There are really just three players who deserve a spot on this list, although there’s been no shortage of quality in this position for Fiorentina over the years. Guys like Ricardo Daniel Bertoli, Francesco Baiano, Mario Santana, and Franco Semioli all had good runs for a couple of years in Florence and consistently improved the team, but none of them were ever really stars. Similarly, legends like Amarildo or Andrei Kanchelskis certainly had the quality to join this group, but didn’t stick around long enough to earn that right. So instead, it’s down to these three. Catch up on the previous editions of this feature here.
1. Juan Cuadrado
The Colombian wasn’t supposed to be on this list. When Fiorentina got him on loan from Udeinse in 2012, he was seen as a pacy young rightback who could be trained to defend better in the Italian finishing school. However, his dribbling and verticality immediately made him an integral part of those delightful Vincenzo Montella squads, and Cuadrado never looked back. After paying a total of €25 million for him—remember how much co-ownership sucked?—he became increasingly influential for the Viola, eventually becoming the centerpiece of the team in 2013 and 2014. Although his final season was a bit of a disappointment, he was still a big enough deal to earn a €30 million move to Chelsea, with Mohamed Salah moving the other way on loan. With 26 goals and 21 assists in 106 appearances, it’s hard not to recall la Vespa with a smile, as much for his infectious joy and dancing as for his undeniable effectiveness on the pitch. That he ended up with Juventus after Jose Mourinho cast him out of Chelsea certainly isn’t his fault, so let’s focus on that wonderful 2-year stretch in which he was, hands down, the funnest winger in Serie A. This is just the goals, rather than a full glimpse at the entire package of skills he brought, but he scores in every way you could ever ask of a wide forward.
2. Angelo di Livio
Il Soldatino (the Toy Soldier) would be a Viola legend no matter what, as he’s the only player to stick with the club when the Cecchi Gori era blew up and saw Fiorentina busted down to Serie C2. That would be admirable if he were just some scrub who saw a chance to be a hero; di Livio was anything but. He earned 40 caps for Italy and was an integral part of the Juventus sides that won Scudetti in the early 1990s before seeing the error of his ways and signing for the Viola. Perhaps his most memorable quality was his incredible motor; he only had one speed, and it was a dead sprint up and down the pitch at all times. In 189 appearances with Fiorentina, he only netted 8 goals, but a lot of that was due to his selfless acceptance of midfield workhorse role towards the end of his career. He captained the side to the 2001 Coppa Italia—the club’s most recent major trophy—and never needs to buy his own beers in Florence because he is, again, a goddamn legend. Since he spent so much of his time with the Viola toiling in the lower leagues or doing grunt work, there’s not really a fitting YouTube compilation for him, but just believe us when we say that he deserves it.
While he may not have the name recognition amongst the young fans, the man born Júlio Botelho is safely one of the best players to ever don the purple shirt. He was a key member of the team that won Fiorentina’s first Scudetto and finished second (due to some refereeing skulduggery) to Real Madrid in the European Cup the following year. With 45 Brazil caps and 15 goals to his name, you know that he was class. He only made 89 appearances for Fiorentina, but scored 22 goals. Admired for his incredible dribbling skill and rocket shot, he was considered one of the best in the world at the height of his powers in Tuscany, being named to the World XI by World Soccer Magazine in 1960. In 1996, he one of the nominees for best player in Fiorentina’s history. Although his stint in purple was brief, he deserves your vote at least as much as either of these other two, and he surely gets extra points for embodying the audaciousness, the elegance, and the sprezzatura that we want to see from a man wearing a purple shirt with number seven on his back.
Who is the greatest right midfielder in Fiorentina’s history?
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2. di Livio
4. Someone else I’ll name in the comments