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Roberto Baggio Former Italian Soccer Star

Roberto Baggio: The Rise and Fall Of The 1994 World Cup Star

Few players divided opinions quite like Roberto Baggio. He was beloved by some, hated by others. Unquestionably talented, yet rarely utilized to his full potential. Baggio was one of the best forwards in soccer to set foot on a pitch, but his entire legacy has unfairly been tarnished by one particular blemish.

young-baggio-vicenza

How Good Was Roberto Baggio

“Il Divino Codino” was a footballing genius: an inch-perfect ball passer, a free-kick specialist, and a sensational dribbler. In his heyday, Roberto Baggio was unstoppable, seemingly capable of rounding any number of defenders before finishing in style.

Who will ever forget his goal against Czechoslovakia at Italia 90 when he took on and beat the whole Czech defense? Venerated as a demi-god at Fiorentina, rioting broke out in the streets of Florence the day Roberto signed for Juventus.

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He was voted European Footballer of the Year in 1993 after leading Juventus to triumph in the UEFA Cup, and he followed that up with an outstanding display at USA 94, taking the Squadra Azzurra virtually single-handedly to the World Cup Final, scoring five of his side’s six goals from the second round on.

The pony-tailed maestro’s career has also been punctuated with disappointments and injuries, but he has always bounced back with undying self-belief. “I’ve never had to resurrect my career because my career has never been over,” says this never ruffled Buddhist.

Legend has it that the Pope once told Roberto Baggio, “you are my greatest challenge.”

roberto baggio meeting the pope

The Early Years

The future Italian football star was born in Caldogno on February 18, 1967. The young Italian began to play in his hometown team, Caldogno, and then moved to Lanerossi Vicenza, who played in C1 at age 13.

In the youth teams of Lanerossi Vicenza, he immediately stands out with dizzying numbers. He scores as many as 110 goals in 120 appearances by adding up all the years of youth at Vicenza.

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In the 84/85 season, he joined the first team and helped Lanerossi to reach Serie B by scoring 12 goals in 29 games. Then, on May 5, 1985, the first tile of Baggio’s career arrived: an injury to his right knee that compromised Meniscus and anterior cruciate.

This injury kept him off the soccer field for more than a year and made him go through a deep personal crisis. The injury came, among other things, a few days after the signing of the contract with Fiorentina; In fact, the Viola had bought it from Vicenza for 2.7 billion lire.

baggio soccer player for Italy

Roberto Baggio At Fiorentina

On 21 September 1986, he made his Serie A debut with the Fiorentina shirt, only to get his knee injured again a week later, an injury that forced him away from the fields for the whole season.

In the 1987/88 season, Roberto Baggio returns to Fiorentina’s disposal and plays a fantastic season, leading the Florence team to navigate the top parts of the standings.

Roberto Baggio With Trophies

Fiorentina kept the faith and was handsomely rewarded. After regaining his fitness, Baggio became one of Serie A’s deadliest players, earning the nickname Il Divino Codino (The Divine Ponytail).

In the following years, he was called up to the national team for the first time (1988) for a friendly match and won the Bravo Trophy, awarded to the best Under-23 of the tournament.

In 1990,Baggio led La Viola to its first UEFA Cup final, where hated rival Juventus defeated them. He was selected for the World Cup in Italy 1990 with the National team, scoring a masterpiece goal against Czechoslovakia and giving memorable Baggio’s performances, culminating with the Italian third place in the home World Cup.

baggio soccer player with Juventus

Juventus Record Signing

In May 1990, the ponytail striker was bought by Juventus for the record amount of 25 billion Lire (£8 million), causing many riots in the Viola football fans, who did not want to lose their symbol.

As shown by various anecdotes, Baggio struggled to let go of his commitment to Viola. For example, at the presentation conference at Juventus, Baggio refused to wear a Juventus scarf in front of the press.

After a difficult start to life in Turin that left many Juventus fans questioning his commitment, he eventually came good and hit his peak. Roberto Baggio was renowned for his eye for goal, but perhaps his most iconic asset was his free-kick technique.

roberto baggi wall mural

The years at Juventus are, for him, the years of consecration. In 5 seasons (from 1990 to 1995), the forward scored 78 goals, and won a Scudetto league title, an Italian Cup, a UEFA Cup, the Golden Ball, and the FIFA World Player.

Despite all his victories and goals, injuries marred him even in the Juventus years, and between 1992 and 1995, he spent several months away from the soccer fields.

His absence favored the explosion of another extraordinary phenomenon: Alessandro Del Piero.

claudio taffarel diving to his left while roberto baggio kicks the ball over the goals

1994 World Cup Player Of The Tournament

Il Divino Codino carried his form into the 1994 World Cup, scoring five goals. He was named the player of the tournament and led Italy to the final. However, these accolades mattered little after what transpired in the showpiece game.

After a grueling 120 minutes in the California heat, he stepped up to take the decisive penalty. However, instead of being his usual composed self, he smashed the ball over the crossbar and handed Brazil its fourth World Cup.

The Italian fans blamed him for giving the World Cup to the Cariocas. They quickly forget that he dragged the Azzurri to the final, scoring the decisive goals in the round of 16 against Nigeria, in the quarterfinals against Spain, and in the semifinal against Bulgaria.

After the World Cup, Roberto Baggio said, “Only those who have the courage to throw them miss penalties.

roberto baggio 1994

Winning Scudetto With AC Milan

Roberto Baggio soon suffered another devastating injury and was deemed surplus to requirements by new Juventus coach Marcello Lippi.

AC Milan took a punt on him, but he was regarded as a luxury player and saw his game time dwindle. The AC Milan adventure starts immediately with the victory of the Scudetto, the second in a row for Baggio, one of the six players to win the Serie A Scudetto two seasons in a row with two different teams.

Despite this, AC Milan will suffer significantly from the coaches’ diatribes. First Fabio Capello, then Tabarez and Arrigo Sacchi.

In the summer of 1997, Fabio Capello returned to the San Siro bench and let Roberto know that he had no intention of including him in his technical project.

The AC Milan club was forced to sell him, while Baggio strongly wanted to stay.

Il Divino Codino taking a corner kick

Roberto Baggio And Bologna

Finally, Baggio agrees to join Bologna. His surprising decision to join Bologna turned out to be a wise move. At the age of 31, the divine ponytail enjoyed the most prolific season of his career.

With 22 goals in 30 games, which earned him the call-up to the 1998 World Cup in France. Even in the season at Bologna, he has misunderstandings with Mister Ulivieri, especially when the coach decides to keep him out in the match against his former team, Juventus.

roberto baggio as captain

Two World Class Number 10’s

The squad had two strong “number 10s” in the 1998 FIFA World Cup: Baggio and Del Piero. Too similar to play together, they create a relay for the duration of the World Cup.

Baggio produced goals and assists but was unable to avoid the elimination of the Azzurri at the hands of France at the quarter-final penalty, even though he had scored the first penalty.

After this elimination, he becomes the first Italian player to have scored in 3 different world championships.

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The summer after the World Cup goes to Inter Milan, where his first season is characterized by ups and downs due to the alternation on the bench of 4 different coaches (Simoni, Lucescu, Hogdson, and Castellini).

His brace against Real Madrid in the Champions League is famous. In the second season, Marcello Lippi arrives, with whom Baggio has consistent arguments. Fitness issues continued to plague him. It spelled the end of Baggio’s time with Italy’s elite clubs. For this reason, he decides to leave the Nerazzurri.

In his last match, he scored a brace against Parma, which allowed Inter to qualify for the next Champions League.

Brescia veteran striker in 2000s

Roberto Baggio’s Final Years

After two disastrous seasons at Inter Milan and the consequent non-call-up to the 2002 World Cup, Roberto Baggio signs for Brescia despite receiving offers from many prestigious European clubs.

His real redemption came with lowly Brescia, where he recaptured his form and remained one of the best players in Serie A until the age of 37.

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The divine ponytail played at Brescia for five seasons, in which he will be able to keep the team in Serie A and make it participate in the Intertoto Cup. The former Italian international scored 45 goals in 95 appearances.

In his farewell match against Milan, the stadium pays homage to him with a standing ovation, and Brescia withdraws their number 10 shirt as a tribute to the striker.

Despite the constant setbacks, Robert Baggio was one of the most prolific Italians ever to play the game. One can only imagine the heights he could have reached had he been allowed to flourish properly.

baggio last game

Roberto Baggio Facts, Figures, And Stats

Full Name: Roberto Baggio
Birthdate: 18/02/1967
Birthplace: Caldogno, Italy

Playing Career:

  • Vicenza 1982–1985
  • Fiorentina 1985–1990
  • Juventus 1990–1995
  • AC Milan 1995–1997
  • Bologna 1997–1998
  • Inter Milan 1998–2000
  • Brescia 2000–2004

Total Appearances: 490 (220 goals)

National Team Career:

  • Italy 1988–2004 (56 appearances, 27 goals)

Roberto Baggio Debut Matches

  • Serie C1 – 06/05/1983 LR Vicenza – Piacenza 0 – 1
  • Italian Cup – 31/08/1983 LR Vicenza – Palermo 1 – 0
  • Serie A – 21/09/1986 Fiorentina – Sampdoria 2 – 0
  • European Cup – 17/09/1986 Fiorentina – Boavista 1 – 0
  • Italian National Team -16/11/1988 – Italy – Holland 1 – 0

First Goals

  • Serie C1 – 03/06/1984 – LR Vicenza – Brescia 3 – 0
  • Italian Cup – 26/08/1984 Empoli – LR Vicenza 4 – 2
  • Serie A – 10/05/1987 Napoli – Fiorentina 1 – 1
  • European Cup – 22/11/1989 Fiorentina – Dynamo Kiev 3 – 0
  • Italy National Team – 22/04/1989 Italy – Uruguay 1 – 1

Diadora x Roberto Baggio soccer cleat

Playing Honors

Juventus

  • 1992–93: UEFA Cup Winner
  • 1994–95: Serie A Champions
  • 1994–95: Coppa Italia Winners

AC Milan

  • 1995–96: Serie A Champions

Italy National Team

  • 1994 FIFA World Cup: Runners-up
  • 1990 FIFA World Cup: Bronze Medal

Individual Honors:

  • 1985: Guerin d’Oro (Serie C best player)
  • 1990: Bravo Award
  • 1993: Ballon d’Or Winner
  • 1993: World Soccer’s World Player of the
  • 1993, 1994 and 1995: Onze de Onze
  • 1993: FIFA World Player of the Year
  • 1994: Ballon d’Or Runner-Up
  • 1994: FIFA World Cup Silver Ball
  • 1994: FIFA World Cup All-Star Team
  • 2000 and 2002: FIFA XI
  • 2011: Italian Football Hall of Fame

did roberto baggio win the world cup

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