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OFFICIAL: So long, Pezze, and thank you for everything

Fiorentina’s captain returns to Betis after a 4-year stint with the Viola.

AS Roma v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A
Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

We’ve heard rumblings for a little while, but now it’s official: Fiorentina has sold Germán Pezzella to Real Betis for a reported €4 million. The 30-year-old Argentina international returns to los Verdiblancos, who sold him to the Viola back in 2017, following 4 seasons in Florence, 3 of which he spent as the club captain.

As a player, Pezze was always quite solid. More of a rugged, old-fashioned penalty box defender than a modern centerback who’d step out of the line to close down an opponent or launch a quick attack, his reading of the game, aerial ability, and grit made him a fan favorite almost from day one. He’ll finish his Viola career with 137 appearances and 7 goals, all from set pieces. He’ll also leave behind a hell of a legacy.

Even more than his sterling work on the pitch, what stands out about Pezzella is his leadership after Davide Astori’s death. As Astori’s partner in defense, Pezze assumed a massive burden after that unspeakable morning in Udine, not just in terms of his tactical role but in terms of the emotional weight he carried: he wore the DA13 armband with pride and reverence, celebrating every goal by holding it aloft to commemorate his lost friend, and constantly reminded the press, the fans, and the team about what Astori means to this club.

It’s not just that he was a faithful and respectful servant to the club. Germán showed incredible toughness during his time here. His willingness to twice return to the field just two weeks after having his cheekbone broken in a game demonstrated his quiet commitment to his duty as the leader of this group, and nobody can question his grinta. While he did receive criticism in some quarters for his play last year, the same accusations could be leveled at literally every player on the roster, so it’s probably a bit overblown.

For Fiorentina, this opens up a spot in defense. While Nikola Milenković is, against all odds, staying with the club after signing a contract extension, manager Vincenzo Italiano will need one of Lucas Martínez Quarta or Igor to step up in a big way, unless Daniele Pradè and Joe Barone plan to bring in a starting-quality central defender. It also raises the question of who gets the armband now: Lorenzo Venuti, Gaetano Castrovilli, Milenković, Giacomo Bonaventura, and Bartłomiej Drągowski could all make a case.

What we’re focused on now, though, is bidding Pezze a fond farewell. He never gave less than his all, even through the most emotionally devastating moment in Fiorentina history, and never ducked responsibility. Betis is getting a good one. So thank you, Germán, for everything. You’re welcome back in Florence any time.