Roberto Baggio (born 18 February 1967 in Caldogno, Veneto) is a retired
Italian footballer, among the most technically gifted and popular
players in the world throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. He played for
the Italian national team in three World Cups, and is the only Italian
player ever to score in three World Cups. He was the best Italian player
of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, carrying his team to the final, but was one
of the three players who missed a penalty in the final which contributed
to Italy losing the trophy to Brazil on penalties. He won both the
European Footballer of the Year (Ballon d'Or) and the FIFA World Player
of the Year award in 1993.
As a youngster, Roberto always had a keen interest in the sport of
football and played for a local youth club over a period of nine years.
After scoring 6 goals in one game; Baggio was persuaded by scout Antonio
Mora to join Vicenza.
Baggio began his professional career at native club Vicenza in Serie C1
during 1982. Fiorentina snapped him up in 1985, and during his years
there, he rose to cult status among the team's fans who consider him to
be one of their best ever players. He made his Serie A debut on 21
September 1986 against Sampdoria. He scored his first league goal on 10
May 1987 against Napoli in a match best remembered for Napoli winning
the Scudetto for the first time in their history.
He was sold to Juventus amid large outcry from Fiorentina fans in 1990
for €12 million (US$19 million),the world record transfer for a football
player at the time. Following the transfer, there were full scale riots
on the streets of Florence where fifty people were injured. Baggio
replied to his fans saying: "I was compelled to accept the transfer".
In 1993 he won his lone European club trophy, helping Juventus to the
UEFA Cup. His performances earned him both the European Footballer of
the Year and the FIFA World Player of the Year titles.
Baggio won his first Scudetto with Juventus in 1995. This was the first
of many league titles to come for Juventus in the 1990s.
After strong pressure from AC Milan chairman Silvio Berlusconi, he was
sold to the Milanese club. At this time, he had been linked with
Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers in the English Premier League,
but no firm offers were made from either of these clubs.
He helped the club win the Serie A title, becoming the first player to
win the scudetto in consecutive years with different teams[citation
needed]. Baggio really joined Juventus in a bad period in their history,
it was revealed years later, in 2005, that he was all set to join in
fact Milan and that his agent had done the deal to go to Juventus
instead without Baggio knowing about it.
In 1997, when he was thought to be on the downside, Baggio transferred
to Bologna in order to resuscitate his career, and after scoring a
personal best 22 goals that year, was included in Italy's starting
eleven for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in place of the younger and favoured
Del Piero. Cesare Maldini has since been severely criticised for
starting Del Piero ahead of Baggio, who was clearly in the better form,
for the quarter-final match against France. When Baggio did come on for
Del Piero, Italy seemed to play a lot better and Baggio nearly scored
with a superb volley which only just missed the target. Had Baggio
scored that shot, Italy would have won via the "golden goal" rule, and
France would never have been World Champions. Cesare Maldini later
apologized to Baggio for not giving him the playing time he deserved.
After the 1998 World Cup, Baggio signed with Inter Milan. This proved to
be an unfortunate move, as the then coach Marcello Lippi did not favour
Baggio and hardly played him. This caused Baggio to lose his place in
the national team, but whenever he could get onto the field, he never
left fans disappointed. In his autobiography, Baggio later declared that
Lippi had effectively dumped him after Baggio had refused to point out
which Inter's players had expressed negative opinions about the coach.
His last contribution to Inter Milan was two classic Baggio goals
against Parma in the playoff for the last remaining UEFA Champions
After two years with Inter, in order to be called up for the 2002 FIFA
World Cup, he transferred to previously unfashionable Brescia. Despite a
severe injury, he miraculously recovered before the end of the season.
However, Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni did not take Baggio to Korea
and Japan. Fans and pundits criticised the omission of Baggio, and Italy
without the inspiration of Baggio was eliminated before reaching the
quarter-finals, failing to reach expectations.
Baggio continued playing at Brescia until his retirement in 2004. He
played his last game on May 16, 2004 at the San Siro against Milan. In
the 88th minute, Brescia coach Gianni De Biasi subbed Baggio off so he
could get his curtain call. The 80,000 present at the San Siro gave him
a big standing ovation. He ended his career with 205 goals in Serie A,
making him the fifth-highest scorer of all time behind Silvio Piola,
Gunnar Nordahl, Giuseppe Meazza and José Altafini. His number 10 jersey
was retired by Brescia. He scored his 300th career goal on 16 December
2002 in Brescia's 3-1 home victory over Piacenza. He is the first player
in over 50 years to reach this milestone, behind only Piola (364) and
Baggio totalled 27 goals in 56 caps for his national team, the
fourth-highest of all time for Italy. He is the only Italian player ever
to score in three World Cups, with a total of 9 career World Cup goals
which puts him even with Christian Vieri and Paolo Rossi as Italy's top
World Cup scorers.
1990 FIFA WORLD CUP
Baggio's first World Cup was the 1990 FIFA World Cup, and although he
was used most often as a substitute in the tournament, he was still able
to display his quality, scoring twice including the "goal of the
tournament" against Czechoslovakia. Baggio is also much remembered for
his class; although regularly designated the penalty shooter for his
team, he stepped aside when Italy was awarded one in the third place
match, allowing teammate Salvatore Schillaci to score and capture the
1994 FIFA WORLD CUP
Baggio was the cornerstone of the Italy team during the 1994 FIFA World
Cup, leading them to the final after a disappointing start. He scored
five goals, all in the knockout phase, and he started every match from
the beginning: two in the round of 16 to beat Nigeria (scoring with 2
minutes left of the game sending it into extra time, and then another
goal in extra time), one in the quarter-finals to top Spain (the game
winner with 3 minutes remaining) and two to beat Bulgaria in the
semi-finals. Baggio was not fully fit for the final against Brazil,
which ended 0-0 after extra time; he took Italy's last penalty in the
resulting shoot-out, but his kick went over the cross-bar and the
Brazilians won the title. Two other Italians, Franco Baresi and Daniele
Massaro, had already missed penalties; had Baggio scored, Brazil would
have still had a penalty to win the Cup nevertheless. Baggio has since
been blamed for costing Italy that World Cup despite the fact that he
singlehandedly carried a weak and aging Italian team to the final.
Baggio finished tied for second in the tournament in goals scored and
was named one of the top three players.
1998 FIFA WORLD CUP
In the opening match of the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Italy played Chile. The
first goal was scored by Christian Vieri on an assist by Baggio. Chile
took the lead 2-1, and Baggio would later make a good pass to Filippo
Inzaghi but the Chilean keeper Nelson Tapia made an excellent save to
keep the score 2-1. That was only the third time a team took the lead
over Italy in a World Cup throughout the 1990s. Towards the end of the
game a Baggio cross unintentionally touched a Chilean defender's hand,
resulting in a penalty scored by Baggio which, undeservingly made the
score 2-2. With this goal, he became the first Italian player to score
in three World Cups. The Italian fans had already forgiven Baggio for
his 1994 penalty miss, as it was well accepted that he was the main
reason the Italian side got so far in the tournament to begin with.
He scored two goals in the tournament; he also scored the winning goal
against Austria as Italy topped their group.
In the quarter-final match against France, Baggio would come on as a
substitute in the second half. Italy had only one shot in the entire
match which was just inches away, from none other than Baggio; the score
remained 0-0 and the match went to a penalty shootout. Baggio scored his
penalty, but Italy lost to the eventual champions France. He was one of
Italy's main contributors of that tournament, the other being Christian
Vieri in a team full of talent and also known for playing defensive
Baggio was given an international send-off match on 28 April 2004
He was invited to play for the European XI at the Football for Hope
Indian Ocean tsunami relief benefit on 15 February 2005 at the Nou Camp
in Barcelona, but he declined the invitation.
Baggio wrote an autobiography titled Una porta nel cielo (A Goal in the
Sky, but also A Gate...). In it, he told of many rifts with managers.
Baggio is known as Il Divin Codino (The Divine Ponytail), for the
hairstyle he wore for most of his career and his Buddhist background.
On his 40th birthday (February 18, 2007), Baggio started his new website
to converse with his fans. As per his website he does not intend to
return to mainstream football, but rather exchange words with his fans
on his blogs.
In March 2008 Baggio—who has owned a ranch property in Argentina for
many years—gave a lengthy interview with Gazzetta Dello Sport. In it he
discussed many topics, including the team he now supports: Boca Juniors.
"How did I become a fan of Boca? It's an interesting story. A rainy
Sunday, I was at my house with a friend of mine and I saw a game on TV.
The score was 4-0, and was played at the Boca stadium, La Bombonera. At
one point they scanned across the crowd at their fans: they danced, they
sang, they twirled flags and banners. A contagious joy. I said to my
friend, 'It's beautiful to do this when their team is winning.' And he
turned to me and said: 'Roberto, are you watching? Boca are losing 0-4!
…' From that moment Boca has become my team. That stadium gives me
On October 8, 2008 Baggio appeared in a charity match between Milan and
Fiorentina for Stefano Borgonovo, with whom Baggio played at Fiorentina
during the late 1980s.