Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Roberto Baggio

Roberto Baggio - Three Decades of Passion

Roberto Baggio (Italian pronunciation: born 18 February 1967) is a retired Italian footballer. Widely regarded as one of the finest footballers of his generation, Baggio won both the Ballon d'Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1993. He is the only Italian player ever to score in three World Cups. He is also one of the top 5 all-time goalscorers for Italy. Baggio is known as Il Divin Codino (The Divine Ponytail), for the hairstyle he wore for most of his career and his Buddhist background.Baggio was born in Caldogno, Veneto. 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. Roberto Baggio is the 6th of 8 brothers. His younger brother, Eddy Baggio, is also a footballer who currently plays with Sangiovannese. Baggio married his girlfriend Andreina Fabbri in 1993. They have a daughter Valentine and two sons Mattia and Riccardo [1]Baggio began his professional career at native club Vicenza in Serie C1 during 1982. Fiorentina snapped him up in 1985, and during his years there, he rose to cult status among the team's fans who consider him to be one of their best ever players. He made his Serie A debut on 21 September 1986 against Sampdoria and scored his first league goal on 10 May 1987 against Napoli, in a match best remembered for Napoli winning the Scudetto for the first time in their history.In 1990, Baggio was sold to Juventus, amid outcry from Fiorentina fans, in 1990 for €10 million (US$13.6 million), the world record transfer for a football player at the time. Following the transfer, there were full scale riots on the streets of Florence where fifty people were injured Baggio replied to his fans saying: "I was compelled to accept the transfer". In the match he played for Juventus against Fiorentina in 1990, he refused to take a penalty; and when substituted he picked up a Fiorentina Scarf thrown onto the field by fans and kissed it. He claimed: "Deep in my heart I am always purple," The colour of Fiorentina. In 1993, he won his only European club trophy, helping Juventus to the UEFA Cup final in which he scored twice. His performances earned him both the European Footballer of the Year and the FIFA World Player of the Year titles. In 1995 Baggio won his first Scudetto with Juventus. This was the first of many league titles to come for Juventus in the 1990s.
In 1995, after strong pressure from Milan chairman Silvio Berlusconi, he was sold to the Milanese club. At this time, he had been linked with Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers in the English Premier League, but no firm offers were made from either of these clubs. He helped Milan win the Serie A title, becoming the first player to win the Scudetto in consecutive years with different teams

In 1997, Baggio transferred to Bologna in order to resuscitate his career, and after scoring a personal best 22 goals that year. After the 1998 World Cup, Baggio signed with Internazionale. This proved to be an unfortunate move, as the then coach Marcello Lippi did not favour Baggio. This caused Baggio to lose his place in the national team. 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. His last contribution to Inter was two goals against Parma in the playoff for the last remaining UEFA Champions League place, which Inter won 3–1. This game is considered another prime example of the great professionalism shown by Baggio throughout his career. Inter president Massimo Moratti had openly declared that Lippi would only stay on as manager if the team made it into the Champions League, but Baggio knew that because of his bad relationship with Lippi, that would also mean that he would have to leave the club himself.

After two years with Inter, in order to be called up for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, he transferred to previously unfashionable Brescia. At the start of 2001–02 season, he scored eight goals in the first nine games. Unfortunately, during that season, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee; despite this severe injury, he came back three games before the end of the season, making a recovery of 76 days. In the first game after his comeback, he scored two goals against his former team Fiorentina, the first of them after only two minutes from the start of the match. Then he scored again against another team he played for, Bologna.

Baggio maintained a high level of performance in the next years, playing at Brescia until his retirement in 2004. He played his last game on 16 May 2004 at the San Siro against Milan. In the 88th minute, Brescia coach Gianni De Biasi subbed Baggio off so he could get his curtain call. The 80,000 present at the San Siro gave him a standing ovation. 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 Francesco Totti. His number 10 jersey was retired by Brescia. He scored his 300th career goal on 16 December 2002 in Brescia's 3–1 home victory over Piacenza. He was the first player in over 50 years to reach this milestone, behind only Piola (364) and Meazza (338).
Baggio totalled 27 goals in 56 caps for his national team, the fourth-highest of all time for Italy. He is the only Italian player ever to score in three World Cups with a total of 9 career World Cup goals, which puts him even with Christian Vieri and Paolo Rossi as Italy's top World Cup scorers. For all his talent he was never rewarded with a victory in an international competition. He infamously missed the deciding penalty in the final of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, which contributed to Italy losing the trophy to Brazil.
Baggio's first World Cup was the 1990 FIFA World Cup, and although he was used most often as a substitute in the tournament, he was still able to display his quality, scoring twice including the "goal of the tournament" against Czechoslovakia. Baggio is also much remembered for his class; although regularly designated the penalty taker for his team, he stepped aside when Italy was awarded one in the third place match against England, allowing teammate Salvatore Schillaci to score and capture the Golden Shoe.
Baggio was the cornerstone of the Italy team during the 1994 FIFA World Cup, leading them to the final after a disappointing start. He scored five goals, all in the knockout phase, and he started every match from the beginning: two in the round of 16 to beat Nigeria (scoring with 2 minutes left of the game sending it into extra time, and then another goal in extra time), one in the quarter-finals to top Spain (the game winner with 3 minutes remaining) and two to beat Bulgaria in the semi-finals. Baggio was not fully fit for the final against Brazil, which ended 0–0 after extra time; he took Italy's last penalty in the resulting shoot-out, but his kick went over the cross-bar and the Brazilians won the title. Two other Italians, Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro, had already missed penalties.

Baggio finished tied for second in the tournament in goals scored and was named one of the top three players.
In Italy's opening match of the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Italy played Chile. Italy's first goal was scored by Christian Vieri on an assist by Baggio. Towards the end of the game a Baggio cross touched Chilean defender Ronald Fuentes' hand, 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 scored two goals in the tournament; he also scored the winning goal against Austria as Italy topped their group.
In the quarter-final match against France, Baggio came on as a substitute in the second half. The score remained 0–0 and the match went to a penalty shootout won by the host nation. Italy's coach, Cesare Maldini has since been severely criticised for starting Del Piero ahead of Baggio, who was in the better form, for the quarter-final match against France. Cesare Maldini later apologized to Baggio for not giving him the playing time he deserved.

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