Well, it’s finally happened. Fiorentina have sold Borja Valero to Inter Milan, capping off a month’s worth of rumors, hearsay, and lawyers. Pantaleo Corvino arranged the matter, but it’s Diego and Andrea Della Valle who’ve signed off on the move to rip the beating Viola heart right from every fan’s chest.
€5.5 million (with an extra mil in potential bonuses) will make their way back to Florence in exchange for the midfielder, but they may as well have accepted thirty pieces of silver. Borja has been the soul of this team since he arrived from Villarreal in 2012. His intelligence, non-stop running, selflessness, and tactical flexibility all set an example for the rest of the squad, but it was his brilliant, flawless passing that set him above and beyond. He’s as good as any player in Serie A at picking up the ball in the middle of the pitch and then moving it, either at his feet or with the simplest of passes, into a dangerous area of the pitch. Whether he played the final ball himself or put someone else into space, we always knew that he’d find a way to generate chances.
Last year was middling by his standards—2 goals and 10 assists in 40 appearances. That doesn’t capture his importance, though. In his Viola career, he’s made 212 appearances, tallying 17 goals and 44 assists. Those 212 appearances are good 22nd all time for Fiorentina, 19th most among outfield players, 8th most among midfielders, and most by a Spaniard.
It’s not just the stats, though. It’s the man who produced them. Borja and his family have become a Florentine institution. They’re frequently seen around the city, shopping or relaxing or doing the same things that any other family does. He and his wife Rocío Rodríguez have spoken many times of their desire to stay in Florence even after he retires and raise their family. He’s the most popular, most approachable, most human player Fiorentina’s had since, well, maybe ever. Mayor Dario Nardella likes to joke that Borja is the real mayor of the city.
We’ve heard that Corvino wanted to sell his star man off to China this past January, and that the player’s refusal to move infuriated the DS. The club has insisted that the exit is the player’s idea, which Valero himself denies vehemently. The club has responded by threatening to sue its former vice-captain, which marks the first time I’ve ever been genuinely ashamed to be a fan. The rest of the tifosi seem to agree and have orchestrated an outpouring of affection for their idol, but to no avail. Borja’s gone.
Shame, shame, shame on this organization. If the DVs are unable to sign any players worth a damn, they’ll only have to remember back to this episode to see why nobody would want to work for them. As for Borja, he’ll probably tear Fiorentina apart twice a year for Inter, as he should. But hopefully the tattoo on his arm of the coordinates of the Ponte Vecchio will bring him back home.