Although I started this series as a way to pay tribute to long serving Fiorentina veterans, and to figure out what they are up to, I also remain curious about some of the more infamous busts that briefly put on the venerated purple shirt. Did they find success elsewhere?
Due to the economic reality of Fiorentina, most club failures tend to be low risk bargains that simply aren't good enough for Serie A. While some may say the Mario Gomez signing turned out to be a disaster, we are far removed from the days of big name flops such as Brian Laudrup, Diego Latorre, and Maricio Santos, although since bankruptcy we have seen some high profile loans to Fiorentina such as the infamous Adriano. Beyond that, most failures were always budget long shots, like Santiago "El Tanque" Silva, the Uruguayan striker whose successful career in Argentina simply doesn't translate to Europe.
However, a few players stand out in just how incompetent they were. This edition will focus on those guys.
When Keirrison was purchased by Barcelona for €14 million in 2009, he was hyped as the "new Romario" due to his seemingly natural poaching ability. In 2008 he was the youngest top scorer in Brazilian league history with Cortiba, and was off to an equally prolific start at Palmeiras before his big move to Barcelona. It turned out to be the high point of his career.
There was no space for him right away at Barcelona (rumors suggest he was purchased as a bargaining chip to pry David Villa from Valencia; negotiations however failed, although Villa would join the Catalan powerhouse a year later), and teams such as Roma and Monaco allegedly fought to sign Keirrison on loan. He was eventually loaned to Benfica...where he had no place on a striker loaded team, and spent half a year doing nothing of interest.
In winter 2010, Keirrison was again loaned out to Fiorentina, with an option to buy. While his stock was falling rapidly, there was still excitement for a player not that far removed from the new Romario hype, especially for a team desperate for goal scorers. Instead of the next great Brazilian finisher, we got a poacher without the natural positioning ability or opportunism needed to actually score goals. Keirrison only scored 2 goals for Fiorentina, and while they were important goals against Inter and Lazio, he showed nothing else.
Fiorentina declined his option, and Barcelona spent the next few years loaning Keirrison out to various Brazilian sides. Between Santos, Cruzeiro, and Coritiba, he was slightly less hapless than he was at Europe, but remained at best a mediocre option who somehow lost all the goal scoring magic that defined his early career. After his loan at his former youth club Coritiba ended, they signed him permanently on free transfer in 2014. Since moving back to Brazil, he has never scored more than 3 goals in a season, and only starts in a handful of games.
A product of Argentina's Belgrano, Bolatti is a classic Argentina #5 in the image of Fernando Redondo and Fernando Gago, although his elegant style has failed to lead to much for his career, and his time in Florence will not be remembered fondly by anyone.
After 4 years at Belgrano, who he lead to promotion to the Argentine Primera in 2006, at the age of 22, Bolatti moved to Porto upon the recommendation of Lucho Gonzalez. He returned to Argentina on loan in 2009, and at Huracan was named the best player of the 2009 Clausura. Porto however sold his rights to a third party entity as part of the shady dealing around Radamel Falcao's signing, and in January 2010 he was sold to Fiorentina for €3.5 million, a move that I was excited for at the time.
Bolatti was never able to find momentum in Serie A however, and despite occasional signs of promise, he mostly looked slow and clumsy, too much of a liability for the holding midfielder role and without enough creativity to play further up. In his one year at Fiorentina, he is mostly remembered for seriously injuring his friend Stevan Jovetic during training. Bolatti's clumsy tackles extended to training, and Jovetic, probably the club's best player at that time, ended up missing 6 months of action with a cruciate ligament tear.
Bolatti never recovered favor after that, and was sold to Brazil's Internacional in winter 2011. After one promising year he faded, and he was loaned to Racing Club in Argentina for 2013, and then Botafogo back in Brazil the next year, with decent results at the latter.
After his contract expired in winter 2015, Bolatti proceeded to do nothing for half a year, before finally returning to Belgrano in June 2015 after eight very up and down years. He made his debut this August, and has 1 goal in 3 games in the Argentine Primera this year.
This one goes back to Fiorentina's first season back in Serie A after bankruptcy. A product of Real Madrid's youth system where he broke Raul's goal scoring records, Portillo was supposed to be the future of Los Merengues' forward line, a role he looked natural for after scoring 5 goals in 10 games in only his first year on Real Madrid's first team.
However, this being Real Madrid, he remained behind more high profile superstars even after that promising start, and in 2004 was loaned to Fiorentina, back in Serie A after a few years in the wilderness following the club's revival. He scored 1 goal in 11 games, and then returned to Madrid that winter under orders of new coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo, where he proceeded to warm the bench.
The following year, Portillo was loaned to Club Brugge in Belgium. The next year, 2006, Madrid signed Ruud van Nistelrooy (they already had Raul, Ronaldo, and Antonio Cassano under contract), and Portillo, once the golden boy of Madrid, was released. Portillo signed with Catalan minnows Gimnàstic de Tarragona, where he was successful with 11 goals (the most of his La Liga career), but not enough to help Gimnastic avoid relegation.
Portillo then moved to Osasuna in 2007, replacing fellow Madrid product Roberto Soldado. His three years in Pamplona were a flop, and he never scored more than 3 goals a year. He moved to Hercules in the Segunda Division, where he was not prolific but was clutch at the end of the season, helping the Alicante side get promotion to La Liga for the first time in 13 years. The next year, he was a reserve player behind new signings David Trezeguet and Nelson Valdez, and did nothing of note as Hercules was immediately relegated.
Since 2011, the now 33 years old Portillo has made his career as a perfectly adequate Segunda Division striker, first with Las Palmas, and now back with Hercules. In La Liga, he is remembered as an infamous flop. For Fiorentina, his legacy is smaller, but he was one of the many justifications for the myth that Spanish players cannot play in Italy. After Portillo, other Spaniards would continue to disappoint in the other peninsula. Eight years after Portillo's failure, another Real Madrid castaway would sign for Fiorentina, this time with enough success to pave the way for an exodus of Spanish talent to Serie A.