This summer, Viola Nation readers will write about the most important players to play for Fiorentina throughout history. To start, I will take a look at one of the stars of the 55-56 Scudetto winning side, Italian-Argentine forward Miguel Montuori.
While Fiorentina as a whole has had a very up and down history, we have been spoiled by seeing some truly world class forwards don the purple kit; in recent history alone we have had finishers like Batistuta, Toni and Gilardino, and support strikers like Baggio, Mutu, and Jovetić. Of the latter group, older Fiorentina fans will claim none of these guys were as good as the unexpected star Montuori.
The son of an Italian fisherman who emigrated to Argentina, Montuori was born in Rosario and played in obscurity in the Racing Club de Avellaneda system until, as a breakout player for Universidad Católica in Chile, he lead the Chilean side to their second title in 1954. He was spotted by an Fiorentina supporting Italian priest, Father Volpi, who recommended him to club president Enrico Befani.
Despite such a legendary origin, he arrived in Firenze in 1955 to skepticism, only to settle in as the second striker and "#10" what was probably the finest team Fiorentina ever produced, Fulvio Bernardini's 1956 scudetto winning side.
While Bernardini's Fiorentina was built around a spine of talented but gritty Italian players, today it is mostly famous for the two South American playmakers who served as the team's creativity and flair. Quick dribbling inside-right Brazilian midfielder Julinho was voted the club's best player of all time in 1996, but equally important was the other playmaker who played in front of him, Montuori.
Nicknamed "Michelangelo" in an obvious allusion to another famous Florentine, Montuori was a skilled, inventive dribbler with natural goal-scoring ability, forming a deadly trident with Julinho and the team's primary finisher, the bulldozing Giuseppe Virgili who complimented his more skilled teammates with his strength and courage. In that first season, Montuori scored 13 goals in 32 games, second on the Serie A champions after Virgili's 21. In the three seasons together before Virgili moved to Torino, Montuori would score 39 goals and Virgili 40. Montuori would continue to lead Fiorentina for another 3 years, scoring 72 league goals in total.
Another interesting fact: Montuori's first goal for Fiorentina came in the 4th week of the season, the opening goal in a 0-4 demolition of Juventus, which remains a club record against the Old Lady.
Montuori and Fiorentina would go on to be Serie A runners up for the next four years, as well as runners up in the 56-57 European Cup (the second year of the tournament's existence). Montuori would play for the Italian national team, becoming the only Oriundo to ever captain the side. Unfortunately this Florentine golden age was overshadowed by Il Grande Milan and a Juventus team lead by an even more famous Argentine Oriundo, Omar Sívori in Italy, and in Europe by the Real Madrid lead by another Argentine, Alfredo Di Stéfano. Montuori's only other two major trophies with Fiorentina, a Coppa Italia and Cup Winners Cup would come in 1961, and tragically he would be unable to celebrate this.
In spring 1961, Montuori suffered a severe head injury in a match against Perugia, resulting in him losing consciousness on the field and damage caused to his eyes and brain. After three months rest and numerous surgeries Montuori's vision was saved, but he suffered paralysis of the left side of his body, forcing him to retire from football at 28, still in his prime.
Although by 1962 he had rehabilitated enough to return to public life, he was unable to find consistent work at a newspaper and later as a youth team coach, and after a few more medical procedures, he returned to Santiago, Chile with his family (his wife was Chilean). In 1988, after falling into poverty, he was invited back to Florence by other former players, who convinced him to return there permanently. The Florentine commune got him a job as a librarian, and later he served as a scout for an amateur club until his death.
He died at the age of 80 in Florence. Today Montuori remains tragically forgotten outside of Firenze, and while he played in an era where little was recorded so most of us will never get to see his talent first hand, I hope by writing this Montuori can be remembered by other English speaking football fans.
Full name: Miguel Ángel Montuori
Birth: September 24, 1932 in Rosario, Argentina
Death: June 4, 1998 in Florence, Italy (Age 80)
Height: 173 cm
Weight: 72 kg
Position: Forward, Midfielder
Played for: Racing Club, Universidad Católica, Fiorentina
- 1955-1956: 32 games, 13 goals
- 1956-1957: 30 games, 14 goals
- 1957-1958: 30 games, 12 goals
- 1958-1959: 27 games, 22 goals
- 1959-1960: 27 games, 9 goals
- 1960-1961: 16 games, 2 goals