originally tipped to be relegation candidates, Montella's Catania proved doubters wrong with a string of impressive performances and were even outside bets for a Europa League finish at one point of the season.
The 38-year-old's affinity with the open, passing-based style heralds back to his playing days at Roma, where he was known for being a fine all round player with excellent passing and dribbling skills; traits he has clearly imbibed into his managerial style.
What sets him apart from other managers who have a similar ambition to play entertaining football is his ability to recognise players for what they can do, rather than what they have been doing.
A prime example is his approach last season when Catania were struck by a plethora of injuries to their wing backs. Instead of plunging into the transfer market or dipping into the team's reserves, Montella converted Davide Lanzafame, an industrious striker with prior experience as a winger, into a right wing-back.
Compare Prade to Frank Arnesen, the man who was brought in by Roman Abramovich to be Chelsea's sporting director in 2005.
Arnesen's appointment was followed by the signings of big stars like Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack - stars who were brought in according to the wishes of Abramovich, rather than to suit Chelsea's then-manager Jose Mourinho.
One splashed out massive amounts of cash for players that the manager didn't want, while the other worked with the manager to get players suited to his style.
With a clear idea and steady support behind him, Montella's success at Fiorentina is no surprise.
Montella had to build Fiorentina from scratch after the huge clear-out and he targeted players who suited a 3-man defence and possession-based football, rather than those who had a 'reputation'.
First, we look at their vaunted midfield.
Montella combined the two impressive passing-based sides (Roma circa 2007 and Villarreal circa 2009) in his midfield by capturing former Villarreal duo Matias Fernandez and Borja Valero to add to his former Roma colleagues David Pizarro and Alberto Aquilani. The trio of Valero, Pizarro and Aquilani has been the embodiment of Montella's playing philosophy - a reliance on ball retention instead of ball-winning; a choice of passing over tackling; creation, rather than destruction.
In defence, Fiorentina managed to keep Michele Camporese - the 20-year-old who formed a mean partnership last season with Matija Nastasic. Both were comfortable in playing in a 3-man defence, which meant it would have been ideal for them to play under Montella, but the latter was sold to City in exchange for Stefan Savic and an extra €14.8m - an excellent and necessary piece of business. Furthermore, it was only due to injury that Camporese had a limited impact this season - the youngster would be one to watch out for in the future.
Add to that Gonzalo Rodriguez (another former Villarreal man who is adept with the ball at his feet) and the highly-mobile Facundo Roncaglia, Montella had a steady core of defenders who could play in a three-man defence and fit into his blueprint.
Of course, the list goes on (they made 18 transfers, remember!), but it's this core which has allowed Montella to transform Fiorentina into the entertaining side they are now.
A quick glance at the players shows they share a few common traits.
Fiorentina did not splurge to sign them - they were already on the transfer market or came from clubs who were less financially stable.
Montella has also been planning for the future as well. The highly-rated Khouma Babacar has been sent on loan for development while they have added Polish youngster Rafal Wolski to their ranks.
This is what owners looking to overhaul the clubs should look for: value.
Look at the situation QPR found themselves in after signing players with big reputations like Jose Bosingwa, Stephan Mbia and Shaun Wright-Phillips instead of looking for players who fit a particular game plan. They are now saddled with huge wages and unwanted players while on the way to relegation, a huge contrast to Fiorentina's successful season.
Voila, La Viola
It doesn't matter if Fiorentina finish in the top three with Champions League football or if they end up in the Europa League - seen from the lens of last season's woes, their overhaul is an undoubted success.
With many owners mooting takeovers and major cash injections in the footballing world, the least they could do is to look at what the Della Valle brothers have done at Fiorentina and take a leaf out of their book.
Perhaps then fans can be spared the insanity and subsequent heartbreak so prevalent in modern football.