It should come as little surprise that the nearly-unanimous player of the season for Fiorentina last year should be the first to speak to the assembled media from the Fiorentina retreat. Gonzalo Rodriguez had to shoulder the weight of uncomfortable questions today after a difficult month in the Viola camp, but the central defender did so with remarkable calm and honesty.
The first tricky questions to come were on the firing of Vincenzo Montella and on the beginning of the mercato, and Gonzalo kept it brief; however, the Argentine did not pretend that there wasn't an expectation within the team of the club ownership making new signings to keep the team competitive, despite Montella departing:
"I was very disappointed for Montella and the whole staff, they helped me a great deal. But calcio is like that. Now we have to start thinking at this year and carrying on like the last. The team has changed a bit. Every year we learn new things. Now we have more pressure, because in previous years we have performed very well. We are awaiting important players to continue playing well and to get closer to the cups [meaning trophies]."
Gonzalo was also asked about Paulo Sousa, and he says he has seen a "good [coach]... with a lot of desire and physical determination in his training sessions," but especially emphasized that Sousa and Montella "have the same ideas."
"We can't change much, we have more players with technical gifts than athletic ones. I think the club went seeking for him [Sousa] for this reason."
He was also asked briefly on his fellow veterans. First, after references to the rumors of Savic being on the market, Gonzalo answered that he "has seen him grow a great deal," and that "for the club it is much better if he stays, but it is his decision."
Finally Gonzalo spoke on the whole Mohammed Salah mess:
"I haven't spoken with him, but it's better that players who don't want to stay go to another team. We have players who have stayed that top clubs in Europe wanted, so I have faith."
Gonzalo was also asked about the Copa America, and the success of his teammates Matias Fernandez and David Pizarro against his home country, Argentina: "I haven't heard from them, they know I am Argentine, and on this we don't joke."
It sounds like Viola fans can hope for another top season from Gonzalo Rodriguez, who is clearly focused on the club objectives from the start of preseason, despite the many distractions of the past month.