According to multiple outlets, Fiorentina transfer guru Pantaleo Corvino and Inter Milan DS Piero Ausilio met this morning at a hotel in Milan to formalize the Nerrazzuri bid for Borja Valero. Such a meeting generally only comes after the club and player have reached some sort of tentative agreement. Barring breakdown in the talks or a sudden change of heart, Borja is on his way out.
I don’t need to tell you that, in footballing terms, this is a huge loss. Valero is notable for his formidable work rate, his versatility, and his willingness to track back. But more than anything, it’s his ability to move the ball quickly and unfussily from the center of the pitch into the attacking third that makes him special. He’s the archetypal “pass that leads to the key pass” playmaker. Fiorentina looked clueless, helpless, and hopeless without him this season, as the attack became very predictable and simple to snuff out; he’s probably been the club’s most important player for the past 4 years. Yes, he’ll turn 33 this year, but he’s still playing at a level unmatched by all but a handful of Serie A midfielders, and there’s no reason to think that he’s slipping. Selling him to a rival like Inter only makes it worse.
It’s not just his on-the-pitch skill and leadership, though, that’s such a loss. It’s that he and his family have woven themselves into the city. Although they’re Spanish, they’ve been perfect representatives of every positive quality we associate with native Florentines: thoughtfulness, self-awareness, humor. Borja has the geographic coordinates to the Ponte Vecchio tattooed on his arm. He genuinely seems to care about the city, and he’s probably the most beloved man to wear purple since Angelo di Livio, or maybe even Roberto Baggio.
Even so, the Della Valles and Corvino think that selling him—for a fee reported to be just €5 million—is something that will help the squad. May as well ask for thirty pieces of silver. Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel like my heart is being ripped out of my chest, so I’m going to go be alone for the next few hours. I imagine that much of Florence feels the same way.