As Fiorentina fans pick up the pieces of their hearts after Federico Chiesa forced his way to Juventus, we’re lucky in that this isn’t the first time the Viola have sold a star to their most hated rivals. Heck, it’s not even the first time they’ve sold a young winger who grew up in the academy to the Bianconeri in the past three years.
Reading Trevor’s brilliant look back at Roberto Baggio’s move to Turin 30 years ago, I decided to rank the players Fiorentina have sold to Notts County Junior since 1990. I’ve taken into account how much they meant to the fans at the time, how good they were in Florence, and what they did afterwards.
As always, this is a fantastically complex equation that requires a lot of really carefully done science, so I’d appreciate it if everyone respected that and accepted that these rankings aren’t opinions. They are facts. I’m also not including Valeri Bojinov, whom Fiorentina loaned to Juve in 2005 but sold on to Manchester City the next year; sorry, Bojinov fans, but this isn’t your article. Also, you’re probably jerks. With that firmly established, let’s dive into it here.
I’m not going to describe this better than Trevor did, so read his article, dang it. To sum up. Not only was Baggio verging on becoming best player in Italy at the time, not only did he have an extremely close relationship with the club (more on that later), not only was he the darling of the Azzurri, but he was just magical to watch. The Viola picked him up at his lowest (he’d shredded his cruciate ligament as an 18-year-old for Vicenza two days before his move to Florence went official) and paid for his surgery before helping through another serious knee injury just a year later.
So how much did his sale hurt? The €12.9 million fee was the most ever paid for a footballer at the time, but it was the timing that really made it sting. Everyone knows that it led to the famous riot that left 50 people injured in the city streets when the move was announced on the day of the UEFA League final between Fiorentina and Juve. Baggio later said that he was “compelled” to leave as Flavio Pontello stripped the roster in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy.
Had he stayed (and he’s on the record as saying that he has a Viola heart, so he very well might have), we could’ve seen a Baggio-Rui Costa-Gabriel Batistuta attack, which would’ve been perhaps the best ever. As is, he was the first player to move from Florence to Turin since Sergio Cervato in 1960. For the penalty refusal, for the scarf kiss, for all the beauty that an unfeeling Juventus smashed, nothing will hurt more.
Pain rating: ∞ Juan Manuel Vargas blasts to the crotch
It’s weird to remember that the Juve captain is a Viola alum, but the 36-year-old is a native Tuscan (Pisa) so it makes some sense. The tricky part, though, is that he only spent the 2004-2005 season with Fiorentina and it was technically on loan, although the team did own part of his rights along with the Bianconeri, who bought out the other half at year’s end. Chiellini was quite good in Florence as a no-nonsense leftback, providing a counterbalance to Christian Maggio’s forward thrust on the right. He also scored 3 goals (including one against Juve) and assisted 2 more.
Nobody really expected him to stick in Florence for the long term, though. There was always a sense that Juventus would swoop back in for him and bring him to the old Stadio delle Alpi. While he was an excellent player for that year, it was just a year. There wasn’t enough time to get too attached, especially since he was on loan. Idly imagining his career in Florence, forming a monstrous defense with Dario Dainelli, Alessandro Gamberini, and Tomáš Ujfaluši, is fun. But it’s also just a daydream with no force behind it.
Pain level: paper cut in the ball of your thumb
A true Palermo legend, the diminutive forward also spent 2004-2005 in Florence on a co-ownership deal with Juve. While it wasn’t a great year—in fact, the Viola only secured their Serie A survival on the last day with a 3-0 win over Brescia—Miccoli certainly wasn’t to blame. He led the club in scoring with 12 goals and generally looked like the liveliest attacker in the side. His performances impressed so much that, like Chiellini, Juve bought out Fiorentina’s half of his contract.
Miccoli is about as stylistically different from Chiellini as a player can be, but he’s just about the same in terms of agony delivered to the Viola support. It’s probably for the best that he left, as combining him with Adrian Mutu would have resulted in so much magic (or maybe just insane partying) that the world would have exploded. On the other hand, he showed that he had the loyalty to become an icon at an outfit that was, at the time, roughly Fiorentina’s size, so it’s a bit more believable that he could’ve stuck around. It’s really not that bad, though.
Pain level: a slightly larger cut in the ball of your thumb
2008 was a good year to be a Fiorentina fan. The club had returned to the Champions League, boasted a squad packed with talent and charisma, and looked to be on the rise. Adding Felipe Melo seemed to be exactly what the roster needed, as the Brazilian’s mobility and gung ho attitude looked the perfect compliment to Riccardo Montolivo’s effete approach. And sure enough, he was, leaving a trail of mangled limbs in his wake before Juve pounced, shelling out €25 million along with Marco Marchionni and Cristiano Zanetti.
Melo was only in town for a year and, despite his undoubted effectiveness under Cesare Prandelli, it was always a bit hard to like him. While everyone loves a committed, all-action midfielder, Melo often strayed from the whole-hearted to the brutal and was, if we’re being honest, a dirty player. The fact that he flamed out at Juve (along with some abhorrent political views) makes him pretty much the perfect sale.
Pain level: dancing in the street
You could argue that Norberto doesn’t belong on this list and you’d have a strong case. He wasn’t sold to Juventus, after all. He simply refused a contract renewal so he could join them on a free transfer in 2015, effectively dealing Fiorentina an extra shot to the body by denying them a fee for his departure (although you could also blame that on Daniele Pradè’s failure to get a deal done). In fairness, the Viola had a more-than-capable replacement lined up in Ciprian Tătărușanu, who wound up being a more reliable goalkeeper than the Brazilian ever was, but it was still a slap in the face.
Neto joined Fiorentina in 2011 and took over as the starter in 2013 after spending 1.5 seasons behind Artur Boruc (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA) and Emiliano Viviano. He was an above-average keeper, certainly, notable for his tremendous reflexes, but had a habit of the occasional clanger. Maybe that’s why fans recall him with mild ire but nothing approaching fury. It also helps that he rode the bench for a couple of years in Turin before earning a chance at Valencia, then a headscratching move to Barcelona; if nothing else, the man knows how to fail upwards.
Pain level: small rock in your shoe all day
The first Fede is always the most difficult. After rising up through the academy and impressing on loan at Crotone, the Tuscan native made his senior debut in 2014 but lost most of the year to a foot injury. He showed flashes in the next campaign but became Fiorentina’s unquestioned protagonist in 2015, tallying 14 goals and 5 assists in all competitions despite occasionally playing as an inverted wingback. His work rate, dribbling (despite some clunkiness), and shooting more than compensated for his habit of running blindly into corners. He was touted as the next big thing by pundits all over Italy.
Then the summer of 2017 hit. Mere weeks after claiming he wanted to be “the next Antognoni” and stay in Florence forever, the then-23 year old suddenly decided he had to get to Juventus, conveniently suffering a stomach ailment that kept him out of Fiorentina’s preseason training until he got his way. €40 million later and he was sporting 33 for the bad guys. Although he had a good first season, he’s become one of the Bianconero fanbase’s favorite whipping boys as he’s struggled for consistent playing time.
The schadenfreude helps, but name-dropping San Giancarlo and then reversing course within a month is pretty bad. Add to that his gleeful celebration after beating Marco Sportiello with a free kick at the Franchi and it’s safe to say that at this point, there’s nobody in Florence with many good things to report about Berna.
Pain level: not pain so much as vein-popping anger
And now we get to the second Fede. Much like his predecessor, Chiesa was forced into a wingback role after starring as a wide forward with the Primavera. Unlike Bernardeschi, though, he never went on loan; Fiorentina is the only club he’s ever turned out for. While there were undeniably growing pains, at 20 he looked like he’d be a better player than the first Fede ever was: faster, more technical, more capable of simply taking over a game when he wanted. He was undoubtedly the best young Italian player and, if he could develop a better end product, was poised to become a key cog for the Azzurri for years.
Unlike the social media-savvy Berna, Chiesa has always been extremely reserved in public. We’d heard rumors of his impending departure for years, so it wasn’t a shock. It wasn’t even that he wanted out: after spending most of his professional career supported by the likes of Kevin Mirallas and Edimilson Fernandes, you can’t blame him for wanting to go somewhere he’d be surrounded by talent.
In fairness to him, Juve were the only team able and willing to pay for him, so off to Turin he went. That was frustrating but understandable, especially because he made no public pledges to become a bandiera, nor did he ever tell the press that he wanted out. His petulant refusal to thank or even say goodbye to the club that had nurtured him for a decade, though, raises your hackles. It’s not so much the move that stings as what comes after it.
Pain level: encasing your entire leg in half-inch wide strips of duct tape and then ripping them off one by one