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Here is Florence’s Renaissance XI

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Lots of creativity balanced by some real competitive steel.

Detail of Self-Portrait from Adoration of the Magi by Sandro Botticelli
10 out of 10
Photo by © Summerfield Press/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Look, I’m bored and it’s Saturday and there’s not much Fiorentina news and this is what you’re going to get. Sorry. But also not sorry.

Goalkeeper: Lorenzo de’ Medici

If you want someone who’s fantastic at controlling the penalty area and organizing a defense, Lorenzo the Magnificent is the man for the job. Not only did he demonstrate a ruthless command of his own territory, but he also showed a gift for organizing a defense, as illustrated by his diplomacy to turn back the overwhelming armies of Rome and Naples.

Comparison: Francesco Toldo

LB: Donatello

One of the most important roles of a modern fullback is to complement everyone else on the pitch while still maintaining a crazy-high workrate, and Donatello does both perfectly. His collaborations with everyone from Lorenzo Ghiberti to Michelozzo; his close partnership with Brunelleschi is exactly what you want at the back. As for his work rate, well, Donatello was still sculpting stone and bronze well after the age of 60.

Comparison: Philipp Lahm

CB: Filippo Brunelleschi

An elegant, ballplaying defender, he’s the sort of libero who’s instrumental in all phases. Who else would you want building the foundation of your defense and constructing your attacks from the bottom of the pitch?

Comparison: Velibor Vasović

CB: Poliziano

Born Agnolo Ambrogini, the poet and scholar reforged the study of the Classics in Florence into a pursuit worthy in and of themselves rather than for political study, giving him the skillset a modern, cultured defender needs. But don’t forget that he also saved Lorenzo the Magnificent’s life during the Pazzi Conspiracy—the assassination attempt killed Giuliano de’ Medici and would have gotten Lorenzo if not for Poliziano’s quick actions—so he’s clearly more than happy to mix it up, too.

Comparison: Raphaël Varane

RB: Girolamo Savonarola

A truly hard man who’s comfortable out on the wing, he’s a tough and fiery defender who’s absolutely relentless in his attacks on the opponent’s left. His only real weaknesses are that he lacks fitness for a full season and that he has a tendency to freelance a bit.

Comparison: Carlos Alberto

DM: Niccolò Machiavelli

Every team needs a practitioner of the dark arts, and Machiavelli is about as dark as they get. Renowned for his cynicism and realpolitik thinking, he’s exactly who you’d want churning up the center of the pitch. He’s not a pure midfield destroyer, though: don’t forget that he also wrote a number of poems and plays, indicating a more creative spirit that can also play out from deep.

Comparison: Dunga

CM: Amerigo Vespucci

A central midfielder who covers a lot of territory, is comfortable in various situations, and can do a bit of everything is high on every team’s wish list, and this XI is lucky to have Vespucci. He crossed the Atlantic, wrote some of the most influential travel accounts ever, and was a prolific merchant. Imagine what else he’s got in his locker.

Comparison: Yaya Touré

AM: Sandro Botticelli

Who else to wear the 10 shirt but perhaps the greatest painter in Florentine history? He produced masterpiece after masterpiece and defined the age, despite developing his own unique sensibilities. Equally comfortable with devotional art as he was with mythological scenes or portraiture, his versatility means he can contribute to the group in a variety of ways. He’s also one of the few real bandiere, living his entire life in the same house in Ognissanti. And, as with every great 10, there’s a little bit of tragedy in there too, as his late interest in Savonarola’s preaching led him to destroy some of his own works, and his reputation suffered until the end of the 19th century, when scholars realized that he was, quite simply, a genius.

Comparison: Giancarlo Antognoni

LW: Fra Lippo Lippi

Bad boy attackers make everyone swoon. With low socks and a can’t-make-me-care attitude, there’s just something inherently romantic there, and Lippi is about as perfect a fit as imaginable. While his life is a tabloid tire fire off the pitch, he’s perfect on it; whether he’s using the grass as a canvas for another masterpiece or displaying his inexplicable ability to escape from any situation when the opponent thinks he’s cornered (from slave ships to prisons), he’s the definition of a mercurial wide attacker.

Comparison: Garrincha

RW: Giovanni Boccaccio

While the fullback behind him may be a fiery attacking force, Boccaccio is more of a languid creator blessed with one of the quickest minds around and a desire to entertain with his prodigious skill. A winger is allowed to be more fun than prolific, and that fits our Giovanni to a tee. Plus, the famously corpulent fiction writer is nothing if not a wide man.

Comparison: Ronaldinho

CF: Lorenzo Ghiberti

The best strikers combine artistry with artisanship; you have to be able to score the ugly goals as well as the brilliant ones. Nobody in Florence better exemplified that than Ghiberti, whose work on the Battistero di San Giovanni is as brilliant and recognizable as any art in the city. On the other hand, he also ran a successful goldsmithing business for decades. That, combined with his work with other artists and his versatility (he wrote the first artist’s autobiography ever), makes him the perfect candidate to lead the line.

Comparison: Gabriel Batistuta