Whilst few amongst the Viola faithful will be sad to see the end of what has been at best a tepid season, the 2-2 draw against Pescara last week signalled not only the end of the Serie A season, but the departure of perhaps i gigliati’s finest player of the 21st Century.
Signed by Vincenzo Montella in his first season as Fiorentina manager, the Argentine centre back has been an integral part of the Viola defence since joining. Typically deployed by Montella in the centre of a three or partnered in the middle of a flat back four with Stefan Savic, Gonzalo’s defensive solidity, incredible passing range, and unerring calmness on the ball were key to the successes of the positive, possession-based football that typified the Montella era.
Whilst the rest of the team suffered at the hands of wealthier clubs turning the heads of key contributers who could promise wages that were silly even by the standard of a professional footballer, and an easy route to Champion’s League football, the defence - in particular Savic and Gonzalo’s partnership remained a stable foundation for Montella to build around.
Following Montella’s abrupt departure, and the loss of Savic, Gonzalo adapted to playing under new coach Paulo Sousa, and alongside new partner Davide Astori. In the first season under Sousa, Gonzalo was a pivotal part of the new Mister’s slower and more controlling style of play, which trusted the centre backs to not only defend, but to retain possession, and be the starting point of attacking moves. Whilst the change in style drew its fair share of criticism, the defence conceded their lowest tally of goals in a season since 2008-09, and following the unceremonious departure of Manuel Pasqual, Gonzalo was handed the captaincy.
This season though has undoubtedly seen a decline in Gonzalo’s standard of play, whether it be the weight of captaincy, or 500+ professional games beginning to catch up with him, there have been errors with Gonzalo’s decision making, his positioning, and his control of the ball that simply weren’t there before, and Fiorentina have suffered for it.
Further muddying the waters this season has been the issue of the player’s contract, with Gonzalo reportedly wanting a short term extension before moving back to boyhood club San Lorenzo to end his career, whereas the club were reluctant to renew the contract of the aging without reducing his wage. By December of last year it had become apparent that there was no middle ground to be found, if the club even cared to find it, and that for the second year in a row, the Viola captain would be departing for free.
Whether he decides to return to San Lorenzo, or spend another year chasing success on the peninsula with another team, we here at Viola Nation will remain forever grateful for everything Gonzalo has done, and been, for Fiorentina.