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The Spanish midfielder and future mayor of Florence is home again.

ACF Fiorentina v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

It’s been 1,164 days since Fiorentina—under the Della Valle brothers and Pantaleo Corvino—sold Borja Valero to Inter Milan. 3 years, 2 months, and 6 days later, he’s officially returned to Florence on a free transfer with a year-long contract that he could extend for a second if he wants before joining the Viola management. Welcome home, mayor.

I cannot begin to describe the importance of this signing. Yes, he’s a 35-year-old and likely won’t play too many minutes, but he’s still a wonderful passer and should improve the team. Specifically, he’ll be able to retrieve the ball from the defense or his fellow midfielders and thread it through to the attackers, which in turn means Franck Ribery won’t be forced to drop to his own defense to pick up possession and will instead get to stay closer to the opposing goal.

More than that, though, Borja will serve as a leader and a role model. He’s played professionally in Spain, England, and Italy. He’s played in every possible competition. He can teach his younger Fiorentina teammates so much, whether that’s where to go off the ball or how to take care of their bodies off the pitch. He’s always been one of the smartest players on any team he’s on, and now he’s a resource for the Viola.

That still doesn’t capture the emotional energy this move has released. Borja was the best-beloved of Florence during his first half decade in the city. He and his family immediately dropped into the rhythms of the city and became, well, not your average Florentines, but perhaps your outstanding Florentines. While many players (rightly) keep themselves shut in at home to avoid the crowds, the Valeros always seemed completely at ease connecting with their fellow Firenze denizens. They really were the first family of Florence.

ACF Fiorentina v FC Internazionale - Serie A
“Borja, this is always your house.”
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

That’s what made his departure so wrenching. The man is a true professional and didn’t make a scene, but explained the situation calmly, said his goodbyes, and left for Milan, where he was never gave anything less than his all. Now, though, he’s back in the city. His city.

That’s the end of the article because I’m tearing up.