We’re closing in on the greatest-ever Fiorentina XI, but we’re not quite there yet. First, we’ve got to sort out who’s the best-ever left winger. As ever, the idea of “greatest” means different things to different people, but for our purposes here, let’s assume that it requires a certain length of time at the club as well as world-beating quality. Feel free to click through the previous polls, and make sure to help us sort this one out as well.
A Fiorentina youth product, the kid from Ponsacco became one of Italy’s most feared wingers throughout the 1970s. After joining the senior side in 1965 as an 18-year-old, his searing pace, brilliant dribbling, and creativity earned him the nickname il Pazzo Cavallo (the Crazy Horse), which is surely one of the club’s greatest nicknames. In 168 appearances, he scored an impressive 48 goals, prompting AC Milan to buy him in 1972. While he only earned 3 Italy caps, his silverware haul with the Viola isn’t shabby: the Coppa Italia and the Mitropa Cup in 1966 are nice, but it’s the Scudetto in 1969 which really secured his place in the hearts and minds of fans. He’s perhaps not remembered as fondly by opponents—his habit of diving resulted in the term chiarugismo (meaning to win fouls by skulduggery)—but he was the sort of mercurial talent you love to see on the wing, capable of conjuring a moment of genius from nothing. He also served as the caretaker manager of Fiorentina on three separate occasions and even led Poggibonsi for a year. Now retired, it’s easy to forget that, for more than a decade, he was one of Serie A’s most feared attackers.
If not for the presence of a certain Gabriel Batistuta, Hamrin would probably be considered Fiorentina’s best-ever player. Capable of operating anywhere across the forward line (it’s harder to fix modern positions to dudes who worked in a 2-3-5), we’ll call him a left winger for the purposes of this exercise. The Swede signed on with the Viola in 1958 from Padova (although he did spend a fruitless year at Juventus before that), and, 11 years later, left for Milan. In between, he stacked up 302 appearances—10th most in club history—and racked up a truly obscene 160 goals—2nd behind Batigol. Blessed with marvelous close control, an ability to use either foot with equal precision, and the sort of predatory instincts that defy description, he was simply unstoppable. He’s generally considered one of Sweden’s finest too, with 32 appearances and 16 goals helping them reach the World Cup final on home soil in 1958. He won the Coppa Italia (1961 and 1966), the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (1961), and the Mitropa Cup (1966) in Florence and returned to the city after he retired; he still lives there, which surely earns him some extra points. He is, in every possible sense, a legend, and deserves all the love you can bestow upon him.
The Lecco-born winger known as Spadino (after Raymond “Spike” Fonzarelli from Happy Days, which is sort of endearingly bizarre) had two spells in Florence. The first began in 1993, when the Viola bought him from Monza, and ended in 1999 when Napoli bought him. He returned on loan from Inter Milan in 2001. Across those 7 seasons, he stacked up 197 Viola appearances and scored 36 goals. While he was never the star of his sides, there’s no shame in that when Rui Costa and Gabriel Batistuta are your teammates. However, his displays were a big part of that immortal pair’s success, as Spadino’s drifts inside to become an extra forward through the middle left defenses befuddled and opened holes both for himself and his more heralded mates. To give you an idea of his quality, it wasn’t il Re Leone or the Maestro who took free kicks for the Viola back then. It was Robbiati. In keeping with his idiosyncratic nickname, he’s settled in as manager of Figline, a semi-pro team about 20 km southeast of Florence, and seems happy as a clam in what’ll be his 9th year with them. His biggest claim to fame, though, will always be as a beloved part of those enchanting teams from the 1990s.
Juan Manuel Vargas
When Fiorentina bought the 25-year-old Peruvian for €12 million from Catania in 2008, we had no idea what we were in for. Advertised as a leftback, he was simply disastrous in defense and looked like he was going to be one of Corvino’s biggest busts. Then Cesare Prandelli moved him forward, and all of a sudden Vargas was so good that the likes of Real Madrid wanted his signature. Unlike a lot of wingers, JMV wasn’t exactly a pace merchant; he didn’t dribble past defenders so much as over and through them, operating like a bulldozer down the flank. His fantastic crossing was a godsend for the likes of Alberto Gilardino, but the Peruvian loved nothing more than a shot from distance; I still don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who could strike a ball that hard. He eventually fizzled out and was loaned to Genoa before a minor revival saw him spend another couple of years as a squad player for Montella, but by then he’d lived up to his nickname of el Loco (the Crazy One), and the non-stop partying had taken its toll. But for fans of a certain age, his 186 appearances, 25 goals, and 26 assists are the stuff of legend, as is the hat. With 61 appearances and 4 goals for Peru isn’t too impressive, he was one of the best of his generation for the Blanquirroja and is an undeniably beloved cult figure in Florence.
Who is the greatest left-winger in Fiorentina’s history?
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5. Someone else I’ll name in the comments