An all-time Fiorentina great just hung up his boots. “The young defender” Gonzalo Rodríguez, now 36, explained in an interview with current club San Lorenzo that he’s ready to call it quits and spend more time with his family and friends. He’d returned to his boyhood outfit San Lorenzo after a lamentable departure from Fiorentina in 2017, when the Della Valle brothers and Pantaleo Corvino refused to extend his contract.
I can list out the numbers for you, but they won’t do Bomber Gonzalo any sort of justice, even though they’re deeply impressive in their own right. Bought from Villarreal for just €1.5 million in 2012 after the Yellow Submarine sank into relegation with Borja Valero and Giuseppe Rossi, the defender arrived with a reputation for intelligent and physical play matched only by a propensity for injury, with cruciate tears and a broken fibula (!) marring his time at the Cerámica.
We expected him to start right away and he did. We didn’t expect him to stay on the pitch forever, but he missed just 10 games through injury in 5 years. For that half decade, he piled up 17,886 minutes across 203 appearances, an eye-popping 25 goals, 6 assists, 66 yellow cards, and 7 red cards.
He’s got the 15th most appearances for a Viola defender in club history, and his 25 goals trail just countryman and all-world star Daniel Passarella and flying fullback Sergio Cervato. He trails just Gabriel Batistuta in Fiorentina appearances for an Argentine. He wore the armband for two years. That he only earned 7 caps for his country while guys like José Basanta and Martín Demichelis were regulars points to the glaring favoritism (or corruption, if we’re being a bit more honest) that scuppers Argentina internationally at every tournament.
The numbers aren’t even close to doing Gonzalo justice, though, because it was his personality and the moments of wonder he provided that really explain his impact. In those dazzling Vincenzo Montella sides based around slick passing through the middle and technically marvelous players getting up the pitch, Gonzalo added a dimension of long passing out from the back, sure, but he also added a toughness that was otherwise wholly lacking. He wasn’t afraid to body up bigger players or throw himself around to kill off the counterattacks that sprang up whenever Fiorentina lost the ball. If Valero was the beating heart of those sides, Gonzalo was their fearless and expansive soul.
I can’t describe any more of what made him so special on the pitch, so here’s a woefully inadequate 10 minute video of thunderous and precise tackles, out-of-nowhere clearances, laser-guided 60 meter passes, and, of course, the goals.
A slightly introverted figure, he was never the sort to invite the fans into his life like il Sindacco did. Gonzalo, though, connected with the community in ways that no other player did. He settled down and had a kid with local gelateria owner Paula Martina Alessi, with whom he seems to have a genuinely beautiful relationship. He stepped on stage and played guitar in local bars. He was just so effortlessly cool.
After Corvino and the Della Valles refused to extend his contract, he gracefully moved back to San Lorenzo and has been solid there for the past two years, mostly working as a mentor off the pitch but still more than able to come in and do a job, making 55 appearances and adding another 3 goals.
We’re as thrilled that he gets to end his career on his own terms as we were dismayed that he was forced out of Florence. He’s earned the right to do whatever he wants now, but we really hope that he’ll be back in Tuscany as at least a frequent and regular visitor, if not a full-time resident. There are so many Fiorentina supporters who love him, and we’re part of that group. It’d be brilliant to see him return, either in some capacity with the club or as a private citizen.
No matter what, though, congratulations on a brilliant career, Gonzalo, and thank you for everything.