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Fiorentina Legend Spotlight: A conversation with former Fiorentina captain Dario Dainelli

From defensive stalwart to team management and Tuscan entrepreneur

Dario points to himself at the Fiorentina 90 year birthday celebration
Mike McCormack

Following our inaugural Fiorentina Spotlight with Fiorentina bandiera, Alia Guagni, we are very ecstatic to bring you the second in our new series. I’m not envious of anyone tasked with following Alia, but if anyone can do it, this former captain can.

Dario Dainelli (follow him on Instagram) led those legendary Cesare Prandelli teams in one of the most successful Fiorentina eras of recent memory. Signing with the Viola in 2004, Dario captained the team from 2005 until his departure in 2010 to Genoa. Not many Viola players have the same resume that Dario has with regards to European competitions, honors he still holds in high regard today. Dario always had a reputation, both inside and outside of Fiorentina, as the quintessential professional, a leader off and on the pitch.

After a club career that lasted from 1998 until 2019 (yes, his career was that long), Dario is back in the city he considers home, Firenze. Dario was hired this summer as the Supervisor Director of Technical Areas, reporting directly to Daniele Pradé. In our conversation with Dario we discussed everything from his Viola career, European competition, his career plans after playing, and Cantina Dainelli - his newly formed wine and olive oil business.

One thing that stood out to me during my time with Dario was his kindness, sincerity and humility. He expressed several times his gratitude to those fans who supported him during his career as well as those who will be reading his story here. He has a tremendous amount of respect for those he works with now. The way he spoke of Giancarlo Antognoni is with the same esteem that every fan here does, and he has known him for many years and now works with him daily. With a group of talented leaders around him, he is eager to learn and grow (fast, fast, fast). If you thought his playing career was long and successful, just wait until you see his managerial career.

ViolaNation - How does it feel being a Fiorentina legend now back at the club?

Dario Dainelli – “I am very proud to be back with the club. As a footballer there is life after a career on the field. This is my next step. It shows Fiorentina made an evaluation on the man before the player and I will learn all I can while on the job.”

VN - What is your role with Fiorentina?

DD – “I am responsible for the technical area here at Fiorentina. I work directly with Sporting Director, Daniele Pradé and Giancarlo Antognoni. Daniele has responsibility to all of the club, which allows me to be closer to all of the players on the men’s team on a daily basis.”

Dario Dainelli

VN - What are your goals for life after your football career?

DD – “I need to first understand what I really want to do, what my skills are catered for. I have the attitude to learn. I have two possible options; one is on the technical side and the other is more on the managerial side. Right now I am focused on the managerial side [learning under Daniele Pradé and Joe Barone]. I really like it and enjoy it. This experience will allow me to understand if I have the skills to continue in this path. I also have the benefit of the evaluations from some of the greatest talents in the sport, my colleagues and directors that I work with right now.”

VN - You join former Fiorentina players at the club; Marco Donadel, Alberto Aquilani and Emiliano Bigica are coaches for the youth program and of course Giancarlo Antognoni. Are there thoughts of bringing back additional players or legends?

DD – “I don’t think that any footballers should be given an opportunity to work with the club just because they were great footballers. You must show you have the qualities, the attitude and the skills to perform in what is a completely different job. Of course, it helps when you can take what you have learned on the pitch as a footballer, your experiences, and bring it to the new job.”

VN - You captained many very successful clubs under Cesare Prandelli, a very accomplished era for Fiorentina. What are some of your fondest memories? Is there anything you would change from that time?

DD – “My favorite memory is the win against Liverpool at home two – nil in the 2009 Champions League. We had played in the European competition for a couple of years at that point, but now we played against Liverpool, one of the best clubs in all of Europe. It was as if we were playing against superhumans. Once we got into the game we understood our strengths, we won, and we topped the group with 15 points. This was the best by any Italian side at that time.”

If I had to change anything it would be the game against Bayern Munich. In the first leg, Klose scored a goal that was clearly offside, and we got knocked out. Another thing I would change is the penalties against Rangers in the UEFA Cup semifinals in 2008.

VN - It is refreshing to hear that your regrets are all take place in European competitions.

DD – “We will be back.”

VN - You captained teams with great players like Adrian Mutu, Luca Toni, Dani Osvaldo. Any stories that you can share with our readers?

DD – “The night before every game, the team would all gather together and have a talk similar to those in the Maurizio Costanzo Show [think David Letterman]. We would take some team or player gossip that was topical that day and have a bit of laugh about it. It created some very interesting conversations. It brought some levity to the team and brought us all together.”

VN - What was it about Rocco that impressed you enough to come back to Fiorentina?

DD – “He took an American approach to things here versus what we were used to. It is a much more human way of interacting. Similar to how we met as a team when I was captain, when we meet as a leadership group, meetings start off by asking us for our opinions. What would we do in certain situations. This brings us all together and creates a sense of comradery. It is something that Italian clubs and organizations aren’t used to.”

VN - What is it like learning from Joe Barone and Daniele Pradé?

DD – “These two aren’t viewed as individuals, they are now basically a duo. They work together all the time. They are on the same wavelength. They can joke about each other and have those funny moments everyone has seen. This makes it so easy to work with them and learn from them.”

“Working with Pradé, who has been in football for so long, you can start to understand the different thought processes behind decisions and analyses. Just being around him and listening to him I am able to learn a lot.”

VN - So level with us, which one is funnier?

DD – “They are funnier as a duo.”

VN - What is it like working alongside another legend in Antognoni?

DD – “First off, if Antognoni is a legend, I am not a legend. I had met with Giancarlo during my previous years captaining the team. When I first started to work here I still saw him as a legend. Now that I have been here a little time now, working side by side with him, we really started talking about our friendship. It is quite funny though, I went from viewing Antognoni as a legend and a superhero to now I can call him my friend.”

VN - What are the goals of the team for the near future?

DD – “The aim is to set the foundation for quick growth, fast, fast, fast. This will hopefully translate to getting back to Europe as soon as possible. At the moment, the aim is to give enthusiasm back to everyone here again, bring excitement back to the stadium.”

VN - Tell us about your own business life. How is the Fashion Foodballer going?

[Daniele Pradé opens the door to the Fiorentina conference room that we are in, smiles, waves and says Ciao – I reply Ciao, as only an American trying to learn Italian can. Daniele then gives the thumbs up and closes the door all nonchalantly. After a very welcomed interruption, I pause, look around and then only after realizing this is normal for everyone else in the room, turn my attention back to Dario.]

DD – “We actually sold it about a month ago.”

VN - Congratulations! Any future plans for your next entrepreneurship?

DD – “Yes, producing and selling wine and olive oil. I bought a home in the countryside just outside of Firenze a few years ago as a player. It had a small Chianti vineyard and olive trees on it. I have been building upon what was already there. The company is established, we have a name and logo already. Within the next year I will produce and bottle my own wine and oil. We will soon be selling. We are called Cantina Dainelli.”

Dario’s Cantina Dainelli logo
Dario Dainelli

Well Dario, we have no doubt the new business venture will be incredibly successful and delicious. To all of our Fiorentina fans, hopefully you too will support Dario with his newest business endeavors. As he gets closer to bottling and distribution, we will surely keep you posted on how and where you can purchase. In the meantime though we want to thank you, Dario, for your willingness to speak with us and share your story.

Please take a minute to follow Dario on his official Instagram to stay on top of everything he has going on with Fiorentina and Cantina Dainelli.

Next week we will continue our Fiorentina Spotlight series with new Primavera signing and future first team star, Bobby Duncan.

Until then, forza Viola! Batti Cagliari!