Based on some Twitter conversations we’ve had recently with the excellent @MyGreatest11 (spoiler alert: this is pretty much exactly what they do), we’ve been thinking about which XI players we’d pick for the all-time greatest Fiorentina XI. Since that’s hard, we decided to outsource it to yall, which is much easier. We’ll start, then, with the goalkeepers.
1. Sebastien Frey
The only non-Italian on this list is also the most recent player. The powerful Frenchman stacked up 218 appearances for Fiorentina between 2006 and 2011, allowing 222 goals and keeping 72 clean sheets; that’s a goal allowed every 89 minutes. He was an ever-present in those wonderful Cesare Prandelli squads, his ursine physique belying his cat-like reflexes. He oversaw Fiorentina’s last venture into the Champions League, where he was undone by the worst refereeing I’ve ever seen, but it certainly didn’t dim his star. That France only gave him two appearances speaks to the shortsightedness of les Bleus than to any lack of talent on Seba’s part, as he was at least as good as anyone who wore the shirt at the peak of his powers. Despite his unceremonious departure from the club, he’s fondly remembered by one and all for his easy-going demeanor and marvelous performances. If nothing else, he’s certainly the most creatively coiffed of this bunch, but he can certainly stake a claim to being the best between the sticks as well.
2. Giovanni Galli
Before he was a Lega Nord-endorsed politician in Florence, he was one of Italy’s best keepers for Fiorentina from 1976 to 1986. While he never earned any silverware with the Viola, he was generally regarded as perhaps the best on the peninsula behind Dino Zoff; he won the World Cup as Zoff’s understudy in 1982 and took over as the starter for Mexico 1986. Less spectacular than some of the other names on this list, it was his ability to organize a defense that was his calling card, along with decent distribution skills, surprising acceleration off his line, and marvelous efficiency: he simply didn’t make mistakes. In 321 appearances for the Gigliati, he allowed 267 goals (one every 108 minutes) and kept 148 clean sheets, which is especially impressive considering the mediocrity of some of the teams he played on. He’s already a member of the Fiorentina Hall of Fame; whatever you think about his politics, there’s no question that he’s one of Fiorentina’s finest goalkeepers, even if the only highlight reel we can find of him on YouTube falls woefully short of capturing his brilliance on the pitch.
3. Giuliano Sarti
Although he may be best remembered by the wider public as the goalkeeper of the Grande Inter sides, Sarti made far more appearances for Fiorentina, notching 277 from 1963 to 1968. He allowed just 212 goals, or one every 96 minutes, and kept 95 clean sheets. Credited as a marvelous shot stopper, he was also one of the first sweeper-keepers, frequently coming off his line to foil opposing forwards and getting involved in the buildup long before it was fashionable. He was also famous for staying on his line during one-on-ones, which he somehow made work for his entire career. He earned a paltry 8 caps for Italy, but his trophy haul is pretty impressive even if you don’t count his years with Inter Milan. The highlights are Fiorentina’s first scudetto (1956) and only major continental trophy (the UEFA Cup in 1961), along with a Coppa Italia (1961). He’s already a member of the Fiorentina Hall of Fame and perhaps gets less recognition than he should due to the lack of footage of his exploits. He also stayed in Florence after retiring, dying in the city last summer at the age of 83.
4. Franco Superchi
Standing just 180 cm (5’11), Superchi didn’t have the physical presence of some other goalies, but he made up for it with smarts and heart. He joined Fiorentina in 1965 and left 12 years later for Hellas Verona, amassing 248 appearances, allowing just 226 goals and keeping 94 clean sheets for a goal against every 98 minutes. Although it took him a couple of years to establish himself, his first season as the starter was 1968-1969, when Fiorentina won their most recent scudetto in part due to his heroics. While he never quite reached the superhuman level he hit that year, he was always one of the most reliable custodians in Italy during his time in Florence, as evidenced by his silverware haul: the scudetto (1969), the Coppa Italia (1966 and 1975), the Coppa Mitropa (1966), and the Coppa di Lega Italo-Inglese (1975). He never got called up for the Azzurri largely because of Dino Zoff, but he’s undeniably a club legend. There’s not a lot of video of his work available online, unfortunately, but here he is brilliantly keeping a clean sheet against Lazio in 1974, highlighted a penalty save.
5. Francesco Toldo
With 338 appearances, Toldo spent more time between the sticks than any goalie in Fiorentina history, and trails just Giancarlo Antognoni and Manuel Pasqual among all players. More than longevity, though, the big man from Padova brought world-class talent, as attested by his 29 caps for Italy (he’s currently the U21 goalkeeping coach for the Azzurrini), including a run to the finals at the 2000 Euros. He kept 121 clean sheets in those matches and let in 374 goals; he also only got sent off once. That works out to a goal conceded every 81 minutes, or less than one per match, which isn’t surprising when you consider his fantastic reflexes, strong hands, masterful positioning, and unflappable demeanor. When Inter Milan bought him in 2001 for a whopping €26.5 million, he’d overseen 8 years of success for the Viola in which the team won the Coppa Italia (1996 and 2001) and the Supercoppa (1996), as well as the Serie A goalkeeper of the year award (2000). Had the Cecchi Goris not sold him in a vain attempt to balance the books, he might have spent his entire career in Florence. As is, he’s already been voted Fiorentina’s all-time best goalkeeper in 2009, and is generally regarded as one of the best of his generation.
Who is Fiorentina’s greatest-ever goalkeeper?
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6. Someone else I’ll add in the comments