Roberto Baggio

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Roberto Baggio
Roberto Baggio cropped.jpg
Baggio in 2013
Personal information
Full name Roberto Baggio
Date of birth (1967-02-18) 18 February 1967 (age 47)
Place of birth Caldogno, Italy
Height 1.74 m (5 ft 8 12 in)
Playing position Second striker
Attacking midfielder
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1982–1985 Vicenza 36 (13)
1985–1990 Fiorentina 94 (39)
1990–1995 Juventus 141 (78)
1995–1997 Milan 51 (12)
1997–1998 Bologna 30 (22)
1998–2000 Internazionale 41 (12)
2000–2004 Brescia 95 (45)
Total 488 (221)
National team
1988–2004 Italy 56 (27)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Roberto Baggio (Italian pronunciation: [roˈbɛrto ˈbaddʒo]; born 18 February 1967) is a retired Italian footballer, who predominantly played as a second forward or as an attacking midfielder. He was also the former President of the technical sector of the Italian Football Federation. A renowned technical playmaker and set piece specialist, Baggio is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, coming fourth in the FIFA Player of the Century internet poll, and was chosen on the FIFA World Cup Dream Team.[1] In 1993 he was named FIFA World Player of the Year and won the Ballon d'Or.[2][3] In 2004 he was named in the FIFA 100 list of the world's 125 greatest living players.[4]

Baggio played for Italy in 56 matches, scoring 27 goals, and is the fourth highest goalscorer for his national team. He starred in the Italian team that finished third in the 1990 FIFA World Cup, scoring twice. At the 1994 FIFA World Cup he led Italy to the final, scoring five goals, received the World Cup Silver Ball and was named in the World Cup All-Star Team. He is largely remembered for missing the decisive penalty in the shootout of the 1994 World Cup Final against Brazil. At the 1998 FIFA World Cup he scored twice, before Italy were eliminated to the eventual champions France in the quarter-finals on penalties. Baggio is the only Italian to score in three World Cups, 1990, 1994 and 1998, and with nine goals holds the record for most goals scored in World Cup tournaments for Italy, along with Paolo Rossi and Christian Vieri.[5][6]

At club level, Baggio is one of the three top-scoring Italians in all competitions.[7][8] In 2002 he became the first Italian player in over 50 years to score more than 300 career goals.[9] In 2004, during the final season of his career, Baggio became the first player in over 30 years to score 200 goals in Serie A,[10] and he is currently the 6th highest goalscorer of all time in Serie A, with 205 goals.[11] In 1990 he moved from Fiorentina to Juventus for a world record transfer fee.[12] Baggio has won two Serie A titles, a Coppa Italia and a UEFA Cup, playing for seven different teams throughout his career.

Baggio is known as Il Divin' Codino (The Divine Ponytail), for the hairstyle he wore for most of his career, for his talent, and for his Buddhist beliefs.[1] In 2002 he was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In 2003, Baggio was the inaugural winner of the "Golden Foot" award. In recognition of his human rights activism, he received the Man of Peace award from the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates in 2010. He was inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame in 2011.


Roberto Baggio was born on 18 February 1967 in Caldogno, Veneto, son of Matilde and Fiorindo Baggio, the sixth of eight siblings. As a youngster, he 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. His younger brother, Eddy Baggio, was also a footballer who played 86 games in Serie B.[13] After his serious career threatening injury in 1985, Baggio, formerly a Roman Catholic, converted to Buddhism, practicing Nichiren Buddhism, and is a member of the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist organization.[14] Despite his conversion to Buddhism, he married his long-time girlfriend Andreina Fabbi in 1989, in a traditional Roman Catholic ceremony. They have a daughter, Valentina, and two sons, Mattia and Leonardo.[15][16]

Club career[edit]

1982–1990: Youth career, Vicenza and Fiorentina[edit]

Baggio began his youth career after being noticed by his hometown youth team, Caldogno, at the age of 9. By the time he had turned 11, he had scored 45 goals in 26 matches, including a match in which he had managed six goals. His talent was recognised by the scout Antonio Mora, and he was acquired by the Vicenza youth team at the age of 13, for a mere three hundred pounds. After scoring 110 goals in 120 matches for the Vicenza Youth team, Baggio began his professional career at native club Vicenza in Serie C1 during the 1982 season at the age of 15, in which Vicenza won the Coppa Italia Serie C.[17] Baggio made his Serie C debut with Vicenza on the 5th June 1983, against Piacenza, and he scored his first goal for Vicenza in Serie C during the following season from a penalty on the 3rd June 1984. Coincidentally, his first career goal was scored against Brescia, the club with which he would retire from professional football. Baggio also made his Coppa Italia debut with the club on the 31st August 1983, against Palermo. During his time at Vicenza, he won the Serie C1 title in the 1984-85 season, scoring 12 goals, and gaining promotion to Serie B. Baggio had began to draw the attention of larger clubs, as his playing style had drawn comparisons to Brazilian legend and Baggio's idol Zico.[17] Baggio was also awarded the Guerin d'Oro in 1985 as the Best Player in Serie C.[18] It was during his time at Vicenza that he was first seriously injured to his left knee after attempting a slide tackle in a match against Rimini, at the age of 18, which threatened his career. Baggio had shattered the cruciate ligament in his knee two days before his transfer deal to Fiorentina had been finalsed. Although several team doctors feared he would not be able to play football again, Fiorentina retained their faith in him and agreed to commit to the transfer deal, and fund the required surgery, which Baggio described as being one of the many reasons for his particular attachment to the club.[17] After an apparently successful, pioneering operation, his knee collapsed again during a training session and he was operated again, requiring 220 stitches to have it rebuilt.[1]

Fiorentina purchased him in 1985, for £1.5 million, and during his time at the club, despite initially being sidelined due to recurring injury problems, he became extremely popular among the team's fans. In his first season with the club, Fiorentina finished in 5th place and managed a semi-final finish in the Coppa Italia, making his debut for Fiorentina in the competition. He made his Serie A debut on 21 September 1986 against Sampdoria, wearing the number 10 shirt, and he scored his first league goal from a free kick on 10 May 1987 against Diego Armando Maradona's Napoli, in a match best remembered for Napoli winning the Scudetto for the first time in their history. Baggio also made his European debut that season on the 17th September 1986, in an UEFA Cup match against Boavista. He led Fiorentina to a Coppa Italia quarter-final during the 1988-1989 season, in which he scored 9 goals, and was the second highest scorer after his future team mate Gianluca Vialli, who had managed a record 13 in the competition. Fiorentina were knocked out by Vialli's team and eventual winners Sampdoria.[19] Baggio also scored 15 goals in Serie A that year, finishing third in the capocannoniere title and he helped Fiorentina to finish in 7th place and win an UEFA Cup spot during that season by scoring and assisting in a crucial tie-break qualifier against Roma. During the course of the season, due to Baggio's creative ability, the former Italo-Argentine and Fiorentina midfielder Miguel Montuori famously stated 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.[20] Despite the fact that Fiorentina were a club struggling against relegation during the 1989-90 Serie A season, Baggio managed to lead the Florentine squad to the UEFA Cup final in 1990, in which he would be defeated by his future club, Juventus. Baggio was the second highest goalscorer in Serie A in the 1989-90 Serie A season after Marco van Basten, and was awarded the Bravo Award by the Italian sports magazine "Il Guerin Sportivo". The trophy is awarded to the under-23 player who is deemed to have performed best in UEFA Competitions during a given season.[21] He also placed 8th in the Ballon d'Or that year.

1990–1995: Juventus[edit]

One game stands out in particular, one against Ancona which we won 5-1. Baggio scored four goals in the first 20 minutes and killed the game off. I don't think I've seen a better performance from any player in any game I've ever played in. For half an hour, he was on fire. As footballers go, he's a genius.

— Juventus teammate David Platt.[22]

He's without doubt the most skilful number ten in the modern game, the archetypal playmaker, if you like, who can create chances and score goals.

Brian Laudrup on Baggio, 1995.[22]

In 1990, Baggio was sold to one of Fiorentina's strongest rivals, Juventus, amid outcry from Fiorentina fans, for €10 million (US$13.6 million), the world record transfer for a football player at the time.[12] He inherited the number 10 shirt, formerly worn by French and Juventus legend Michel Platini. Following the transfer, there were full scale riots on the streets of Florence, where fifty people were injured.[23] Baggio replied to his fans, saying: "I was compelled to accept the transfer". When Juventus played Fiorentina on 7 April 1991, Baggio refused to take a penalty, justifying his decision by stating that his former team mate Gianmatteo Mareggini, who was Fiorentina's goalkeeper, knew him too well as a penalty taker. Baggio's replacement missed the penalty, and Juventus lost the match. When Baggio was substituted, he picked up a Fiorentina scarf thrown onto the field by one of the fans and kissed it, a gesture which, although was appreciated by his former Fiorentina fans, caused outrage amongst the Juventus supporters, who were initially reluctant to accept Baggio as one of their own. He claimed: "Deep in my heart I am always purple", the colour of Fiorentina.[24] During his time at Juventus he suffered five serious injuries: one was a fractured rib, tendinitis, an injured groin, an injury to the tendon of his right knee and an injury to his left knee.

In this first season at Juventus, he scored 14 goals and provided 12 assists in the league, often playing as a second striker or as an attacking midfielder behind the forwards, as Juventus finished out of possible European Qualifying spots in a disappointing 7th place. Juventus did reach the semi-finals of the European Cup Winner's Cup, however, a tournament in which Baggio was top scorer, with nine goals. Juventus were eliminated by Cruyff's Barcelona "Dream Team", who lost in the final to Alex Ferguson's Manchester United. Baggio's freekick, which gave Juventus a 1-0 home win against Barcelona, was not enough to overcome their 3-1 away defeat. Juventus were eliminated in the Quarter finals of the Coppa Italia to eventual winners Roma. Juventus also lost the Supercoppa Italiana Final against Napoli, although Baggio scored Juventus' only goal of the match. Then Juventus coach Luigi Maifredi was replaced by Giovanni Trapattoni the following season.

In his second season, Baggio finished runner-up to Van Basten for the Serie A top scorer title, scoring 18 goals and providing 8 assists, as Juventus finished as runners-up to Fabio Capello's AC Milan in Serie A, and to Parma in the Coppa Italia Final, in which Baggio scored in the first leg from a penalty. After being excluded from European Competitions that season, Juventus had qualified for the UEFA Cup the next season as runners up in Serie A. During the season Baggio had begun to suffer certain physical problems; he pulled a muscle during the match against Bari, which kept him out for three weeks.[25] During this season, Baggio began to become accepted by the Juventus fans, and he was seen as more of a leader of the team, under Trapattoni, and, although initially being employed as an attacking midfielder, he began to play in a more advanced role than he did under Maifredi. The Juventus squad at the time was also beginning to become centred around Baggio's style of play under Trapattoni.[26] During the season, Baggio began to have minor disagreements with his manager, Trapattoni,[27] which were later resolved, however,[28] and also began to have difficulties with the Juventus management.[29] In July, 1992, Baggio cut his ponytail for the first time.[30]

In the 1992–1993 season, he was appointed team captain, and alternated playing between more advanced, offensive positions, alongside Vialli, and deeper, playmaking positions, along with Andreas Möller. Baggio won his only European club trophy that season, helping Juventus to the UEFA Cup final in which he scored twice and assisted another goal, defeating Borussia Dortmund 6-1 on aggregate.[31] He ended the competition as the second highest scorer. En route to the final, against Paris Saint Germain in the semifinal, Baggio scored two goals in a 2-1 home win, and the only goal in the away leg.[32][33] Juventus also reached the semi finals of the Coppa Italia, losing on away goals to cross-town rivals and eventual champions Torino. Juventus ended 4th in Serie A, although they managed a 3-1 win against eventual Serie A Champions, Milan, with Baggio scoring a memorable individual goal. Baggio was once again runner-up for the Serie A Capocannoniere title, with 21 goals and 6 assists, his personal best goalscoring record in Serie A until then. Giuseppe Signori however managed 26. Baggio's performances earned him both the European Footballer of the Year, with 142 points from a possible 150,[34] and the FIFA World Player of the Year.[35] Baggio was also awarded the 1993 Onze d'Or that year, and the 1993 World Soccer Player of the Year Award. He scored a personal best of 30 goals in all competitions during this season. Another one of the highlights of the season was scoring four goals in open play against Udinese, in a 5-0 Juventus home win on 9 November 1992. Baggio would have managed a fifth goal in the match, but his strike was deflected by an opposing defender and was labelled as an Udinese own goal.[36]

In the 1993-1994 season, Juventus once again finished runners up to Milan who won their third consecutive title, and Baggio finished 3rd in the Capocannoniere title with 17 goals and 8 assists in Serie A that season, whilst they were knocked out of the UEFA Cup in the Quarter Finals to Cagliari and in the Second Round of the Coppa Italia against Venezia. Baggio often played as a second striker that season, behind Gianluca Vialli, occasionally alongside the emerging Alessandro Del Piero.[37] He was also deployed as an attacking midfielder, behind Vialli and Ravanelli, but successfully found the net most often in more advanced positions.[38] Baggio sustained a minor injury that season, against Cagliari in November 1993,[39] but was able to return in time for the UEFA Cup win against Tenerife, in which Baggio was able to score from a penalty.[40] Baggio was later operated on his meniscus in March, 1994.[41] Marcello Lippi was called to replace Giovanni Trapattoni the following season. For his performances for Juventus that season, and for Italy at the 1994 World Cup, reaching the final, Baggio placed second in the 1994 Ballon d'Or, behind Stoichkov, and third in the 1994 FIFA World Player of the Year, behind Romário and Stoichkov, once again. He was also awarded the 1994 Onze de Bronze, finishing behind Romário and Stoichkov once again.

In the 1994-1995 season, Lippi wanted to create a more cohesive team unit, which was not as solely dependent on Baggio, but on the entire group of players. Baggio was often deployed as winger or as an outside forward, rather than as a second striker, in Lippi's preferred 4-3-3 formation, alongside Vialli and Ravanelli in the Juventus frontline. Baggio was injured for the a large part of the season, however, being ruled out for five months due to a recurring knee injury, which he had first sustained at Padova on 27 November 1994, after scoring a notable goal during the match; he was substituted by Del Piero, who would go on to temporarily take his place in the starting lineup.[42] The club initially preferred him not to undergo surgery, but reversed their decision after he had briefly resumed training, ruling him out yet another month.[43] Baggio finally returned to the starting line-up in the match against Lazio, on 8 March 1995.[44] Baggio notched 8 assists, but only scored 8 goals in 17 Serie A appearances that season. He still managed to contribute to the win of his first Scudetto with Juventus, scoring important goals to clinch the title,[45] such as his memorable header against Milan, another crucial winner against Cremonese, goals against Parma and Reggiana, as well as his notable, crucial penalty against his former team, Fiorentina. Unlike the previous occasion in 1991, however, Baggio took, scored, and celebrated the penalty.[46] He also memorably provided assists for three of the goals in the title-deciding match against eventual runners-up Parma, a match which Juventus won 4-0. He also helped Juventus win the Coppa Italia that year, scoring 2 goals and providing several assists en route to the final. He helped lead Juventus to yet another UEFA Cup final, scoring 4 goals in the competition, including a free-kick and assist against Borussia Dortmund in the semi-finals. Juventus were defeated in the final by Parma, whom they had also faced in their victorious Coppa Italia final. He finished what would be his final season in Turin with 14 goals in all competitions. Baggio scored 115 goals in 200 appearances in all competitions during his time at Juventus, of which 78 were scored in Serie A in 141 appearances.[35][47] In 1995, Baggio was nominated for both the Ballon d'Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year Award for his performances, finishing 5th in the FIFA World Player of the Year Award final ranking, and was also awarded the 1995 Onze d'Argent Award, behind Weah.

1995–2000: Milan, Bologna, and Inter[edit]

Baggio on the bench? It’s something that I will never understand in my lifetime.

Zinedine Zidane.[48]

In 1995, Lippi, Bettega and Umberto Agnelli stated that Baggio no longer entered into their plans at Juventus and decided that it would be more suitable, in particular from a financial aspect, to focus, rather, on the young emerging Italian star Alessandro Del Piero, who would inherit Baggio's number 10 shirt at Juventus.[45][49][50] Baggio had begun to have difficulties with Umberto Agnelli, Luciano Moggi, and the Juventus management during his final season, and the club had made it clear that they had no intention of renewing his contract, unless he decreased his salary by 50%.[51][52] After strong pressure from Milan chairman Silvio Berlusconi and manager Fabio Capello, he was sold to the Milanese club for 18 billion Lit., amidst several protests from the Juventus fans.[52][53][54] At this time, he had been linked with Inter,[55] and Real Madrid, as well as with English Premier League clubs Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers, but no firm offers were made from either of these clubs. At Milan, Baggio was given the number 18 shirt, as Savićević wore the number 10 jersey. Although Baggio initially struggled with fitness issues and injuries at the beginning of his first season at the Milanese club,[56][57] he came back into the starting line-up and helped Milan win the Serie A title, notably scoring a goal against his former team, Fiorentina, from a penalty, in the title deciding match. In the Coppa Italia, Milan were knocked out in the Quarterfinals. Baggio finished the season with 10 goals in all competitions, in 34 appearances. 7 of his goals were scored in Serie A, in 28 appearances, and he also provided 10 assists in Serie A that season. He became one of the six players to win the Scudetto in consecutive years with different teams (along with Giovanni Ferrari, Riccardo Toros, Eraldo Mancin, Alessandro Orlando and most recently, Andrea Pirlo).[58] Towards the end of his first season at Milan, Baggio began to have several disagreements with manager Fabio Capello due to limited playing time, since Capello believed that although Baggio was a talented player, he was no longer fit enough to play for 90 minutes. Although Baggio was frequently started by Capello in Milan's matches, he often chose to substitute Baggio halfway through the second half.[45] Baggio was, however, appointed as the main penalty taker of the team, during his first season with Milan.

During the following season, under Milan's new manager Óscar Tabárez, despite initial disagreements, in which Tabárez didn't believe that lightweight, creative players could function in the modern physical game, the situation seemed to improve at first. Baggio was often started in his preferred trequartista role behind George Weah, and on occasion, as a left winger, wide midfielder, or as a playmaker in the midfield. After a series of disappointing results, however, Baggio began to be relegated to the bench, behind forwards Marco Simone, and later Dugarry, while Albertini was named the main penalty taker of the squad over him.[59] One of Milan's notable former coaches Arrigo Sacchi was called in as a replacement during the 1996-97 season, the former Italy manager with whom Baggio had previously argued during and after the 1994 World Cup.[45][60] Sacchi gave Baggio limited playing time at Milan that season, as Sacchi felt that two creative players, such as Baggio and Savicevic, were not compatible alongside Weah upfront in his 4-4-2 system (something with which Baggio strongly disagreed), and Baggio, along with the rest of the Milan squad, soon fell out of form. Although Baggio's relationship with Sacchi improved for a time,[61] the two soon fell out again. Baggio often argued with his manager due to being left out of the squad, in particular when he was excluded from the starting eleven against his former team, Juventus, initially refusing to come onto the pitch.[62] Milan failed to retain their league title, finishing in an extremely disappointing eleventh place, and they were knocked out once again in the quarter finals of the Coppa Italia.[63] Baggio would make his Champions' League debut in the 1996-97 season, scoring his first goal in the competition, although Milan would be rather disappointingly knocked out in the group stage. Milan would also lose out to Fiorentina in the 1996 Supercoppa Italiana Final, as Baggio was left on the bench. One of the few highlights of the season, however, were Baggio's goals in the Milan derby matches: the home leg finished 1-1, and the away leg finished with a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Milanese rivals Inter.

In 1997, Capello returned to Milan, and although Baggio was initially keen on staying at the club, Capello was no longer interested in keeping him at Milan.[64] Feeling excluded, Baggio chose to move to Parma, but the manager at the time, Carlo Ancelotti, impeded the transfer, as he did not feel that players like Baggio would fit into his tactical plans, just as he felt that Gianfranco Zola was not suitable to his formation, which led Ancelotti to sell Zola to Chelsea.[65] Ancelotti would later state in his autobiography that he deeply regretted this decision, stating that in his naivety, he believed that the 4-4-2 was the ideal formation for success at the time, and he felt that talented, creative, offensive minded midfielders, such as Zola and Baggio, were not compatible with this system, preferring natural strikers, such as Chiesa. He also went on to state that with time and experience, he would find ways of allowing several creative and talented players to co-exist in an optimal formation, and that, given the chance to go back, he would have taken Baggio.[66] Baggio subsequently decided to transfer to Bologna in order to resuscitate his career, save the squad from relegation, and earn a place at the 1998 FIFA World Cup. He scored a personal best of 22 goals in Serie A that year, as well as providing 6 assists, leading Bologna to an 8th place finish, allowing them to qualify for the Intertoto Cup and eventually the UEFA Cup, and leading them to the Round of 16 in the Coppa Italia that season. Although he rose to hero status amongst the fans,[67] he was known to have had difficulties with his manager at the time, Renzo Ulivieri, in particular during one incident in which Ulivieri, at the very last moment, left him out of the starting 11 for the match against Baggio's former club and eventual Serie A Champions, Juventus.[68] Ulivieri however later denied ever having any difficulties with Baggio, also stating that Baggio was "a talented player" and "a nice guy".[69] At the beginning of the season, Baggio rather shockingly cut off his iconic ponytail, signifying his rebirth.[63] Baggio was also named as Bologna's captain for part of the season, before handing the armband to Giancarlo Marocchi.[70] Baggio received nominations for both the Ballon d'Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year due to his performances for Bologna that season.

After the 1998 World Cup, Baggio signed with his favourite childhood club Internazionale, in order to compete in the Champion's League. This proved to be an unfortunate move for Baggio, however, as, after disappointing results and several managerial changes (including Luigi Simoni, Mircea Lucescu and Roy Hodgson), Baggio's ex-manager during the 1994-95 Season with Juventus, Marcello Lippi, was appointed as Inter's new manager for the 1999-2000 Serie A Season. The then coach did not favour Baggio, and left him out of the squad for most of the season, justifying his decision by stating that Baggio was out of form and out of shape; claims which Baggio vehemently denied. Whilst at Juventus, Lippi had also previously chosen to sell him to Milan in 1995. This lack of playing time and exclusion from the first team eventually caused Baggio to lose his place in the national team, and Baggio was not called up for Euro 2000. In his autobiography, Baggio later declared that Lippi had effectively dumped him after Baggio had refused to point out which of Inter's players had expressed negative opinions about the coach.[63] During his time at Inter, Baggio did manage a memorable two goals against Real Madrid, in the 1998-1999 Champions League Group Stage. He scored 4 goals in total and helped lead Inter to the quarter finals, in which Inter were knocked out by the eventual winners, Manchester United. Baggio scored 5 goals and provided 10 assists in Serie A that season and also helped lead Inter to a Coppa Italia Semifinal, losing out to eventual winners, Parma, although they finished in a disappointing 8th place in Serie A. Baggio would score a goal against his former club Bologna in a European Play-off match, although Inter would both matches, failing to reach the qualifying stages of the UEFA Cup the following season.[71]

In the 1999-2000 season, Inter were runners-up to Serie A winners Lazio in the Coppa Italia Final. Baggio was not often played that season, and often came off of the bench, scoring only 4 goals in 18 appearances during the regular Serie A season. Baggio managed 1 goal in 5 appearances in the Coppa Italia, with his only goal coming against Milanese rivals Milan in the second leg of the quarter-finals, allowing Inter to capture a crucial draw en route to the final. Baggio did not play in Europe with Inter that season. Baggio still managed several important goals, as Inter managed to finish in fourth place, tied with Parma, such as his goal and assist against Roma, his goal against Bari, as well as his equaliser against Verona, which he scored after coming off the bench, after being excluded from the team since the 18 December. This was Baggio's first goal for Inter since his goal on 27 May of the previous season, and Baggio passionetly celebrated his goal as a sign of protest against Lippi, later wearing a controversial hat in the post-match interview which bore the writing "Matame, se non te siervo" (kill me, if you no longer need me). In the interview, Baggio denied what were, according to himself, false accusations made by Lippi in regard to his own personal fitness and form.[72] Baggio's last important contribution to Inter was scoring two memorable goals against Parma (one from an imaginative freekick on the right, beating the unsuspecting goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon on the near post from a tight angle; the other a half volley from outside the area with his left foot) in the play-off for the last remaining UEFA Champions League place, which Inter won 3–1. Baggio was famously given the rarity of achieving a perfect 10 rating from the Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, who described his performance as being "absolutely perfect all game".[73] This game is considered an example of professionalism shown by Baggio. Inter president Massimo Moratti had stated that Lippi would only stay on as manager if the team made it into the Champions League. Baggio's goals, helping Inter to clinch the fourth Champions League qualifying spot, meant that he would be leaving the club the following season, due to his strenuous relationship with his manager.[63]

2000–2004: Brescia[edit]

After two years with Inter, in order to be called up for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, he transferred to previously unfashionable Brescia, under Carlo Mazzone, his aim being to save them from relegation. He was made captain and was given the number 10 jersey and played in more of a trequartista role during his time at Brescia. Despite initial injury problems, he managed 10 goals and 10 assists in the 2000-2001 Serie A season, including a memorable brace against Fiorentina, a game winning penalty against Inter, a late equalising free kick against Napoli, and a late equaliser against Juventus at the Delle Alpi Stadium, assisted by Andrea Pirlo. He also scored a hat-trick against Lecce, in which he scored his second goal of the match directly from a corner kick. Brescia finished in a comfortable joint 7th place and qualified for the Intertoto Cup, also reaching the Quarterfinals of the Coppa Italia that season, losing out to eventual winners and Baggio's former team Fiorentina. Brescia lost in the final of the 2001 Intertoto Cup against Paris Saint-Germain. Baggio scored one goal in this tournament in the final from a penalty. His performances earned him a nomination for the 2001 Ballon d'Or, despite not having played in European Competitions that season. He finished 25th overall in the rankings.[74] Baggio was also the winner of the Guerin d'oro Award in 2001, which is awarded by the Italian sports magazine il Guerin Sportivo, to the player with the highest average rating throughout the season, with 19 appearances or more.

At the start of 2001–02 season, he scored eight goals in the first nine games, leading him to the top of the Serie A goalscoring table. Unfortunately, during that season, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee twice; despite this severe injury, he came back three games before the end of the season, making a record recovery of 76 days. In the first game after his comeback, he came in as a substitute, as Josep Guardiola handed him back the captain's armband, and Baggio scored two goals against his former team Fiorentina, the first of them after only two minutes from the start of the match from a bicycle kick with his left foot. He scored again against another team he played for, Bologna, saving Brescia from relegation on the final matchday. Baggio also helped Brescia to reach the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia that season, losing to eventual winners Parma; although he went goalless throughout the competition, he provided several assists. The second leg of the semi-final match was the fatal game in which Baggio was injured for a second time that season.

Baggio maintained a high level of performance in the next years with Brescia under Gianni De Biasi, managing 12 goals and 9 assists in the 2002–03 season, and 12 goals and 11 assists in his final season. He scored his 200th goal in Serie A against Parma, on 14 March 2004.[75] This goal also saved Brescia from relegation, as they finished the season in a comfortable 8th place. Baggio was the first player in almost 30 years to surpass the 200-goal milestone. He played at Brescia until his retirement at the end of the 2003–04 season. He played his last game on 16 May 2004 on the final match-day of the season at the San Siro against Milan, setting up one of Brescia's goals in a 4-2 loss to the Serie A champions. In the 88th minute, Brescia coach Gianni De Biasi substituted Baggio so he could get his curtain call. The 80,000 present at the San Siro gave him a standing ovation, and Paolo Maldini memorably embraced Baggio before he left the pitch. He ended his career with 205 goals in Serie A, making him the sixth-highest scorer of all time behind Silvio Piola, Gunnar Nordahl, Giuseppe Meazza, José Altafini and most recently, Francesco Totti. At the time of his retirement, he was the fifth highest goalscorer in Serie A of all time, until Totti overtook him in 2011. Baggio's number 10 jersey, which he had worn for 4 seasons, was retired by Brescia in his honour.[76] He scored his 300th career goal on 16 December 2002 in Brescia's 3–1 home victory over Piacenza. He was the first player in over 50 years to reach this milestone, and now with 319 goals along with Alessandro Del Piero, is behind only Piola (364) and Meazza (338).

Before Baggio had joined Brescia, they had never been able to avoid relegation after being newly promoted to Serie A in over 40 years. Under Baggio, they were never relegated, however after his retirement, in the 2004-05 season Brescia were relegated to Serie B once again.[77]

International career[edit]

Baggio totalled 27 goals in 56 caps for his national team, the fourth-highest of all time for Italy, tied with Alessandro Del Piero, who managed this tally in 91 appearances however. He was initially called up for one Italy Under-21 match in 1987, although he was an unused substitute. His first professional International call-up was given to him by then Italy manager Azeglio Vicini, and he made his first appearance for Italy on 16 November 1988, at the age of 21, in the International friendly match against the Netherlands, which was won by Italy 1-0, with a goal by Vialli, assisted by Baggio. He scored his first goal for Italy on 22 April 1989, from a trademark free kick against Uruguay in an International friendly in Verona, which ended in a 1-1 draw.[35] In the friendly match against Bulgaria on 20 September 1989, Baggio scored the 500th goal of the Italian national team in Italy. He later added another goal during the match. Baggio made his first and only starting appearance as Italy's captain the 1994 World Cup Qualifying match against Scotland, which ended 0-0, as Baggio was taken off in the final minutes due to an injured rib.[78][79] 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.[5][6]

For all his talent he was never rewarded with a victory in an international competition. Despite his performances for Italy in the 1990, 1994 and 1998 World Cups, he never played for Italy in a European Championship, and he is currently the Italian player with the most caps to never have played in a European Championship. Baggio was not called up very often for the Euro 1992 Qualification matches, only making 3 appearances and scoring 2 goals, as Italy failed to qualify for the tournament finishing second in their qualifying group behind the Soviet Union.[80] After the 1994 World Cup, Sacchi and Baggio infamously had a falling out and Baggio began to be called up to the national team with less regularity, eventually losing his spot in the squad, and missing out on Euro 1996, despite winning the Scudetto with Milan in 1996. Sacchi justified his decision by stating that Baggio was neither in prime physical shape, nor in his optimum form, and that his replacement, Enrico Chiesa, helped the team more when possession was lost.[81] Baggio was also excluded from Maldini's Italian Olympic Squad in 1996, despite expressing his desire to be part of the squad.[82] Baggio was also a member of the Italy squad that participated in the inaugural 1992 U.S. Cup, along with Portugal, Ireland and the USA. Baggio scored a goal in the friendly tournament, helping Italy to finish in second place behind the hosts. Baggio is mainly remembered for his performances for Italy at the 1994 World Cup. After leading Italy to the final, scoring 5 goals in the process, he infamously missed the deciding penalty in the final of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, which contributed to Italy losing the trophy to Brazil.[35]

1990 FIFA World Cup[edit]

Baggio. Oh yes, oh yes…oh yes! What a goal by Baggio! That’s the goal they’ve all been waiting for!

— ITV Commentator Alan Parry's reaction to Baggio's goal in Italy's group stage match against Czechoslovakia, during the 1990 World Cup.[20]

Baggio's first World Cup was the 1990 FIFA World Cup on home soil. Baggio wore the number 15 jersey and was used most often as a substitute in the tournament, appearing in five matches, but only starting in four of them, as Italy's manager Vicini preferred the more experienced, but out of form, Gianluca Vialli.[83] Baggio was still able to display his quality, technique, play-making skills, and scoring ability throughout the World Cup, however, and Vicini's decision to not use him more frequently was later criticised by the Italian fans and press, as they believed that the Italian offence lacked creativity without Baggio during the first two group stage matches and the semi-final match.[84] Baggio's creative combinations with golden ball and golden boot winner Schillaci were particularly praised, when the two forwards played alongside each other in the final group match, as well when they started together during the first two matches of the knockout stage, and when they played together in the 3rd-4th place match.[85] Baggio scored twice during the tournament, including the "goal of the tournament" in his first competitive fixture in Italy's final group stage match against Czechoslovakia. The goal, which led Baggio to be compared to Meazza, involved a one-two exchange with Giannini on the left wing, followed by a dribbling run from the mid-field, in which Baggio beat several players, before putting it past the keeper.[86] This goal was later elected to be the 7th best goal in World Cup history in a poll hosted by FIFA.[87]

In the round of 16 match against Uruguay, which Italy won 2-0, Baggio created several goal-scoring chances and started the play which led to Italy's first goal, which was scored by Schillaci. Baggio also scored a goal from a direct free-kick, but it was immediately disallowed, as the referee had awarded an indirect free-kick to Italy.[88] Baggio also had a goal incorrectly ruled offside in the quarter-final match against Ireland, which Italy won 1-0. He created chances for Italy during the match, and was once again involved in the build-up which led to Schillaci's match winning goal.[89] Italy were eliminated on penalties against defending champions Argentina in the semi-finals after a 1-1 draw, although Baggio was able to net his penalty in the shootout.[90] Baggio had come off the bench in the second half for Giannini, and came close to winning the match with a precise, curling free kick, aimed towards the top left corner of the Argentine goal, which was saved by Sergio Goycochea.[91] He was also elbowed by Giusti during the match, who was subsequently sent off.[92] In the 3rd-4th place final match against England, Baggio once again returned to the starting line-up, playing as an attacking midfielder behind Schillaci. He scored Italy's first goal of the match after stealing the ball from Peter Shilton's feet and exchanging passes with Schilaci inside the area, before dribbling past Parker and shooting the ball with his left foot into the roof of the net. Platt momentarily equalised for England with ten minutes remaining, but with five minutes left on the clock Baggio helped win a crucial penalty for Italy, when he put Schillaci on a one on one opportunity against the English goalkeeper, and Schilaci was subsequently fouled inside the penalty area by Parker. Although Baggio was regularly designated the penalty taker for his national team, he stepped aside to allow his teammate Salvatore Schillaci to score and capture the Golden Shoe, an altruistic gesture which was praised by the Italian fans and media.[93][94] Baggio later assisted a goal by Berti towards the end of the match, which was again incorrectly ruled offside.[93] Italy won the match 2-1 and captured the 3rd place medal.[35]

1994 FIFA World Cup[edit]

Penalties are only missed by those who have the courage to take them.

—Roberto Baggio on his penalty miss during the shoot-out in the 1994 FIFA World Cup Final.[95]

Baggio was Italy's top scorer during their qualifying campaign for the 1994 World Cup, scoring five goals. He helped Italy top their group and qualify for the World Cup, notably setting up Dino Baggio's winner in the decisive final match against Portugal. Baggio continued to be the cornerstone of the Italy team during the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States, wearing the number 10 jersey, and leading the team to the final, after a disappointing start. Italy's manager, Arrigo Sacchi, had been criticised for excluding key players, and for being unable to decide on a specific formation, as well as Baggio's definitive role (striker, trequartista/playmaker or second forward/rifinitore. Baggio ended up playing out of position as a forward, but in a free "fantasista" role in a high pressing 4-4-2 formation.)[96][97]

In the disappointing first match against Ireland at Giants Stadium, New Jersey, Italy were defeated 1-0. Baggio was not yet at his best in this match since he was recovering from an injury to his Achilles tendon, although he attempted several assists for his team-mates, who were also criticised by the Italian press for not supporting Baggio enough when he occasionally retreated into the midfield or onto the wings to pick up the ball and try to create attacking plays for Italy.[98]

In the second match against Norway, he seemed more inspired, creating chances and almost scoring a goal in the opening minutes, however Italy goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca was sent off for handling the ball outside the area. Luca Marchegiani was brought in to replace him, and Arrigo Sacchi decided to take off Baggio, in what produced an outcry amidst the fans. Baggio later stated in an interview that Sacchi was "crazy."[99] Italy however managed to win the match 1-0.[100]

Baggio had difficulty getting into Italy's third match in the group stage due to the hot and humid conditions, as Italy drew 1-1 against Mexico, finishing in third place in their group. They however managed to advance to the knock-out stages as the best third-place team.[101]

Baggio re-found his form in the knockout stages however, where he started every match from the beginning, and scored five memorable goals. He scored two in the round of 16, helping the ten-man Italian squad to defeat Nigeria, after trailing for most of the match. Baggio scored his first goal of the match with a low, first-time drive, which was placed into the bottom left corner, from just inside the right half of the penalty area, with 2 minutes left on the clock, sending the match into extra time. He then went on to score the winning goal from a penalty in extra time, after setting up Antonio Benarrivo with a lobbed pass, who was then fouled in the area.[102]

Baggio scored another match-winning goal in the quarter-finals to top Spain 2-1, with 3 minutes remaining on the clock. Baggio's winning goal was assisted by Signori with a lobbed pass. After receiving the ball and controlling it, Baggio dribbled past and jumped over the Spanish goalkeeper, scoring off-balance from a tight angle. Baggio had also been involved in the build-up which led to Italy's first goal by Dino Baggio.[103]

Baggio gave another dominant performance in the semi-finals, creating several chances, and scoring two more goals to beat Bulgaria 2-1, which allowed Italy to progress to the World Cup final. Baggio's first goal came after a throw-in by Donadoni on the far left side of the pitch in the opposition half. Baggio controlled the ball, beat two players and curled the ball from outside the area, past the keeper, into the bottom right corner. His second goal was a half volley from a tight angle, inside the area on the right-hand side of the goal, placed in the far bottom corner, assisted by Albertini with a lobbed throughball.[104]

I knew what I had to do and my concentration was perfect. But I was so tired that I tried to hit the ball too hard.

—Baggio on his physical and mental state before taking the penalty in the final.[35]

Baggio was not fully fit for the final against Brazil at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, after pulling his hamstring towards the end of the second half of the semi-final.[105] Despite being far less dominant than in previous matches, he still tested Brazilian goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel on occasion, and was able to set up a few chances for his team mates. The match 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 in what would be remembered as one of the most upsetting moments in World Cup History. Two other Italians, Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro, had already missed penalties.[106] Having led Italy to the final, Baggio received the Silver Ball as the second best player of the tournament, behind Romário, and the Silver Boot having finished tied for second in the tournament in goals scored. He was also named in the World Cup All-Star Team. Baggio finished runner-up for the Ballon d'Or, with 136 points from a possible 245,[107] and in 3rd place for the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1994.[96]

1998 FIFA World Cup[edit]

After his lengthy absence from the National Team, Baggio was called up again by Cesare Maldini for an important Qualifying match against Poland. Baggio came off the bench and scored the winning goal in that match, helping Italy to come one step closer to qualifying for the World Cup. He was subsequently selected as one of Italy's 22 players for the 1998 World Cup following his performances that season for Bologna, where he finished as the top-scoring Italian player in Serie A. Baggio was given the number 18 jersey that he had worn for Milan and for Italy in recent matches, since the young star Del Piero had been handed the number 10 after a dominant season with Juventus.

In Italy's opening match of the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, Italy played Chile. Baggio started the match alongside Vieri, playing all 90 minutes, since Del Piero was still recovering from an injury. Italy's first goal was scored by Christian Vieri on an assist by Baggio.[108] Towards the end of the game an ingenious Baggio cross unintentionally touched Chilean defender Ronald Fuentes' hand,[109] resulting in a penalty scored by Baggio which made the score 2–2. With this goal, he became the first Italian player to score in three World Cups. Baggio assisted Di Biagio's opening goal against Cameroon, and scored a goal himself in that game, which was however incorrectly ruled offside. His performance was not quite as strong in this match, partially due to the heavy marking and harsh tackling of the opposition defense.[110] Baggio scored his second goal of the tournament against Austria, scoring the winning goal after a splendid combination with Moriero and Filippo Inzaghi as Italy topped their group. He also assisted a goal for Inzaghi which was once again incorrectly called offside.[111] With this goal, he tied the record for most goals by an Italian player in the World Cup Finals, with 9. This would also be the last goal he ever scored for Italy. He was left on the Bench for Del Piero for the Round of 16 match against Norway as Italy advanced to the quarter finals with a single goal by Vieri.[112]

In the quarter-final match against the hosts and eventual World Cup Champions France, Baggio came on as a substitute for Del Piero in the second half, and managed to introduce some inspiration into the lacklustre Italian offence, creating some goalscoring chances for Vieri, Di Biagio and Pessotto. The score remained 0–0, however, and the match went to extra time. Baggio came the closest to scoring the golden goal of the match during extra time, with a first time volley from a lobbed pass by Albertini, but his shot was barely put wide of Barthez's far post. The match eventually went on to yet another penalty shootout. Although Baggio this time netted his penalty, the shootout was won by the host nation, and Baggio and Italy were eliminated on penalties in a World Cup tournament for the third consecutive time.[113] Italy's coach, Cesare Maldini was criticised for starting the recovering Del Piero ahead of Baggio (who appeared to be in better form and under less pressure from the public) for the quarter-final match against France.[114] There were several rumours at the time stating that the substitutions, which were negatively compared to those made between Rivera and Mazzola in 1970, had created a rivalry between the two players. Despite these rumours, Baggio and Del Piero remain good friends to this day, with Baggio stating in an interview that he has the utmost respect for Del Piero, his leadership at Juventus and his timeless talent, and that there had never been disagreements between them.[115][116] Del Piero also stated that he believed that Baggio and Zidane were the best players with whom he had ever played, and that "technically they were brilliant and a delight to watch".[117]

Later career[edit]

Although Baggio was initially a regular Italian squad member under Dino Zoff, he was later dropped and was not called up for Euro 2000 due to his limited playing time at Inter that season, as well as due to accusations made against his age and fitness levels. Zoff preferred to centre his squad around younger emerging offensive talents, such as Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero, Stefano Fiore, Marco Del Vecchio, Filippo Inzaghi, and Vincenzo Montella. Baggio was also controversially excluded from the Italy 2002 FIFA World Cup squad. Italy's coach at the time, Giovanni Trapattoni, believed him to not have fully recovered from the serious injury he had sustained during the season, and, although he was initially keen to include Baggio in the final 23-man list, ultimately decided to exclude him from the squad, despite his excellent goal scoring record that season. Fans and pundits criticised the omission of Baggio, as a disappointing and uninspired Italy side were eliminated by co-hosts South Korea in the Round of 16. Baggio had made a direct appeal to Trapattoni prior to the tournament by writing a letter to the then Azzurri coach. In the letter, he spoke of his love for the national team, the sacrifices he had made in recent months, and his desire to participate in the tournament. "Two years ago I decided to stay in Italy, choosing Brescia and Mazzone, to try and win a jersey for the World Cup."[118] Despite Baggio's plea, he was ultimately left out of Trapattoni's squad. Many hoped to still see him play for Italy at Euro 2004 or for the Italian Football Team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, that eventually managed a Bronze Medal, although this was not to be the case.[119][120] He was, however, given an international sendoff by Trappatoni at the age of 37, in a friendly match against Spain, on 28 April 2004, in which he wore the number 10 jersey for the final time, and the captain's armband for part of the match. Although Baggio entertained the crowd with his creativity and skill, he was unable to score. The match finished 1-1 and Baggio was given a standing ovation upon being substituted for Fabrizio Miccoli during the final minutes of the match. This was his 56th and final match for Italy, and it was the first time an Italian footballer's career had been celebrated in this way since Silvio Piola.[99]

After retirement[edit]

Graffiti of Roberto Baggio in Milan

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 Camp Nou in Barcelona, but he declined the invitation.

In 2001, Baggio wrote an autobiography titled Una porta nel cielo ("A Goal in the Sky", but also "A Door in the Sky"), including details about his career, the missed penalty in the 1994 World Cup Final, his injuries, personal life and rifts with managers. It won the award for best football book at the 2002 Serie A Awards.[121]

On 16 October 2002, Roberto Baggio was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).[122]

In 2003, Baggio was the inaugural winner of the "Golden Foot" award.[123] On his 40th birthday (18 February 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 incredible feelings."[124]

On 8 October 2008 Baggio appeared in a charity match between Milan and Fiorentina for Stefano Borgonovo, with whom Baggio played at Fiorentina during the late 1980s.[125]

August 2010 marked Roberto Baggio's comeback into Italian football, as he was appointed as president of the technical sector of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), replacing Azeglio Vicini.[126]

In November 2010, Baggio won the annual World Peace Award.[127] In 2011, Baggio was inducted into the Serie A Hall of Fame, along with other notable footballers and coaches, such as Michel Platini and Marcello Lippi.[128]

He obtained Italy Category 2 Coaching License (UEFA A License) in mid-2011, made him eligible to coach Lega Pro teams or as vice-coach in Serie A and Serie B. Furthermore, since August 2010 he is the technical director of the FIGC, the Italian Football Federation.[129] On July 5, 2012, Baggio obtained his Category 1 UEFA Pro Coaching Licence at Coverciano, which will allow him to legally coach a professional Serie A football club. He was subsequently approached by his former agent and Serie B side Modena with regards to a coaching position, after being awarded with this qualification.[130][131]

On January 23, 2013 Baggio stepped down from his position as the Director of the Technical Sector of the Italian Football Federation. He has stated that the Federation had not listened to his ideas about improving the system and focusing on youth talent, which moved him to quit.[132]

Style of play and reputation[edit]

Roberto Baggio is considered one of Italy's greatest and most beloved players of all time. Gianni Brera, a famous Italian sports writer who had seen both the Italian Legends Giuseppe Meazza and Gianni Rivera play, stated that Baggio was the best Italian player he had ever seen.[1] Baggio is also remembered as a symbol of the Italian National Team.[133] He began his career as a second-forward, or rifinitore, in Italian, although he was known for scoring goals as well as providing assists, which would lead Juventus legend Michel Platini to describe him cheekily as a "fantastic 9 and a half", referring to the fact that he was not a true number 9, the shirt number of a striker, as he was also a creator, but that he scored more than a classic number 10 playmaker.[134] He would go on to state that Baggio's playing style coincided with the emergence and popularisation of the trequartista in Italian football during the late 1990s and early 2000s.[135] During his time at Juventus, Gianni Agnelli referred to Baggio as an artist, comparing him to the painter Raffaello, whilst he described the emerging talent and his heir Alessandro Del Piero, as the student Pinturicchio.[136] Although he is a revered technical player, pundits and managers' opinions of him were often divided, due to his creative style of play, which was thought to be out of place in the role of a forward in the rigorous 3-5-2 and, in particular, 4-4-2 formations which dominated Serie A the 90s.

Baggio was also a playmaker, or fantasista, and was a versatile player comfortable attacking on both wings as well as through the centre of the pitch, which allowed him to play in various positions along and behind the front line throughout his career, including as a striker or a winger, due to his, dribbling, positioning and crossing ability, although his preferred position was that of a more advanced trequartista.[137] During his time at Milan and Inter, he was occasionally used as an outside forward, or as an inverted winger,[138] and in his later career, in particular whilst at Brescia, he primarily preferred to be played as a trequartista or attacking midfielder, due to his vision, ball skills and passing, which allowed him to be effective even at a more advanced age.[135][139] During his time at Milan, under Tabarez, Baggio was also unusually and occasionally utilised as a central midfielder or as a deep-lying playmaker or regista, alongside either Demetrio Albertini or Edgar Davids, due to his vision, passing ability and tactical versatility, as well as due to the presence of several offensive talents in the Milan squad at the time.[140] Baggio was a set piece and penalty kick specialist, who could curl the ball well,[141] but also strike the ball with some power when necessary. His unique, accurate free kick technique has influenced several other future specialists, such as Alessandro Del Piero and Andrea Pirlo.[142] Although naturally right footed, he was comfortable using either foot, and usually began dribbling with his left foot.[143] Despite his success, skill and talent, Baggio's career is thought to have been affected by the many severe injuries he encountered, and he was often considered to be an injury-prone player throughout his career.[144]

Although he was not particularly imposing physically, or in the air, he was known for his great pace, explosive acceleration, and timing, that, along with his technical ability, gave him the ability to lose his markers, and made him lethal when undertaking individual dribbling runs during counter-attacks.[145][146] He was renowned for his vision, creativity, technical skills, passing, and tactical awareness, enabling him to create attacking plays and goalscoring chances, and allowing him to pick out attacking players making runs, and provide them with assists.[146] His dribbling, ball control, balance, agility and his ability to beat defenders (particularly in one on one situations) were also highly praised, as well as his calm composure when finishing both inside and outside the area.[146] Baggio was known to dislike the defensive nature, physicality and the tactical rigour of Italian football in the 90s, and he felt out of place as a mere striker in the classic 4-4-2 formation, as he possessed attributes associated both with strikers and midfielders, preferring to play in between the two lines.[135][147] He was often criticised early in his career by his managers for disregarding this tactical element of the game when he moved out of position. He was also accused of not being a team player, as he would not always help his team to defend when possession was lost, and for not being enough of a vocal influence on the pitch at times. He was also criticised by coaches on occasion for trying to resolve situations by himself too frequently, and for undertaking too many dribbling runs, although he has also been described as a "generous", creative player by several pundits and team mates.[148]

Although Baggio was never renowned for his defensive duties, often citing his first career injury as a reason for avoiding challenges, he would later improve upon this tactical aspect of his game as his career progressed, returning into deeper midfield positions, to press opponents and retrieve the ball, and start build-up plays.[139][149] Due to his recurring injury problems, and his occasional disregard towards his defensive duties, Baggio has also often been accused of being an unfit player, who lacked stamina, something which Baggio frequently denied.[144] Despite the accusations of Baggio having a difficult character, being an introvert, being unfit, and for not being charismatic enough on pitch throughout his career, his Brescia coach, Mazzone, stated that he never had difficulties with Baggio, and has praised his teamwork, determination, work ethic, professionalism, tactical knowledge and vision, describing him as "a coach on the field". He has also stated that he believes that Baggio should pursue a career as a football coach in the future.[150][151] Mazzone has also praised Baggio for his leadership and consistency,[139] despite having played for many different clubs throughout his career. Baggio is also regarded by certain pundits and managers as a somewhat controversial figure in Italian football, due to the many difficulties he encountered with several of his managers.[146][152][153]

Records and selected statistics[edit]

Baggio played in 16 World Cup matches for Italy. Ireland is the only team against which Baggio played more than once in his 16 games of FIFA World Cup play. He is the highest Italian goalscorer of all-time in the World Cup, with 9 goals from 16 appearances (along with Paolo Rossi and Christian Vieri).[154] Baggio is currently the only Italian to have scored in three World Cups.[154] He is also the joint 4th highest goal scorer for the Italian National Team, along with Alessandro Del Piero, with 27 goals.[155] When Baggio was in the national team, Italy always left the World Cup at penalties: in 1990, in the semi-finals against Argentina; in 1994, in the final against Brazil; and in 1998, in the quarter-finals against France. Therefore, in the 16 world cup matches he played, Italy lost only one, which was Italy's opening game of USA 94 against Ireland. Overall, in his 16 appearances at World Cups, Baggio has won 10 matches (4 in 1990, 4 in 1994 and 2 in 1998), drawn 5 (1 in 1990, 2 in 1994 and 2 1998 - 3 of these matches went to penalty shootout defeats), and lost 1 (in 1994).

Despite Baggio being associated with the fateful penalty miss against Brazil in the 1994 World Cup Final, he is statistically one of the greatest penalty kick specialists in Italian football history. Baggio has scored 87 percent of his penalties in Italian and International football, scoring 108 out of 122 penalties in his career, more than any other player in Italian football history. 4 of his 14 missed penalties were then scored by Baggio on rebounds.[156] Baggio scored 10 of his penalties for Vicenza, 25 with Fiorentina, 38 with Juventus, 5 with Milan, 11 with Bologna, 1 with Inter, 11 with Brescia, and 7 with the Italian National side (out of 7 attempts). 68 of his penalties were scored in Serie A,[157] 8 in Serie C, 8 of them were scored in European Competitions (out of 9 attempts), 1 in the Italian Supercup, and 16 were scored in the Coppa Italia. In penalty shootouts, Baggio has made 3 out of 4 penalties in his career.[18] Three of the shootouts in which he participated were with the Italian national side in World Cup Matches. Baggio scored twice in World Cup shootouts (in 1990 and 1998), with his only miss coming in the infamous 1994 World Cup Final shootout against Brazil.[158]

Baggio is currently the 6th highest goalscorer of all-time in Serie A with 205 goals, having been surpassed by Francesco Totti in 2011 after he had occupied the 5th spot for almost 8 seasons.[159] Of these 205 goals, 96 were decisive, meaning that they were either equalisers or match winners.[160] A set-piece specialist, Baggio has also scored the fourth highest number of free kicks in Serie A, scoring 21 times. Ahead of him are only Del Piero with 22, Pirlo with 25, and Mihailovic with 28.[161] In open play, Baggio has scored 9 headers in Serie A. 84 of his goals in open play were with his right foot, whilst 26 of them were with his left foot.[157] He has also assisted over 118 goals in Serie A.[162] He is the joint 4th highest scoring Italian in all competitions, along with Filippo Inzaghi, behind Alessandro Del Piero, Giuseppe Meazza and Silvio Piola, with 318 career goals.[155]

The team against which Baggio has scored the most goals in his club career is Inter. He scored against Inter 17 times (scoring 13 goals against them in Serie A, and 4 in the Coppa Italia). With the Italian National side, the team against which Baggio has scored the most goals in his international career is Bulgaria, with 4 goals, including a double in the 1994 World Cup semi-final. The team against which Baggio earned his best goal to games ratio is Foggia. Baggio scored 8 goals in 7 matches against Foggia during his career. During the 1992-93 Season in Serie A, in the Juventus-Udinese fixture, Baggio scored 4 goals in a match for the first time in his career, with all goals occurring in open play. Baggio has eight career hat-tricks. Seven were scored in Serie A (one with Fiorentina, three with Juventus, one with Bologna, and two with Brescia), and one was scored in the Cup Winners Cup with Juventus. Baggio has also scored 45 career braces, with 27 in league play, 6 in the Coppa Italia, 7 in European Competitions and 5 for the Italian national side. During the 2000-01 season with Brescia, Baggio recorded his personal record of most consecutive matches with a goal, where Baggio scored at least one goal for his side from the 24th matchday to the 29th matchday of the season, scoring 8 of his 10 Serie A goals of the season during those 6 matches.[163]

Goals and Appearances in Official Club Competitions:

  • 318 goals in 693 appearances all official competitions (291 goals in 637 appearances in all official club competitions)
  • 205 goals and 118 assists in Serie A in 452 matches (+ 3 goals in 4 Serie A European playoff matches)
  • 76 goals from 91 penalties in the Serie A and Serie C League Competitions (best all-time record in Italy) - 108 goals from 122 penalties in all competitions (excluding penalty shootouts - 3 goals out of 4 attempts).
  • 32 goals in European competitions
  • 5 goals in 11 appearances in the UEFA Champions League (1 goal in 2 caps in the Qualifying Rounds)
  • 17 goals in 42 appearances in the UEFA Cup
  • 1 goal in 2 appearances in the Intertoto Cup
  • 9 goals in 8 appearances in the UEFA European Cup Winner's Cup
  • 38 goals in 85 appearances in Coppa Italia (+ 1 goal in one appearance in the Supercoppa Italiana)
  • 13 goals in 36 appearances in Serie C1
  • 1 goal in 2 appearances in the Coppa Italia Serie C

Goals and Appearances with the Italian National Football Team:


  • 2 goals and 1 assist in 3 caps for the FIFA All-Stars

In popular culture[edit]

In 1994, the Italian satirist Corrado Guzzanti parodied Roberto Baggio's advertisement for Italian Petrol Company IP made prior to the 1994 World Cup.[164] The Italian poet Giovanni Raboni composed the sonnet "Lode a Baggio" in a tribute to him.[165] He has also been referenced in the songs "Baggio, Baggio" by Lucio Dalla[166] and in "Marmellata n. 25" by Cesare Cremonini,[167] as well as in the song "Chi ha Peccato" by Giuseppe Povia.

Baggio was also featured in several Italian commercials, the two most notable ones both reference his penalty miss in the 1994 World Cup Final against Brazil. The first commercial to reference this, was made for Wind in 2000, and alters what happened historically, showing Baggio scoring the final penalty in the 1994 World Cup final after the ball initially hit the cross bar before bouncing in, allowing Italy to win the tournament.[168] The other commercial, made for Johnnie Walker in 2001, showed how he managed to conquer his grief from the miss when he scored the equalising penalty against Chile in the 1998 World Cup and by believing in himself.[169] He also featured in several Diadora commercials and advertisements since he endorsed their products.[170]

Baggio is very popular in Japan,[171] for example, he endorsed video games like Super Formation Soccer 95: della Serie A,[172] World Football Climax,[173] and the Japanese version of Let's Make a Soccer Team!.[174][175] An animated version of himself also appeared in the Japanese football cartoon "Che Campioni: Holly & Benji".[176]

Baggio was shown in the video to the 2010 World Cup song "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)" by Shakira.[177] In the music video, footage is shown of him scoring a goal against Spain in the 1994 World Cup quarter final, and missing the infamous penalty against Brazil in the final of the same World Cup.[177]

An alter-ego of his is referenced in the Italian children's comics of "Mickey Mouse" and "Duck Tales" (Topolino), in the volume "Topolino e il Giallo alla World Cup" in which he is known as "Roberto Paggio."[178]

In 2011, the Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport issued a collection of DVDs entitled "Io Che Sarò Roberto Baggio" recounting his illustrious career and showing his goals and other iconic moments of his career.[179] Baggio's strong impact on the world of football has recently been celebrated with the release of an online game called Baggio's Magical Kicks, in which players try and replicate his precision and accuracy to score free kicks and penalties.[180]

Career statistics[edit]


Season Club League League Cup Europe Total
Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
1982–83 Vicenza Serie C1 1 0 - 1 0 - 2 0
1983–84 6 1 - 4 1 - 10 2
1984–85 29 12 - 5 2 - 34 14
1985–86 Fiorentina Serie A 0 0 0 5 0 - 5 0
1986–87 5 1 2 4 2 1 0 10 3
1987–88 27 6 1 7 3 - 34 9
1988–89 30 15 3 10 9 - 40 24
1989–90 32 17 6 2 1 12 1 46 19
1990–91 Juventus Serie A 33 14 12 6 4 8 9 47 27
1991–92 32 18 8 8 4 - 40 22
1992–93 27 21 6 7 3 9 6 43 30
1993–94 32 17 8 2 2 7 3 41 22
1994–95 17 8 8 4 2 8 4 29 14
1995–96 Milan Serie A 28 7 10 1 0 5 3 34 10
1996–97 23 5 2 5 3 5 1 33 9
1997–98 Bologna Serie A 30 22 6 3 1 - 33 23
1998–99 Internazionale Serie A 23 6 10 6 0[181] 6 4 35 11
1999–00 18 6 3 5 1 - 23 7
2000–01 Brescia Serie A 25 10 10 2 0 - 27 10
2001–02 12 11 3 1 0 1 1 13 12
2002–03 32 12 9 0 0 - 32 12
2003–04 26 12 11 0 0 - 26 12
Total Italy 488 221 118 88 38 61 32 637 291
Career total 488 221 118 88 38 61 32 637 291



Italy national team
Year Apps Goals
1988 1 0
1989 6 3
1990 9 4
1991 2 1
1992 7 6
1993 7 5
1994 12 5
1995 1 0
1996 - -
1997 2 1
1998 6 2
1999 2 0
2000 - -
2001 - -
2002 - -
2003 - -
2004 1 0
Total 56 27

World Cup goals[edit]

# Date Venue Opponent Score Result World Cup Round
1. 1990-06-19 Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy  Czechoslovakia 2 – 0 2–0 1990 Group Stage
2. 1990-07-07 Stadio San Nicola, Bari, Italy  England 1 – 0 2–1 1990 Third place match
3. 1994-07-05 Foxboro Stadium, Foxborough, United States  Nigeria 1 – 1 2–1 1994 Round of 16
4. 1994-07-05 Foxboro Stadium, Foxborough, United States  Nigeria 1 – 2 2–1 1994 Round of 16
5. 1994-07-09 Foxboro Stadium, Foxborough, United States  Spain 2 – 1 2–1 1994 Quarter-Final
6. 1994-07-13 Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, United States  Bulgaria 1 – 0 2–1 1994 Semi-Final
7. 1994-07-13 Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, United States  Bulgaria 2 – 0 2–1 1994 Semi-Final
8. 1998-06-11 Stade du Parc Lescure, Bordeaux, France  Chile 2 – 2 2–2 1998 Group Stage
9. 1998-06-23 Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France  Austria 2 – 0 2–1 1998 Group Stage








Cavaliere OMRI BAR.svg
5th Class / Knight: Cavaliere Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana:[187] 1991

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Netherlands Ruud Gullit
World football transfer record
Succeeded by
France Jean-Pierre Papin
Preceded by
Italy Stefano Tacconi
Juventus F.C. captains
Succeeded by
Italy Gianluca Vialli