At this point the Cesare Prandelli era, which many of us still remember affectionately, seems like ancient history. Today we start to look at what some former Fiorentina legends, almost-legends, and potential trivia answer subjects are up to these days, starting with a bunch of regulars from the Prandelli era, many of who are still active in football but near the end of their careers. I take a look at Marco Donadel, Mario Alberto Santana, and Adrian Mutu.
Who can forget Donadel, the hard working defensive midfielder equally famous for occasional bad decision making and ridiculous, out of nowhere, long range goals? Donadel was one of many former Parma players reunited with Prandelli in Firenze, where he was a regular starter for six years.
After slowing down during the forgettable Mihjalovic year, Donadel became one of many Fiorentina players to find their way to Napoli, where he was considered a bust who made only four league appearances between 2011 and 2013. In 2013, he was loaned to Hellas Verona in Serie B, where he once again found himself starting and contributed to their second place finish, leading to Verona's return to Serie A.
Verona was unwilling to meet Napoli's asking price however, and without a contract, Donadel became one of numerous Italian players to go on trial with the Montreal Impact of Major League Soccer (MLS), who signed him in 2015. At 32 years old, Donadel recovered from a rough start to become the Impact's first choice defensive midfielder, and has recently started to play like one of the best in his position. And yes, he still is capable of ridiculous goals like this.
I recently had the luxury of seeing Donadel live when I went to NYCFC vs. Montreal. Donadel was easily one of the stand-out players, virtually nullifying Andrea Pirlo for most of the game. He still managed to frustrate Impact fans with some horrendous decision making however, including being responsible for NYCFC's first goal by conceding a (in my opinion, soft) penalty to David Villa. Some things never change.
Mario Alberto Santana
Unlike another Santana, the original Fiorentina "Super Mario" hasn't had a smooth transition into the twilight of his career.
Mario Santana was a polarizing player for Fiorentina. The ultra skilled but inconsistent Argentine winger would compete for time with the more limited but harder working Franco Semioli and later Marco Marchionni, and would alternate between a starter and supersub between the the time he was signed from Palermo in 2006 to when he departed in 2011 (for who else but Napoli). Although injuries and inconsistency nullified his effectiveness, at his best, he was a game breaking talent.
Santana was one of the few players to arguably improve under Mihajlovic, before falling off the face of the earth at Napoli. After two mixed loan spells at Cesena and Torino, he was signed by Genoa, where he once again failed to impress. After another disappointing loan spell at Portugal's Olhanense (his first experience out of Italy in 12 years), he spent last season at Frosinone in Serie B, who he helped win promotion. With his loan over, the 33 year old Santana's future remains uncertain.
Arguably the most talented (and clutch) player of the Prandelli era, Fiorentina only was able to acquire a player of Mutu's ability in the prime of his career due to the relegation of Juventus after calicopoli in 2006 and because bigger clubs were scared off due to his drug-related suspension at Chelsea the year before.
The ups and downs of Mutu's Florentine adventure between 2006 and 2011 are now well known. He spent the first few years forming a brilliant partnership with Luca Toni and later Alberto Gilardino, paving the way for the club's regular finish in Italy's top 4 back when that still meant something. The 08/09 Mutu and Gilardino pairing finished the season with 33 goals, one of the top ten single season strike partnerships in club history.
By 2010 injuries made Mutu less and less reliable, and the desperate Mutu once again failed a drug test, allegedly due to a diet pill taken. Mutu was banned for 9 months and suspended for breach of contract by Fiorentina after that, effectively ending his often magic career in Firenze on a low note.
Out of contract in 2011, Mutu signed for Cesena, where he had a mostly ineffective season before having his contract terminated the following summer. He then signed for Corsica's AC Ajaccio, where he was most famous for claiming he would score more Ligue 1 goals than Zlatan. This didn't happen, but he did score 11 goals in 26 league games before slowing down in his second year, resulting in in the termination of his contract on January 14, 2014. The same day, Mutu returned to Romania, signing with Petrolul Ploiești for half a season.
Mutu was in discussion to become the marquee player of Pune City FC, the Fiorentina co-owned club in the newly founded Indian Super League, however Mutu chose to stay in Romania to take care of his mother, announcing that he retired in January of this year.
Retirement was short lived however, as Mutu announced in June that he would sign with Pune City after all, replacing the newly retired David Trezeguet. The 36 year old Mutu joins fellow veterans Didier Zokora, Tuncay Sanli, and possibly Fernando Cavenaghi on what should be a significantly stronger side, coached David Platt, former England captain and Manchester City assistant coach under Mancini. It will be nice to see Mutu in purple again.