- Associated Press - Thursday, May 3, 2012

ROME (AP) - A day after firing Fiorentina coach Delio Rossi for slapping player Adem Ljajic during a substitution, the club announced Thursday that manager Vincenzo Guerini will take over the team and its started disciplinary procedures against the player.

The Serie A banned Rossi for three months _ even though he has no club. Guerini will coach the team for the final two matches of the season.

Rossi slapped Ljajic in the face after the Serbian forward protested his first-half substitution Wednesday during a 2-2 draw with Novara. Ljajic had put his thumb up to ironically applaud Rossi for the substitution. The coach fell into the bench area while assaulting him and was pulled away when it appeared he was lining up a punch.

“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 altercation, and police said no criminal report had been filed.

“There are no excuses for Rossi’s reaction, which is a complete disgrace to everyone in football,” the Serbian football federation said in a statement.

However, the federation added that it did not approve of the 20-year-old Ljajic’s gesture, “because players always have to accept coach’s decisions, and he should have done so in a more professional manner.”

Former Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi weighed in on the controversy on Tgcom24.

“It was a deplorable act, but it’s the consequence of the environment,” Sacchi said. “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’s hard-core “ultra” fans applauded Rossi after the slap 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 is tied for 14th place with two rounds remaining in Serie A.

“Fiorentina is 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 behavior 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.

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