With the summer transfer window finally open, now seems like a good time to have a look at Viola transfers past. Instead of looking at the best or worst, we’ve decided to assemble the XI that cost Fiorentina the most. This Most Expensive XI is based off data from transfermarkt.com, so lodge your complaints with them.
Goalkeeper: Sebastian Frey
The corpulent Frenchman cost €5.75 million when he joined from Parma, and the Cruciati management must have been kicking themselves all the way to the bank that they set his buyout clause so low when he joined Fiorentina on loan in 2005. Frey, however, must have been thrilled at the chance to operate as the number one for a European contender behind a fearsome backline featuring the talents of Giorgio Chiellini, Tomáš Ujfaluši, Dario Dainelli, and Christian Maggio. Seba would go on to make 218 appearances for Fiorentina (25th most for the club and 5th among keepers), establishing himself as one of the finest custodians in Europe despite France’s refusal to call him up—he only had 2 caps, which is a joke—and oversaw numerous runs through the Champions League and towards the top of the table. The rest of this list, alas, may not be quite as positive.
Rightback: Tomáš Ujfaluši
€7.5 million is an absolute steal for a player like Ujfa, who made 149 appearances in the purple shirt. His 2 goals and 4 assists, but the 22 yellow cards he picked up in those 149 appearances provide a bit of insight to his talent; very few defenders get booked that infrequently, particularly when up against some of the talent present in Serie A in the mid-oughts. Signing on from Hamburg in 2004 as a 25-year-old, he was a capable center half but often pushed out to the right side for the Viola. His powerful runs up the wing, sure tackling, and stubborn marking made him a fan favorite; when he left for Atlético Madrid on a free in 2008, you just knew that the defense wouldn’t have the same tenacity.
Centerback: Vitor Hugo
Yep. Corvino paid €8 million for a 26-year-old Brazilian who’d never played in Italy. In fact, Vitor Hugo had only spent a year playing in the southern hemisphere’s best Serie A when Fiorentina snapped him up. However, he almost immediately fell behind Germán Pezzella in the pecking order, and only re-entered Stefano Pioli’s plan after the death of Davide Astori. While he had some bright moments—he was a wall against AS Roma at the Olimpico, for example—he also had a few miscues and currently seems to be third-choice, after Pezzella and Nikola Milenković. He’s certainly not a Felipe-level disaster, but he’s 27 years old and is probably now the player he’s going to be: a solid rotation option who’ll never be a star. In a vacuum, that’s a good player to have. For a club like Fiorentina, it’s perhaps not enough for an €8 million central defender.
The Brazilian is currently the captain at SPAL and seems to be a well-loved figure there, but Viola fans remember him best for costing an astounding €9.3 million from Udinese. A €3 million loan fee was paid in January 2010, with a further €6.3 that summer. The then-24-year-old Brazilian seemed like he was going to be a perfect fit in Florence, but his inability to leap past Dainelli, Alessandro Gamberini, or Per Krøldrup limited his minutes. On those rare occasions he did play, he was disastrous: slow, weak in the air and in the tackle, uncertain in his positioning, and prone to cards—11 yellows and a red in 30 appearances. His 18 months in purple ended ignominiously with loans to Cesena, then Siena, and a quiet sale to Parma in 2013 for an undisclosed, but doubtless minimal, sum.
Leftback: Giorgio Chiellini
In 2004, Fiorentina paid the princely sum of €6.5 million for a gangly 19-year-old named from Livorno. He mostly operated at leftback then, although he was still a threat from set pieces (3 goals in 42 appearances). Along with Christian Maggio, he gave the Viola one of the most exciting young fullback pairings in Italy. A year later, though, Juventus came calling and the youngster forced his way out, with the Tuscan outfit receiving just €1.2 million profit on the young star. Fortunately, he never did anything good in Turin and nobody ever heard from him again. The end.
Center midfield: Mario Suárez
Part of the swap deal that sent Stefan Savić to Atleti in 2015 (and rated at €15 million), Suárez was touted as the sort of defensive destroyer that Montella’s elegant teams lacked. It was a bad fit all around, though, as the Spaniard never picked up on Fiorentina’s lovely passing game and seemed deeply uncomfortable with the ball at his feet. He was so bad that the Viola brought in the likes of Tino Costa and Panagiotis Kone to reinforce the midfield that winter, and ultimately sold him to Watford for just €5.3 million in January. He’s currently plying his trade at Guizhou Hengfeng in China.
Center midfield: Marco Benassi
Another recent acquisition who makes the list, Corvino shelled out €10 million for the former Italy U21 captain. It was a bit of a surprise, given that the midfielder had fallen well out of favor at Torino under Siniša Mihajlović, but as we were all familiar with the misery that the Serb brought, we were optimistic. However, it quickly became clear that Pioli had no clue how to deploy Benassi, and ended up using him wide on the right more often than not. Benassi, for his part, did nothing to force his way into the mister’s plans as a central player; although he had some nice moments this year, he was perhaps the most frustrating regular player in the team, and that’s really saying something. Perhaps some attacking reinforcements this summer will allow him to return to the box-to-box role he showed so much early promise in, but as of now, he certainly looks considerably overpriced.
Right wing: Juan Cuadrado
Back in 2012, Fiorentina bought half the rights to a pacy Colombian rightback from Udinese and got him on loan for €1 million. Initially expected to compete with Nenad Tomović and Mattia Cassani, Vincenzo Montella installed a fluid 3-5-2 scheme that showcased Cuadrado’s pace and dribbling on the right wing, and Juan responded with a monster season. The following year, Udinese and Fiorentina resolved his ownership with the former receiving €20 million from the latter. Another year in Florence, this time as the unquestioned center of the attack, saw him explode onto the world scene, and Chelsea ended up paying €31 million plus 18 months of Mohamed Salah on loan (let’s just not). Anywas, in his 106 appearances in purple, la Vespa tallied 26 goals and 23 assists, as well as an unquantifiable amount of joy at watching his step overs and dance moves.
Left wing: Jörg Heinrich
It’s time for another one from the vaults. Back in 1998, the Cecchi Gori years were in full swing and Fiorentina seemed like they could compete with anyone. Gabriel Batistuta and Rui Costa were at the height of their powers, with Edmundo and Luis Olivera both available as well. What the Viola lacked, though, was true quality in the wide areas. That’s why the club paid €12.6 to Borussia Dortmund for Jörg Heinrich, a 28-year-old winger with a reputation for pace, hard work, and goals. Unfortunately, that last part didn’t really translate from the Bundesliga to Serie A: Heinrich managed just 5 goals and 3 assists in 85 Viola appearances. After two deeply underwhelming years, Heinrich returned to Dortmund for just €4.1 million.
Striker: Nuno Gomes
The year: 2000. Batigol had just been sold to AS Roma, leaving the fans in disbelief. Naturally, management had to act fast to find a replacement, both as a finisher and a talisman. No surprise, then, that they turned to Rui Costa’s 23-year-old countryman Nuno Gomes, paying Benfica €17 million for his services. Quite frankly, he was rather disappointing that first year, scoring just 9 goals in 30 appearances in the league while taking a back seat to Enrico Chiesa and Leandro Amaral. The following year was even worse, as he scored just 5 league goals. 2001, of course, was not a good year in Florence, and the revelation of the Cecchi Gori finances sent Gomes skittering back to Benfica on a free.
Striker: Mario Gómez
Oh man. I still remember how excited I was when I learned that Bayern Munich had sold Mario effing Gómez to Fiorentina for just €15.5 million. At the time, it was an absolute coup: a bargain bin price for a world-class striker who was just a year removed from a campaign in which he’d scored 26 goals in the Bundesliga and another 12 in the Champions League. The idea of Marione lurking in the box to finish all the chances that Montella’s flawless midfield created was mouth-watering. Like countless others, I envisioned Fiorentina making a serious push in the Champions League. Like countless others, I was wrong: Gómez was hurt for much of his time in Florence. We only got to hit the Mario Gómez button 11 times in his 47 appearances across 2 years. He trashed the club on his way out to a loan at Beşiktaş, and was even pettier when he finally got a €1.05 million return to Germany with Wolfsburg, where he earned a nickname that translated to “the death of goals.” Even though it never worked out, I still think there’s a universe out there where Mario Gómez led Fiorentina to the Champions League semis and was Capocannoniere a few times.
GK Neto (€3.5), CB Davide Astori (€5), LB Manuel Pasqual (€6), DM Felipe Melo (€8), AM Josip Iličić (€9), LM Juan Manuel Vargas (€12), ST Giovanni Simeone (€15)