Giuseppe Meazza

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Giuseppe Meazza
Meazza during the 1934–1935 season with Ambrosiana[1]
Personal information
Date of birth (1910-08-23)23 August 1910
Place of birth Milan, Italy
Date of death 21 August 1979(1979-08-21) (aged 68)
Place of death Lissone, Italy
Height 1.69 m (5 ft 7 in)
Position(s) Forward
Youth career
1922–1924 Gloria
1924–1927 Inter Milan
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1927–1940 Inter Milan 348 (240)
1940–1942 AC Milan 37 (9)
1942–1943 Juventus 27 (10)
1944 Varese 20 (7)
1945–1946 Atalanta 14 (2)
1946–1947 Inter Milan 17 (2)
Total 463 (270)
International career
1930–1939 Italy 53 (33)
Managerial career
1946 Atalanta
1946–1948 Inter Milan
1948–1949 Beşiktaş
1949–1951 Pro Patria
1952–1953 Italy Olympic
1955–1956 Inter Milan
1957 Inter Milan
Medal record
Men's Football
Representing  Italy
FIFA World Cup
Winner 1934 Italy
Winner 1938 France
Central European International Cup
Winner 1927–30
Winner 1933–35
Runner-up 1931–32
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

Giuseppe Meazza (Italian pronunciation: [dʒuˈzɛppe meˈattsa]; 23 August 1910 – 21 August 1979) was an Italian football manager and player. Throughout his career, he played mainly for Inter Milan in the 1930s, scoring 242 goals in 365 games for the club, and winning three Serie A titles, as well as the Coppa Italia; he later also played for local rivals Milan, as well as Turin rivals Juventus, in addition to his spells with Varese and Atalanta. At the international level, he led Italy to win two consecutive World Cups: in 1934 on home soil, and in 1938 as captain, being named to the All-star Team.

Along with Giovanni Ferrari, Guido Masetti and Eraldo Monzeglio, he is one of only four Italian players to have won two World Cups.[2][3] Following his retirement, he served as a coach for the Italy national team, and with several Italian clubs, including his former club sides Inter and Atalanta, as well as Pro Patria, and Turkish club Beşiktaş; he was Italy's head coach at the 1952 Summer Olympics.

Due to his technical skill, prolific goalscoring, and creative ability, he was often given the nickname "il genio" (the genius) by the Italian press during his career.[4] He has been ranked the fourth-best player in the history of the World Cup.[5] A prolific forward, Meazza won the Serie A top-scorer award on three occasions in his career; with 216 goals in Serie A, he is the fourth all-time highest goal scorer in Serie A, alongside José Altafini, and with 33 goals, he is also the second highest goalscorer for the Italy national team.[6][7] With 338 goals, he is the third-highest Italian goalscorer in all competitions.[8] He is also the youngest player ever to score 100 goals in Serie A, a feat which he achieved at the age of 23 years and 32 days.[9][10][11][12] San Siro, the principal stadium in his native city of Milan, which is today shared by two of his former clubs, Inter Milan and crosstown rivals A.C. Milan, was named Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in the player's honour on 3 March 1980.[13] In 2011, he was posthumously inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame. Throughout his career, including friendlies, Meazza scored 546 goals.[14]

Early life[edit]

Meazza was born in Porta Vittoria, Milan. Having lost his father in 1917 during the fighting of World War I at the age of seven, Peppe grew up in Milan with his mother, Ersilia who came from Mediglia, helping her sell fruit at the market. He began playing football at six years old, and started out playing barefoot with a ball made of rags on the streets for a team named the "Maestri Campionesi". At the age of twelve, his mother gave him permission to pursue a footballing career, and he began playing for Gloria F.C.. It was during this time that a fan gave Meazza his first pair of football boots.[15]

At the age of 14, Meazza admired Milan, but was rejected by the team for his small physique.[16] However, he was instead accepted by Milan's cross-city rivals Inter Milan.

Meazza's nickname, "il Balilla" ("The Little Boy"),[17][18] was given to him in 1927 by his older teammate Leopoldo Conti, who thought "Peppìn", in Milanese dialect, who was only 17 when he joined the senior team, was too young to be associated to the senior team. He was surprised after Inter coach Árpád Weisz decided to give Meazza his debut for Inter in his place, commenting: "Now we even let the Balilla kids play!" The Opera Nazionale Balilla, the Fascist youth organisation which collected all children aged eight to 14 years, was established in 1926, hence why Conti felt it to be a suitable nickname for the young rookie. However, Meazza later scored two goals on his official debut, leaving Conti speechless.[15][19]

Club career[edit]

Giuseppe Meazza playing with Inter Milan


Meazza scored two goals on his professional debut, which came in a 6–2 win against Milanese Unione Sportiva in the Coppa Volta di Como, on 12 September 1927. The following day, the Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport praised his game as "intelligent, fresh, quick".[19] Meazza still holds the record for the most goals scored in a debut season in Serie A, with 31 goals in his first season (1929–30). The next season, he scored five goals in a single game, twice in one season: 6 January 1929 Inter against Pistoiese 9–1 and 17 March 1929 Inter v Verona 9–0. That same season (1928–29) on 12 May 1929, he scored six goals as Inter beat Venezia 10–2. 27 April 1930 was the first time Inter ever played Roma in Milan. Inter won 6–0 and Meazza scored four goals, scoring his first three within three minutes of the game.

With Meazza in the squad, Inter won three national championships in 1930, 1938 and 1940, and helped win the team's first Coppa Italia in 1939. In the 1930 deciding game, he scored a second half hat-trick to tie the game against Genoa after Inter had been down 3–0. He was top-scorer of Serie A three times (1930, 1936, 1938), top-scorer in the pre-Serie A year of 1929 and top scorer of the Mitropa Cup three times: 1930 (seven goals), 1933 (five goals) and 1936 (ten goals); he finished with a runners-up medal in the competition in 1933.[20]

Giuseppe Meazza with Amedeo Biavati

When Ambrosiana beat Bari in the 1937–38 championship, he scored five goals in a 9–2 victory. The next week he scored a hat-trick against Lucchese. Along with fellow Inter players Ferraris II, Ferrari and Locatelli, Meazza was involved in the Azzurri set-up that won the 1938 World Cup in Paris. That same year, Inter won their fourth Scudetto, while the club's first Coppa Italia success came in 1939.

AC Milan and later career[edit]

An injury put him out of action for most of 1938–39 and 1939–40, and after having devoted the best part of his career to Inter, Meazza transferred to AC Milan on 28 November 1940. Later in his career he also played for Juventus, Varese and Atalanta. His debut for Juventus, on 18 October 1942, took place in the derby against Torino. This was the last season in which he managed to record double figures in terms of goals scored, helping Juventus to a third–place finish in the league. Following this season the Serie A and Coppa Italia were suspended due to the Second World War.

Return to Inter[edit]

In 1946 he was recalled to Inter as a player-coach. He played 17 games, scoring the last two goals of his career to help an Inter team that was in danger of relegation.

International career[edit]

Meazza played for Italy national team in the 1934 and 1938 World Cups, both of which Italy won. Apart from captaining the World Cup winning team in 1938, Meazza, along with Giovanni Ferrari and Eraldo Monzeglio, also set a record for being one of the only three Italian players to win two World Cups.[2]

Meazza receives the 1938 World Cup from Albert Lebrun.

Early career[edit]

His debut with the Italy national team was in Rome on 9 February 1930 against Switzerland. Then 19-year-old, Meazza scored twice in that game (in the 37th and 39th minutes) to help Italy to a 4–2 victory after they had been down by two goals in only 19 minutes. The next game Italy played was on 2 March 1930 against Germany in Frankfurt, where Meazza scored a goal in a 2–0 win. A few months later, on 11 May 1930, he scored a hat-trick in a 5–0 game as Italy beat Hungary of Larcos, Hirzer and Pál Titkos for the first time ever while playing in Budapest. Meazza helped Italy win the Central European International Cup that year; the cup was a three-year international tournament between the strongest national teams of central and eastern Europe.[6]

On 25 January 1931, Meazza scored another three goals in a 5–0 friendly win against France.[6] He also scored two goals in the 1931–32 Central European International Cup campaign, in which Italy finished in second place.

His first fifteen caps were at centre-forward, but in 1933, he showed his versatility during a 3–1 victory over Germany in Bologna, when he was moved to an inside-right position by the Italian coach Vittorio Pozzo, to accommodate teammate Angelo Schiavio, a switch that would help Italy win the World Cup the next year as the goals flowed in. During the tournament, Meazza once again demonstrated his adaptability when he was switched to an inside-left.

1934 FIFA World Cup[edit]

In the 1934 World Cup, which was hosted by Italy, Meazza appeared in every game for the Italians. On 25 March 1934 in Milan, Italy beat Greece 4–0 in a qualifying match with two goals coming from Meazza. He then scored the final goal in their 7–1 victory over the United States in the 89th minute of their World Cup opener. In the game against Spain, Giovanni Ferrari scored a goal against Ricardo Zamora. The game ended 1–1 and had to be settled the next day. Meazza scored from a corner sent in by Raimundo Orsi in the 11th minute. It was the only goal of the game.

The final against Czechoslovakia in Rome's Stadio Nazionale PNF. After 90 minutes, the two teams were at 1–1. Italy, though, was in far more trouble as the game went into extra-time until Meazza became the inspirer again. His injury became a mixed blessing as the Czechs did not bother to mark him and he made them rue that decision. In the 5th minute of extra time, Schiavio hit a snap-shot past goalkeeper Frantisek Planicka for the winner. Meazza was elected into the All-Star Team of the tournament and won the Golden Ball, the award presented to the best player at each FIFA World Cup finals.[21][22]

1933–35 Central European International Cup[edit]

In 1935 he claimed the Central European International Cup again. Alongside Eraldo Monzeglio, Raimundo Orsi, Raffaele Costantino, Alfredo Pitto, Umberto Caligaris, Luigi Allemandi, Virginio Rosetta & Gianpiero Combi, Meazza is one of only nine (all Italian) players to win two editions of the Central European International Cup (1927–30 and 1933–35); he also finished as the runner-up once with Italy (1931–32),[23] thereby winning two gold medals and a silver medal before the tournament was discontinued due to the Anschluss. He holds the all-time record for appearances and goals, sixteen and eight respectively, at Central European International Cup tournaments for the Italy national side.[24][25] With 8 goals, he is among the all-time top goal scorers in the competition's history.

1938 FIFA World Cup and later career[edit]

In the 1938 World Cup hosted by France, Meazza captained Italy, again playing in every match. In the semi-final against Brazil, with the score at 1–0 Italy were awarded a penalty after Silvio Piola was fouled by Domingos da Guia. As Meazza stepped up to take the kick, with a chance to double his team's lead, his shorts fell down, as the elastic in them had ripped; he held them up with his left hand, but he still managed to score, beating the Brazilian goalkeeper Walter from the spot by placing the ball into the corner.[26][27] The goal enabled Italy to win the match 2–1 and sent them into their second consecutive World Cup final.[21][22]

In the final, the Italians faced Hungary. Meazza set up goals for Silvio Piola and Gino Colaussi before halftime. The first assist he gave came after a quick exchange with Colaussi, who put Italy up 1–0. The next assist came after he faked a shot, making his defender jump past him, and dribbled past another defender, before sending in a quick pass on the ground for Piola to score. Ten minutes before halftime, after another quick exchange between Ferrari and Meazza, the latter found the unmarked Colaussi with a pass, and the winger netted his second of the game to make it 3–1 at the break. After the tournament, Piola, who scored five goals in France, paid his colleague the compliment of being responsible for his own good performance: "At the FIFA World Cup, I mainly lived off Meazza and Ferrari".[22]

He played his last match for the national team nine years after his debut, on 20 July 1939 at the Olympiastadion in Helsinki, when he captained Italy to a 3–2 win over Finland.[6] In total, he played 53 times with Italy between 1930 and 1939, losing only six matches, and scoring 33 goals; he is currently Italy's second highest goalscorer, behind Luigi Riva.[6]

Style of play[edit]

"I also saw Pelé playing. He did not achieve Meazza's elegant style of playing. One day, at the Arena, I witnessed him doing something astonishing: he stopped the ball with a bicycle kick, elevating himself two meters from the ground. Then he landed with the ball glued at his foot, dribbled over an astonished defender, and then went on scoring a goal with one of his hallmark shots, sardonic and accurate to the millimeter."[28]

Although he was initially deployed as full-back in his youth, Meazza began his professional career as an all out striker or centre forward, but he later played for more than half of his career as a creative inside left forward, known as the mezzala role in Italian football jargon, although he was also capable of playing on the right. He further demonstrated his skill and creative ability by also becoming an accomplished attacking midfielder, and even played as a central midfielder or as a deep-lying playmaker in his later career. He was known for his excellent shooting ability and intoxicating dribbling skills, with an eye for the final pass. Despite his average height and slight yet stocky build, he was also an exceptional header of the ball and was known for his acrobatic abilities in the air. Beyond his qualities as a player, he was also a great leader on the pitch.[17][18][29][30]

Meazza was the first Italian football player who became famous worldwide and was the first player with personal sponsors. Unlike his more reserved friend, international teammate, and club rival Silvio Piola, a player with whom Meazza was often compared, he was known for having a much more flamboyant character both on and off the pitch.[31] He loved his cabriolet, champagne and women and was the only player on the national team that was allowed to smoke. Meazza was famous for humiliating the best defenders of the era and for sleeping at a brothel the night before a match. With his plush touch on the ball, he would cause panic in the robust defenders from an era where two-footed tackles from behind were often waved on. Not known for having a particularly high work rate, sometimes he would not get out of bed until his teammates were already finished training. He also loved the Tango and used this proficiency to make him unpredictable on the field and could score goals at fox-trot tempo.

He was a superb dribbler who despite his speed, never had a single brylcreemed hair out of place, and although he was not tall, was remarkably good in the air. Meazza created many chances for his teammates and scored goals as well. His bending goals "a foglia morta", the "dead leaf technique", in particular from free-kicks, were also feared by goalkeepers. As an offensive playmaker, he was a brilliant passer, two-footed, had remarkable field vision, and was noted for his balance and agility on the ball, as well as his control, turns and spins.[21][22][17][18][32][33][34]

His trademark goals were ones where he would collect the ball at the half-line, dribble through several opponents with a series of twinkle-toed shuffles, and turns, until arriving in front of the goal, where he would stop and invite the goalkeeper to attack him like a matador, before faking a shot, then dribbling past the beaten goalkeeper to slot home easily.[18] In away games, the defenders would often foul and hack him to avoid being humiliated.[35] "Gol alla Meazza" and "finte alla Meazza" have since become popular sayings for Italian football fans to describe a truly inspiring goal off the dribble or a series of jukes. His goals "ad invito", where he would invite the goalkeeper out before dribbling around him is yet another popular saying. An accurate penalty taker, Meazza once said, "There is nothing worse than having a penalty kick saved by a keeper who didn't understand the fake."[21][22][17]


Meazza is widely considered one of the best players of his generation, and among the greatest of all time, as well as being regarded by many in the sport as Italy's greatest ever player.[21][22][36]

Vittorio Pozzo, the mastermind coach behind both Italian World Cup victories, wrote of Meazza: "He was a born forward. He saw the game, understood the situation, distributed the ball carefully and made the team offence operate. Having him on the team was like starting the game 1–0 up."[26][37]

Sports journalist Gianni Brera, who considered Meazza to be the greatest footballer in the history of the game,[38] called him "Il Folber", and dubbed his style of play the "fasso-tuto-mi", because he considered him to be the complete central midfielder and a nimble acrobat. When describing Meazza, Brera said: "He was only Italian that stood out amongst the sensational Brazilians and Argentines".[37][39] Following Meazza's death in 1979, Brera also added: "The world was full of great football players, maybe some even tougher and more consistent than him, but to us it seemed that one could not go beyond his sudden inventions, his ingenious runs, his peremptory yet never condescending dribbling, his solo break-away runs towards the usual stray victim, the opposing goalkeeper."[40]

Peppino Prisco, who became vice-president of Inter Milan in 1963 and won every major trophy possible with the club, also considered Meazza to be the best player of all time, and said of him: "Meazza was great, unbeatable, even if he would occasionally run into a frightful crisis, caused by his intense sexual activity and his passion for the game. When he took over on the field, he did things that left the mouth ajar."[41][37]

Bruno Acari IV, who played with Meazza at A.C. Milan and later coached, once said that "Peppino [Meazza] never wanted to hear about tactics. He was a simple person who became a king when he entered the goal box, with a technical ability that was comparable to Pelé."[37]


A marble gravestone on the wall of a crypt
Meazza's grave at the Monumental Cemetery of Milan in 2015

Meazza died on 21 August 1979 of pancreas failure in Lissone, Italy, two days before his 69th birthday. He is buried at the Monumental Cemetery of Milan.[42]

Career statistics[edit]


Appearances and goals by club, season and competition[43]
Season Club League Cup Europe Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Inter Milan 1927–28 Divisione Nazionale 33 12 33 12
1928–29 Divisione Nazionale 29 33 29 33
1929–30 Serie A 33 31 33 31
1930–31 Serie A 34 24 6 7 40 31
1931–32 Serie A 28 21 28 21
1932–33 Serie A 32 20 32 20
1933–34 Serie A 32 21 6 5 38 26
1934–35 Serie A 30 18 2 3 32 21
1935–36 Serie A 29 25 2 1 2 2 33 28
1936–37 Serie A 26 11 4 3 6 10 36 24
1937–38 Serie A 26 20 4 8 30 28
1938–39 Serie A 16 4 6 0 4 2 26 6
1939–40 Serie A 0 0 1 0 1 0
Total 348 240 16 12 27 29 391 282
Milan 1940–41 Serie A 14 6 1 0 15 6
1941–42 Serie A 23 3 4 2 27 5
Juventus 1942–43 Serie A 27 10 27 10
Varese 1944 Alta Italia 20 7 20 7
Atalanta 1945–46 Divisione Nazionale 14 2 14 2
Inter Milan 1946–47 Serie A 17 2 17 2
Career total 463 270 21 14 27 29 511 313


Appearances and goals by national team and year[6][44][45]
National team Year Apps Goals
Italy 1930 5 6
1931 6 5
1932 4 2
1933 5 5
1934 9 7
1935 3 2
1936 4 2
1937 5 1
1938 6 3
1939 6 0
Total 53 33
Scores and results list Italy's goal tally first, the score column indicates the score after each Meazza goal.[46]
List of international goals scored by Giuseppe Meazza
No. Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 9 February 1930 Stadio Nazionale PNF, Rome, Italy   Switzerland
4–2 Friendly
3 2 March 1930 Waldstadion, Frankfurt, Germany  Germany
2–0 Friendly
4 11 May 1930 Üllői úti stadion, Budapest, Hungary  Hungary
5–0 1927-30 Central European International Cup
7 25 January 1931 Stadio Littoriale, Bologna, Italy  France
5–0 Friendly
10 22 February 1931 San Siro, Milan, Italy  Austria
2–1 1931-32 Central European International Cup
11 20 May 1931 Stadio Nazionale PNF, Rome, Italy  Scotland
3–0 Friendly
12 20 March 1932 Praterstadion, Vienna, Austria  Austria
1–2 1931-32 Central European International Cup
13 27 November 1932 San Siro, Milan, Italy  Hungary
4–2 Friendly
14 1 January 1933 Stadio Littoriale, Bologna, Italy  Germany
3–1 Friendly
15 12 February 1933 King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, Belgium  Belgium
3–2 Friendly
17 2 April 1933 Charmilles Stadium, Geneva, Switzerland   Switzerland
3–0 1933-35 Central European International Cup
18 3 December 1933 Stadio Comunale, Florence, Italy   Switzerland
5–2 1933-35 Central European International Cup
19 25 March 1934 San Siro, Milan, Italy  Greece
4–0 1934 FIFA World Cup qualifier
21 27 May 1934 Stadio Nazionale PNF, Rome, Italy  United States
7–1 1934 FIFA World Cup
22 1 June 1934 Stadio Comunale, Florence, Italy  Spain
1–0 1934 FIFA World Cup
23 14 November 1934 Highbury stadium, London, England  England
2–3 Friendly
25 9 December 1934 San Siro, Milan, Italy  Hungary
4–2 Friendly
26 17 February 1935 Stadio Nazionale PNF, Rome, Italy  France
2–1 Friendly
28 31 May 1936 Hungária körúti stadion, Budapest, Hungary  Hungary
2–1 Friendly
29 25 October 1936 San Siro, Milan, Italy   Switzerland
4–2 1936-38 Central European International Cup
30 27 May 1937 Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo, Norway  Norway
3–1 Friendly
31 15 May 1938 San Siro, Milan, Italy  Belgium
6–1 Friendly
32 22 May 1938 Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa, Italy  Yugoslavia
4–0 Friendly
33 16 June 1938 Stade Vélodrome, Marseille, France  Brazil
2–1 1938 FIFA World Cup


Inter Milan[47]




  • Meazza was one of the first Italians to coach abroad, coaching Beşiktaş J.K. of Turkey in 1948–49.
  • While serving as a youth coach for Inter, he met Sandro Mazzola. Understanding the boy's pain at losing a father while so young and recognising his skills, Meazza took young Sandro under his wing, and convinced him to sign for Inter. This is however controversial, as the honour of having brought Sandro and his brother Ferruccio Mazzola to Inter is also attributed to an Inter player of the time, Benito "Veleno" Lorenzi, who was a friend and fellow Italian international to the boys' father, Torino legend Valentino Mazzola.
  • Meazza is a FIFA Hall of Champions Inductee and Italian Football Hall of Fame Entrant. He was selected by IFFHS/FIFA as the 2nd Best Italian player as one of the best 25 World Players of the 20th Century, and was also selected to Italy's Sports Walk of Fame in 2015.
  • Meazza is still today the joint-fourth top-scorer ever in Serie A along with José Altafini.
  • Many Italian football experts, including Alberto Giocattoli, consider him to be the best player ever, and even Silvio Piola was quoted saying: "He is, without a doubt, one of the greatest Italian footballers ever. He is a symbol to our great country and we should cherish him."
  • With 33 goals, Meazza remains of the Italy national team its second highest scorer. His record stood until Gigi Riva tied and eventually broke it on 9 June 1973, also in a game against Brazil. On that day, Meazza was quoted as saying, "That Riva is good, he scored a lot of goals against Cyprus and Turkey. Surely my goals were much more important."[55]
  • The San Siro stadium of Milan, which hosts two of Meazza's former clubs, Inter Milan and A.C. Milan, was renamed the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in his honour.[13]


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