While we’ve talked about how Borja Valero is the soul of this Fiorentina team, there’s no question that Gonzalo Rodriguez is its heart. His all-action, take-no-prisoners style of defending; willingness to charge forward to close down in the midfield; and generally excellent marshaling of his backline would be enough to make him a fan favorite. When you add in his relationship and adorable daughter with a local cafe owner (not to his propensity to cover Leonard Cohen songs with them), and it’s easy to see why he’s become of symbol of the club in his 4 years in Florence.
It’s a lot more difficult to see why extending his contract is proving to be such a bugbear for the Viola management, though. Disputes with the club captain are never desirable (hi, Mauro Icardi and Inter Milan), and Fiorentina have come out looking rather badly in this one.
Gonzalo’s representatives have in talks with DS Pantaleo Corvino and company for the past few months. After assurances from both sides that everything was relaxed and coming together just fine, it’s come to light that the Gigliati offered the skipper a 2 year contract extension which includes a pay cut from his current salary of €850,000, which the player has rejected outright.
On the one hand, Gonzalo’s already 32 and has shown a few signs this season that he might be slowing down a bit. His extensive injury history probably factors in as well, although he’s been remarkably durable during his stint in purple. However, he remains an extremely effective defender, particularly when paired with Davide Astori, and it’s easy to imagine him remaining effective for another couple of seasons.
But more importantly, he’s a real leader in the dressing room and one of those players who helps set a team’s culture, which is deeply important. Hard on the heels of Fiorentina’s dismissal of previous captain Manuel Pasqual, it looks even worse. While the tifosi clamor for Gonzalo to sign on the dotted line, it’s hard to fault him for feeling disrespected by the reduced rate. The only silver lining is that a number of former Viola players believe that the sides will reunite and get a deal done, and Corvino himself has said, “You don’t expect white smoke on the first day,” expressing optimism that they’ll hash it out.
“The young defender” has spoken openly of his desire to play another season or two in Europe before returning to boyhood club San Lorenzo and retiring in Argentina. Perhaps this will accelerate his decision to go back. If not, some European club is going to get a top-notch centerback on a Bosman, and Fiorentina will come out a bit more tarnished.