Fiorentina Serbian midfielder Adem Ljajic sits on the bench during a Serie A soccer match at the Artemio Franchi stadium in Florence, Italy Wednesday, May 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Fabrizio Giovannozzi)
Updated: Thursday, 03 May 2012, 8:21 AM EDT
Published : Thursday, 03 May 2012, 8:21 AM EDT
ROME (AP) — Fiorentina coach Delio Rossi's physical assault of one of his own players sparked outrage Thursday, and the club announced that club manager Vincenzo Guerini will take over the team for the final two matches of the season.
Rossi was fired for slapping Adem Ljajic in the face after the Serbian forward protested his first-half substitution Wednesday during a 2-2 draw with Novara. The coach then had to be pulled away as it appeared he was lining up a punch.
Meanwhile, the Serie A banned Rossi for three months — even though he has no club now.
"It was a deplorable act, but it's the consequence of the environment," former Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi told Tgcom24. "The football system lives on excess and when everything is excessive reactions become that way, too.
"We're living in complete abnormality and we don't even realize it," Sacchi added. "Football here is social survival and you've got to win at any cost, even with cunningness and deception. And if you live in a powderbox, eventually it explodes."
Fiorentina also announced Thursday that it had started disciplinary procedures against Ljajic.
The 59-year-old Guerini has formerly coached Fiorentina's youth squad. He's also a former Fiorentina player whose career was cut short by an auto accident at 22.
Rossi replaced the fired Sinisa Mihajlovic in November but was unable to turn the Tuscan club's season around. Fiorentina is tied for 14th place with two rounds remaining in Serie A.
It is the 19th coaching change in the 20-team Italian league this season. The previous Serie A record for changes was 15 in 1951-52. Ten clubs have changed managers at least once, with Cagliari leading the way with three firings.
"It's the most painful decision of my career," Fiorentina president Andrea Della Valle said. "Rossi was provoked but nothing justifies a reaction like that. It's a decision I had to make for his well-being. The images speak clearly."
Neither Rossi nor Ljajic have spoken about the incident yet.
The last time a similar incident occurred in Italy came in the 1983-84 season, when Pescara coach Tom Rosati slapped his center forward, Vittorio Cozzella. That incident was cleared up in the changing room immediately after the match, and both coach and player returned the next week with Cozzella scoring.
"It helped me grow up," said Cozzella, now the sporting director of third-division club Ternana.
Cozzella told the ANSA news agency that the decision to fire Rossi was excessive.
"If you fire the manager then you've also got to get rid of the player who provoked the reaction," he said.