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Where do Borja and Gonzalo fit on the list of all-time Viola greats?

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Spoiler alert: they’re pretty high up there.

UC Sampdoria v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A
Heroes.
Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Now that Borja Valero and Gonzalo Rodríguez have both been unceremoniously shuffled off this Viola coil, it’s probably time to look at their respective legacies with the team. Each spent half a decade with Fiorentina and are in the top 25 in club history in terms of appearances, but both made a much deeper impact at the club.

Gonzalo Rodríguez

We’ll start with Gonzalo, and we’ll start with his accomplishments on the pitch. First off, he’s probably one the five most talented defenders to ever where the purple shirt: Daniel Passarella, Claudio Gentile, Pietro Vierchowod, and Sergio Cervato are the only ones I’d consider taking over him. Of that list, Gentile’s decade with Juventus compared to his three years in Florence drop him down a few pegs, and Vierchowod left after just a year, so he could hardly qualify as a club great.

Gonzalo gets extra points for wearing the armband for 2 years, as well as for his Bomber Gonzalo persona; he’s the second-highest scoring defender in Viola history, just one goal behind Passarella’s 26. His contributions on the pitch were too many to name, but his sterling work under Vincenzo Montella and Paulo Sousa made him one of the best stoppers in Italy for several seasons.

He also gets bonus points for being really cool off the pitch. Settling down with a local girl and having a daughter is storybook stuff, especially for a guy who’s literally a rock star. Yeah, he occasionally stepped on stage and played the guitar at concerts, and also recorded the odd song for his little girl. Finally, his unbelievably gracious statement about the club following Corvino’s refusal to renew his contract is just about enough to make you cry.

Final ranking: 14th greatest player, 3rd greatest defender

Borja Valero

The elegant Spanish midfielder has been Fiorentina’s most consistent performer since arriving from Villarreal. If you doubt his influence, take a look at how slowly the Viola work the ball up the pitch in his absence. He never scored goals (really the only part of his game that was missing), and didn’t get the assists to really sum up his contributions.

Giancarlo Antognoni is certainly ahead of him for midfielders, and Angelo di Livio has to be as well. After those two, though, I can’t think of a midfielder who’s contributed more the the Viola except for Rui Costa. He was the vice-captain and wore the armband a few times, but he was frequently the leader on the pitch, talking to the referee and his own players whenever necessary.

And like Gonzalo, he was an absolute jewel off the pitch as well. He and his wife Rocío Rodríguez settled into Florence immediately and became common sights in the city, along with their kids, throughout the city. Borja’s intelligent, enthusiastic, and easy-going demeanor made him the most popular Fiorentina player I can recall, and he even got the coordinates for the Ponte Vecchio tattooed on his arm. Nevertheless, the club forced him out in a shockingly unprofessional manner. Borja responded, as ever, with nothing but dignity, refusing to condemn the club for his exit, even though everyone knows whose idea it was to give him the boot. Pure class in every sense.

Final ranking: 7th greatest player, 4th greatest midfielder


And, just in case wants to check my work, here’s my top 20 of all time greats, which I’m sure nobody will vociferously protest:

  1. Gabriel Batistuta
  2. Giancarlo Antognoni
  3. Roberto Baggio
  4. Kurt Hamrin
  5. Rui Costa
  6. Angelo di Livio
  7. Borja Valero
  8. Daniel Passarella
  9. Miguel Montuori
  10. Sergio Cervato
  11. Giuseppe Chiapella
  12. Francesco Toldo
  13. Sébastien Frey
  14. Gonzalo Rodríguez
  15. Adrian Mutu
  16. Guido Gratton
  17. Claudio Merlo
  18. Ugo Ferrante
  19. Giuliano Sarti
  20. Manuel Pasqual