Rome - Fiorentina coach Delio Rossi's physical assault of one of his own players sparked outrage on Thursday, and the club announced that club manager Vincenzo Guerini will take over the team for the final two matches of the season.
Video: Manager attacks his own player
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. Rossi was not expelled from the match.
"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 realise 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 on Thursday that they have started disciplinary procedures against the 20-year-old Ljajic.
Fiorentina's hard-core "ultra" fans applauded Rossi after the incident and insulted Ljajic with racist chants, resulting in Fiorentina being fined $20 000 by the league.
A veteran coach who had previously led Lecce, Atalanta, Lazio and Palermo, the 51-year-old Rossi replaced the fired Sinisa Mihajlovic in November but was unable to turn the Tuscan club's season around. Fiorentina are tied for 14th place with two rounds remaining in Serie A.
"Fiorentina are struggling, they were losing, the tension was really high, but what happened is unacceptable," said veteran coach Carlo Mazzone. "A manager cannot and should not put his hands on one of his players. A young kid probably overreacted, but at 20 that happens. Anyhow, I'm shocked because Rossi is an expert coach and his behaviour until now has been exceptional."
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.
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, and police said that no criminal report had been filed.
"Delio Rossi made a mistake. He gave in, and I don't justify it, but I think players need to be educated," Milan vice president Adriano Galliani said. "Rossi's reaction was out of proportion, but players need to accept a manager's choices.
"They can't mock him, use curse words and applaud sarcastically when they're substituted," Galliani added. "You've got to understand that there's a huge amount of emotional stress on the pitch and sometimes you make mistakes."
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.