The Netherlands of Players
Rui Costa is one of the rare few loyal and cool tempered players to step foot on the green field. The Portuguese legend ended his career as one of the most underrated players in history winning as few trophies as a player of his caliber is supposed to. The reason was loyalty, which is a rare characteristic in regular people let alone football players. His loyalty was evident throughout his career. He left Benfica in 1994 due to club financial troubles at the age of 22 (after 13 years from joining the club youth system). I witnessed Costa playing his best years at Fiorentina becoming part of the most feared due in Serie A with Gabriel Batistuta in the late 1990s. Costa had to leave another club he felt for in 2002 when Fiorentina was Bankrupt and could not refuse a then record transfer fee by Milan. After Batigol's departure to Roma and Rui Costa transfer rumors in 2000, I was left alone with horrible management and my fellow fans boycott attending matches. His loyalty was demonstrated once again in 2006 by looking to sign only for Benfica after reaching a mutual contract termination agreement with AC Milan accepting a huge payday cut. His career as a footballer ended in Benfica as he wished for but continued as a director for the Portuguese club signing players that eventually brought the silverware home in 2010-11 season.
His cool head and amazing sportsmanship could only be conveyed through his actions. There is no better action to describe here except for Coppa Italia winning night against Parma when on of my friends managed to get on the field, hit the floor running and jumped on Rui Costa in celebration. The authorities confiscated my friend, I felt like jumping in behind him but it was too late. He was already rescued by Rui Costa himself and lead back to my side at the stands relieving him from whatever Italian prisons have to offer.
Il Divino Codino
The pony tails free kick specialist who caused full scale riots in Florence by signing to a then world record transfer fee to Juventus in 1991. I joined the riots, I was furious. Baggio was doing great at Juventus but sooner or later he had to come back and look me in the eye. He came back looking ugly in black and white. It was a long stare between him and me, ended with Roberto winning a penalty against my teammates. To my surprise, he refused to take it and it was saved. I was having mixed feelings; the score was 1-0 in our favor. Roberto was substituted and some of my bitter friends threw bottles at him. I threw a viola scarf right in front of him; he bent over to hold it and took it with him. At that moment I knew, that part of his heart was still purple.
Arguably the best player to sign and play for Fiorentina since the 1960s if not all times; Gabriel Batistuta. We spent 9 amazing years together through highs, lows, trophies, relegation, records and tears. My words can never do this one justice.
Brian Laudrup: "I was watching him in training for the first couple of days and he was one of the worst trainers I'd ever seen...His technique was lousy, his shots were going wide - but then he scored ten goals in the first five or six games and I realized what a player he was"
14th May 2000, was the last match day of 1999-2000 season. Batistuta was set to make his move to Roma in the summer. Two goals stood in his way to become the club's Serie A highest goal scorer. Batistuta, the fans, the players and I said goodbye to each other with tears after he broke that record scoring a hatrick against Venezia accumulating 168 goals through his spell with Fiorentina in Serie A.
Costa, Baggio and Batigol left me so they can win trophies. They were right to do so and I cannot be any happier for either of them. The subject comes to mind because it has been so many years since a felt the presence of a future legend and possibly a loyal one on my grounds. Who is it going to be that I reminisce about in ten or twenty years from now? Am I going to remember him for leaving or for winning titles by my side? Will my displays protect new trophies from the cruel dust by the end of this season or do I have to wait longer? Is the Scudetto a forbidden dream for me? Who is that legend going to be anyway; Valero, Neto, Gomez, Rossi or maybe Wolski? When is it going to be my time? The time that I, Fiorentina; emerge victorious.