We’re nearly done polling you, oh faithful readers, for the greatest Fiorentina XI of all time. The only position left is, of course, up top. Given current circumstances, it’s easy to forget that Fiorentina has seen some of the best strikers in the world pass through. To honor that trend, we’re going to select the top two vote getters here, because it’s simply unfair to choose just one.
The man from Caldogno, just outside of Vicenza, is one of the best in Italy’s history. There’s no debating it. No other player has touched off a riot when he was sold to a rival, and his refusal to take a penalty against the Viola the following year solidified his spot among the club’s deities. Initially signed for a paltry €1.25 million euros in 1985, he was sold to Juventus for €8 million in 1990 as part of Flavio Pontello’s futile attempts to keep the club afloat, but we’re not here to talk about that. We’re here to talk about il Divino Codino, who played 135 matches in the purple uniform, scoring 55 goals. He was so much more than a goal scorer, though: he was the definition of fantasista, the sort of player whom some sort of divine force seems to guide. Whether it was turning a defender inside out, chipping the keeper, firing home a free kick from obscene distance, or threading the needle to one of his striking partners, Bobby Baggio did it with the sort of grace and elegance that you can’t really describe in a lifetime, much less a stupid blog post. He’s on the record as saying that deep in his heart, he is purple. And c’mon. He’s Roberto effing Baggio.
I don’t need to write this introduction for him, but I will because I want to. Batigol. Il Re Leone. Fiorentina’s all-time leading scorer. 331 appearances. 203 goals. The best pure number nine of his generation. Argentina’s leading scorer until Lionel Messi took the crown (although Bati took about half as many appearances to get his). We named the weekly link dump after him, for crying out loud. He’s the best.
There’s nobody who doesn’t have a soft spot for the Gila Monster. Bought from AC Milan for €14 million in 2008, he wound up making 157 appearances for the Viola, scoring 63 goals and adding 21 assists. Part of the reason we all loved him (besides that hair, oh that hair) was that he never really looked like a footballer. With a rather stocky build and a clear inability to shoot from distance or dribble past his man, at times he seemed like a reasonably athletic fan who wandered onto the pitch. But in the box, he was simply lethal, maybe the best pure finisher in Italy for a brief time. His giggle-inducing talent for popping up exactly in the right place at the right time to put the ball in the back of the net (often in the most comical manner possible) was undeniable. More than that, though, he was excellent at holding up play for his strike partner and excelled at clever little layoffs. His off-ball movement was perhaps his most underrated feature, as he frequently went on lung busting sprints to draw defenders away from his teammates. Having recently finished his coaching certification, he’s currently technical director at Rezzato in Serie D. But with his knowledge of how to score and his love for Florence—he’s part-owner of the restaurant/museum Fashion Footballer with Dario Dainelli and Luciano Spalletti—he’s a strong candidate to make his third return to the city, this time as a coach. He’s the 6th-leading scorer in club history and certainly its preeminent violinist. And he was just fun.
Perhaps the dark horse of this group, Galassi certainly deserves your attention nonetheless. The speedster joined Fiorentina in 1947 and stayed for 5 years. Across his 137 appearances, he scored an impressive haul of 61 goals. While he was best known for his searing pace, he was also a lethal finisher with either foot, good in the air, and willing and able to move wide and turn supplier in a pinch. He’s the club’s 7th-leading scorer all time; that it only took him 5 years to reach that rarified air should tell you all you need to know about his quality. He was somehow never capped for Italy, and there’s no footage of him online as he played before the age of regular television coverage of calcio, but you can see it in the numbers as well as hear it in the conversations of the old timers: he was class. And no, he’s not he Alberto Galassi who’s CEO of a yacht company and sits on the Manchester City board.
Oh, what could have been for Adi. Cocaine, prostitutes, nightclubs, and fistfights are probably what he’s best remembered for outside of Florence. But in Florence, he’s remembered for his 69 (of course) goals and 26 assists in 143 appearances. He was the perfect and complete striker with every single tool: pace, technique, strength, aerial ability, a poacher’s instinct, two-footed shooting from anywhere, free kicks, penalties, vision, passing, positional flexibility, you name it. He was the sort of player who could conjure a goal from nothing, who could carry his team to a result that the other 10 guys on the pitch hadn’t earned. At the height of his powers, he was probably the best overall striker in Italy for a couple of years. While his legacy may be one of squandered, world-class, GOAT-level natural talent, for us it will always be the embodiment of those glorious Prandelli teams, and that’s a legacy that anyone would be proud of.
57 goals in 99 appearances. Only two Viola players with more than a handful of appearances can equal that ratio, and they’re Batistuta and Pedro Petrone. Uncle Luca only spent 3 years in Florence, but I’m waiving the usual 4 year minimum requirement for inclusion in this feature because that sort of goal-scoring record needs to be highlighted. More than that, though, he brought joy and belief back to the fans after the club’s return from Serie C, leading the Viola to an astonishing 4th-place finish and Champions League qualification on the strength of his 31 goals; he was the first player in Serie A to score more than 30 since the 1958-1959 season, and good enough for Europe’s Golden Boot. After some peregrinations, he returned to Fiorentina in 2012 and spent the year as a genial substitute, tooling around in his Smart Car (at 6’4/193 cm, that was funny), before the club offered him a role as a director; while Toni chose to continue his playing career at Hellas Verona, we hope the offer is still open. Heck, he could probably keep playing if he wanted to, as it’s not like he ever had any pace to lose. And can you imagine seeing that celebration with the hand twisting by the right ear again? Simply magnificent.
Born in Udine, the 7-time Italy international joined Fiorentina from his hometown club in 1954 before moving on to Torino in 1958. In between, he played 105 matches and scored 55 goals. Operating as the battering ram ahead of the incisive brilliance of Julinho and Miguel Montuori, he was a ruthless finisher who always knew where he needed to be and made no mistakes when he arrived. It was his clinical scoring that pushed Fiorentina to its first scudetto in 1956 and to within inches of the European Cup that the Viola lost (in questionable fashion) to Real Madrid. He’s not perhaps as fondly remembered as his attacking teammates because he was replaced by the legendary Kurt Hamrin, who’s a Serie A all-timer, but let’s not forget that it was Virgili who scored 21 of his team’s 59 goals in that first scudetto season. Much like Galassi, he played in the era before matches were regularly taped, so there’s no evidence of his exploits beyond his statistics and the echoes of his genius.
Who’s the best Fiorentina striker ever?
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