When he bought Fiorentina, Rocco Commisso promised to bring beloved former players back to the club, and he’s doing all he can to deliver. In the past few days, both Dario Dainelli and Alberto Aquilani have signed on with the new Viola project. The former will take over as one of the club’s directors, while the latter will embark on a coaching career as boss of the U18s.
Dainelli just retired, having turned 40 on 9 June. A native Tuscan—he was born in Pontedera, just outside Pisa—he spent last year with Livorno before hanging up his boots. While he spent time with Chievo Verona, Genoa, Brescia, Hellas Verona, Lecce, Andria, Cavese, and Empoli, his Tuscan roots show through with his maturation in the Empoli academy. He spent 6 years in Florence, serving as a dependable and rugged central defender from 2004 until 2010; he cost the club €5.5 million (no paltry sum back then for a defender) and would have been a bargain at twice the price, given that he was one of the cornerstones of those magical Cesare Prandelli teams.
As a player, he was just awesome. Never especially athletic, he possessed an innate understanding of where to be at all times and got himself there with minimum fuss. His no-frills approach and natural leadership instincts saw him earn the armband just a year after joining the Viola, and he kept the captaincy until he was sold to Genoa; the thought was that, at 31, his career was winding down. Instead, he stayed in Serie A for another 8 years. His tenacity, leadership, charisma, and gentle good humor should make him a big hit at the directors’ table.
Aquilani, on the other hand, had an absurd amount of fantasia. A classy, ball-playing midfielder, he broke through the AS Roma ranks and was quickly proclaimed the future of the club, the sort of brilliant passer who’d perfectly complement Daniele de Rossi for two decades. Sadly, it didn’t work out for him there, and subsequent stints at Liverpool, Juventus, and AC Milan saw him develop a reputation as an enigmatic player with bags of talent who was incapable of sustaining his brilliance over a full season, largely due to injuries.
In Florence, though, he blossomed under the tutelage of Vincenzo Montella. Fielded next to David Pizarro and Borja Valero as the third of the Three Tenors, he provided a goal threat and a bit of extravagance that the other two lacked, even if he continued to go AWOL every once in a while. Bringing him aboard to coach the kids is a great idea, as the 3 years he spent under Cousin Vinnie were unquestionably his best; he should create a solid bridge between the youth and senior sides ,allowing the players some stylistic continuity as they ascend through the ranks. He’s also in his first year of retirement, so he should still have the skill to convince a bunch of teenagers to listen to him, and will hopefully develop the reputation to match soon.