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Ballon d’Or Winner 1993: Roberto Baggio’s Magical Kicks

1993. The year that Princess Diana divorced Prince Charles, and more importantly, the year that “The Divine Ponytail” was awarded The Ballon d’Or.

Roberto Baggio, who mainly played second striker, or as an attacking midfielder for many teams in his native country when the Italian league was the apex of world football; was awarded the trophy for his exploits in the 1993 calendar year.

He is the former president of the Italian Football Federation, was chosen for the FIFA World Cup Dream Team, came fourth in the FIFA Player of the Century; and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.

Respected not only as being hirsute, Baggio is generally thought of as a technically gifted and creative playmaker: a set-piece specialist, renowned for his curling free-kicks, dribbling skills, and goalscoring.

In fact, Pele put him on the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players in 2004.  He didn’t turn a hair.

Baggio played for an impressive seven different Italian clubs during his career – Vicenza, Fiorentina, Juventus, AC Milan, Bologna, Inter Milan, and Brescia.

His brilliance was spotted early on.  Aldo Agroppi, his manager at Fiorentina, said of him:  “The angels sing in his legs.” 

Baggio became known as “Il Divin Codino” (The Divine Ponytail). He earned his nickname, not just for his on-the-ball skills, or haircut, but for his Buddhist beliefs 

Incredibly, he is one of the few footballers to boast awards not just for his football, but for human rights activism. 

Following a serious injury that threatened his footballing career in 1985, Baggio converted to Buddhism from his lifelong faith of Roman Catholicism.  He wore his beliefs with pride by sporting a blue, yellow and red captain’s arm band, that read:  “We win.  We must win”.

A true renaissance man, Baggio was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and was chosen as the inaugural winner of the Golden Foot award, given to players not just for their athleticism but also for their personality. 

And in 2010, he received the Man of Peace award from the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, given to those who have stood up for human rights and the spread of the principles of Peace and Solidarity in the world or made an outstanding contribution to international social justice and peace.

But, back to what really matters. Football…

Baggio’s Magical Kicks

The Ballon d’Or headed to Italy for the third time in four years as Baggio lit up the most competitive league in the world. His trademark silky skills and deft touches mesmerised the Serie A, as he would star in a Juventus side that was in a period of transition and lacked a solid midfield and defence.

Juve were well stocked in attack, Baggio lining up alongside Fabrizio Ravenelli, Vialli, a young Del Piero and Baggio’s own brother Dino in midfield.

But, this was not the all-conquering Juventus side that was yet to come. With the 92-93 season one to rebuild and stay competitive with a team in between golden eras.

Despite an average team behind him, Baggio was enough to keep the Turin side in European contention, making the difference as his 21 goals from attacking midfield saw the Juventus forward enjoying a brilliant season to win the accolade alongside the FIFA World Player of the Year award.

Baggio was the undoubted star of a Juventus side that lifted the UEFA Cup under Giovanni Trapattoni, scoring twice in the club’s 6-1 aggregate victory over Borussia Dortmund in the final.

The mercurial forward finished as the runner-up for the Golden Boot in Italian football and produced a series of mesmeric displays, including a four-goal destruction of Udinese as Juventus finished fourth in the division.

The dazzling feet of ‘The Divine Ponytail’ delighted the masses in Italy, Baggio the stand-out domestic star in a league packed with the world’s finest footballers. Few can forget the sight of the Italian hurdling and evading robust challenges on his way to the opposition’s penalty box. A wonderfully creative talent and a player who helped truly define the nineties, in more ways than just football.

A Tulmutous but Celebrated Legacy, A Man of Philosophy.

The sixth son of eight children and a prolific goal scorer, he played for Italy in 56 matches, scoring 27 goals, and is the joint fourth-highest goalscorer for his national team, alongside Alessandro Del Piero.

“Il Divin Codino” starred in the Italian team that finished third in the 1990 FIFA World Cup, scoring twice. At the 1994 World Cup, he led Italy to the final, scoring five goals, receiving the World Cup Silver Ball and being named in the All-Star Team. 

Although he was the star performer for Italy at the tournament, he missed the decisive penalty in the shootout of the final against Brazil. He became known colloquially as “The Man Who Died Standing”.

But at the 1998 World Cup, he scored twice before Italy was eliminated by eventual champions France in the quarter-finals. 

Baggio is the only Italian to score in three World Cups. With nine goals, he holds the record for most goals scored in World Cup tournaments for Italy, along with Paolo Rossi and Christian Vieri.

He has developed close ties with Argentina, speaks Spanish and owns a ranch property where he reportedly enjoys the hunting game – not the beautiful one.

His quest for a better world continues:  He took part in the “Match for Peace” in Rome in 2014, with all proceeds going to charity.  

He remains popular in Japan and has held close ties with the country, endorsing and starring in a number of football video games and cartoons there.

In 2011 Baggio was the first footballer to be inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame. 

He has had a sonnet written about him, starred in television commercials, been referenced in several songs, and had a Netflix series produced about his life.  

Not bad for a Buddhist with an impressive barnet and ball skills. There is hope for us all.

Baggio’s 1993 Stats:

Category Information
Full Name Roberto Baggio
Age (at the time) 26
Nationality Italian
Position Forward
Height 1.74m (5 ft 8.5 in)
Club Juventus FC
Appearances 56 (all competitions)
Goals 43 (all competitions)
Assists 12 (all competitions)
Honours in 1993 1993 Ballon d’Or winner

World Soccer’s World Player of the Year: 1993

FIFA World Player of the Year: 1993

UEFA Cup Winner: 1992–93

Onze d’Or: 1993

1993 Ballon d’Or Voting list:

Rank Name Club(s) Points
1 Roberto Baggio Juventus 192
2 Dennis Bergkamp Internazionale 83
3 Eric Cantona Manchester United 34
4 Alen Bokšić Lazio 29
5 Michael Laudrup Barcelona 27
6 Franco Baresi Milan 24
7 Paolo Maldini Milan 19
8 Emil Kostadinov Porto 11
9 Stéphane Chapuisat Borussia Dortmund 9
Ryan Giggs Manchester United 9
11 Andreas Möller Juventus 7
12 Ruud Gullit Sampdoria 6
Peter Schmeichel Manchester United 6
Hristo Stoichkov Barcelona 6
15 Basile Boli Marseille 5
Rune Bratseth Werder Bremen 5
17 Enzo Scifo Monaco 4
18 Andreas Herzog Werder Bremen 3
Ronald Koeman Barcelona 3
Jari Litmanen Ajax 3
21 Dino Baggio Juventus 2
Sergei Kiriakov Karlsruher SC 2
David Platt Sampdoria 2
Franck Sauzée Atalanta 2
Giuseppe Signori Lazio 2
26 Tomas Brolin Parma 1
Martin Dahlin Borussia Mönchengladbach 1
Georges Grün Parma 1
Stelios Manolas AEK Athens 1
Paul McGrath Aston Villa 1

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