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Emiliano Mondonico dies age 71

The long-time player and manager led Fiorentina back to Serie A in 2004.

Italy Training Session & Press Conference
Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Former Fiorentina, Torino, and Atalanta manager Emiliano Mondonico has died in Milan, surrounded by family, after a 7-year battle with cancer. He was 71 years old. Viola fans know him best for bringing them back to Serie A in 2004.

Mondnico enjoyed thirteen-year career as a winger that began and ended with his hometown club Cremonese and included stops at Torino, Monza, and Atalanta. He once got himself sent off for the Tigri in 1967 so he’d have time to get to a Rolling Stones concert, but was regarded as a model professional otherwise.

Two years after retiring as a player, he took over at Cremonese and in 1984 led them to Serie A for the first time in 54 years. After a season with Como, he took over Atalanta and led them to the semis of the 1988 Cup-Winner’s Cup. In 1990, he moved on to Torino and won a Mitropa Cup and a Coppa Italia with the Granata, but is best-remembered for hoisting a chair over his head in the final of the UEFA Cup to protest the referee’s refusal to give a penalty. Spells at Atalanta and Torino again, as well as a year at Napoli in which he was unable to prevent their relegation to Serie B, led to him taking the job at Cosenza.

In 2003, he accepted the head coach position at Fiorentina, who had just been promoted from Serie C2 to Serie B due to the infamous caso Catania. The Della Valle brothers tapped him as the man to bring them back to the top flight, and the following year, that was precisely what he did, leading his charges to 6th place in the league and promotion via a playoff against Perugia.

He didn’t spend much longer in Florence, instead taking the reins at AlbinoLeffe for separate spells surrounding another couple of years at Cremonese. At Bergamo, he revealed that he’d developed cancer in 2009, and despite his attempts to return to the game he loved, was forced to call it quits in 2012 after a stint at Novara.

However, despite his serious health issues, he remained active in calcio, most notably as a regular on the set of Domenica Sportiva and other TV programs, even as he underwent physically taxing treatment for the disease before entering hospice care several months ago.

So farewell, Mondonico. We’ll miss your passion for the game and your roguish charm (“It’s Serie A or drugs and alcohol. I’ll continue as a manager.”), and we’ll never forget how you took Fiorentina back to Serie A.