FIORENTINA

Fiorentina 1996 - No.10 Rui Costa

In Florence, city of the Renaissance, and just as legendary long-haired artists in the forms of Antognoni and Baggio had adorned the viola 10 shirt, Manuel Rui Costa used the Artemio Franchi pitch as his creative canvas.

A true midfield conductor, his style led to the nickname “il Maestro di Fiorenze” – the Maestro of Florence, however, despite a lack of genuine pace – although he seemed to glide around the pitch – his close control and dribbling abilities made sure he operated mostly as a trequartista rather than a functioning metronome in the deeper laying regista role.

The mercurial Roberto Baggio's performances for the Fiori elevated him to hero status among the fans and rioting broke out when he was sold to Juventus in 1990.
Baggio replied to his fans, saying: "I was compelled to accept the transfer".

In his first match for Juventus against Fiorentina Baggio refused to take a penalty, stating that Fiorentina's goalkeeper knew him too well. Then when substituted, he picked up a Fiorentina scarf thrown onto the field, a gesture which caused outrage amongst the Juventus supporters, who were initially reluctant to accept Baggio. He later claimed: "Deep in my heart I am always purple".

His characteristics led former Fiorentina playmaker, Miguel Montuori, to state that Baggio was: "…more productive than Maradona; he is without doubt the best number 10 in the league", also stating that Baggio had "ice in his veins", due to his composure in front of goal.

Though the season itself was far from Fiorentina’s finest moment (they were relegated from Serie A for the first time in 55 years after dive-bombing down the table from sitting second behind Milan in December), their 1992/93 away strip was very nearly a wonderful piece of work.

With a relatively reserved design (considering we’re talking about the early-to-mid 90s here!), a cool 'pop'-culture sponsor and a Viola-drenched colour palette that was rather pleasing to any young burgeoning Football Italia addict’s eye, Fiorentina’s garb was a joy to behold through innocent, unknowing eyes.

Sadly though, there was one small, purely coincidental design flaw that rendered La Viola’s change strip controversial – it was covered in swastikas!
Rumours quickly spread that the club – who were infamous for their fascist tendencies during WWII – had purposefully included the covert symbol into the design, though Fiorentina and manufacturer insisted that the design was purely accidental.
Regardless the shirt didnt appear the following season...

The most significant event in Fiorentina's difficult 1992 season was the arrival of Argentinian striker Gabriel Batistuta, who was to break the club scoring record during his nine years at the club.
Batistuta was 'La Viola’s' footballing spearhead and spiritual leader in the nineties. To the fans, he was a demigod, not only for his goals, but also his decision to stick with the club after being relegated in 1993. 

The long hair, upturned collar and a rugged chin of stubble belied moments of gracefulness but his finishing was brutal - epitomised by his unique swivel of an imaginary sub-machine gun celebration. 
It is fair to say to say Fiorentina were only denied the 1999 Scudetto when Batistuta pulled up with a hamstring injury in a pivotal game against eventual champions Milan. 

Batistuta remarked years later “I loved being there, as I knew of the bond I have with these people, but I must confess I never expected such a wonderful show of love - the unique years I spent in Florence cannot be compared to any other football experience.”
He scored 157 goals in 254 games for Fiorentina in all competitions, helping them win the Italian Cup in 1996, the year in which a bronze statue of 'Batigol' was erected.

Fiorentina 1984 - No.8 Socrates / Home

In 1984, aged 30, the sublimely talented Sócrates had his first experience abroad, playing in Serie A with Fiorentina.
His supreme ability with a football, visually accentuated by his languid style, had allowed him to shine at Corinthians but it never really suited the Italian game.
Moments of genius, his trademark backheels and audacious chips were enough to create a cult following among some supporters yet others were left frustrated with his nonchalant approach.

His former teammate Giancarlo Antognoni recalls 'He struggled to adapt to our football but he was an authentic champion, full of refined class, great charisma and character.'
He returned to Brazil after that sole season, representing Flamengo, Santos and former club Botafogo-SP, before retiring in 1989.

Socrates embodied the romantic side of the beautiful game and never took his profession too seriously.
"The way of life is so correct and organised in Europe. It's not like that in Brazil, where things are more spontaneous," Socrates told an interviewer in 2010.
"I was in Florence for a year with Fiorentina and sometimes I didn't want to train, but to hang out with friends, party or have a smoke. There's more to life than football."

Fiorentina have won two Italian Championships, in 1956 and again in 1969, as well as winning six Coppa Italia trophies and one Italian Super Cup.
On the European stage Fiorentina won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1961 but Europe's major honour eluded them when they lost the 1957 European Cup final against Real Madrid.

Fiorentina have a strong and bitter rivalry with Juventus, ever since the early 80's when Juve denied the Florence team a Scudetto on the last day of the season with a disputed penalty. They were again beaten in the 1990 Uefa Cup final by the Bianconeri, and to add insult to injury their best player Roberto Baggio was sold to their rival team on the day of the final.

The prolific Argentine striker played most of his club football at Fiorentina, and is the tenth top scorer of all-time in the Italian Serie A league, with 184 goals in 318 matches.
'Batigol' as he was known had played for the top clubs in Argentina, including Boca and River, and it was while playing for his country in the 1991 Copa América, that the vice-president of Fiorentina was so impressed by Batistuta's skills that he signed him for the Italian club.

It was with the Viola that Batistuta found his best form. He was the top scorer of the 1994–95 season with 26 goals, and he broke Ezio Pascutti's 30-year-old record by scoring in all of the first 11 matches of the season. The following year they won the Coppa, Batistuta's only major honour with the team.

When Fiorentina were relegated to Serie B in 1993, Batistuta stayed with the club and helped it return to the top-flight a year later. A popular sporting figure in Florence, the fans erected a life-size bronze statue of him in 1996, in recognition of his performances for their club.

He never won the Italian league with Fiorentina, but when he moved to Roma in 2000, he finally won the Scudetto to crown his career in Italy.
Diego Maradona once said that Batistuta is the best striker he has ever seen play the game.

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