Roberto Baggio (born 18 February 1967 in Caldogno, Veneto) is a retired Italian footballer, among the most technically gifted and popular players in the world throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. He played for the Italian national team in three World Cups, and is the only Italian player ever to score in three World Cups. He missed a penalty in the final of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, which contributed to Italy losing the trophy to Brazil on penalties. He won both the European Footballer of the Year (Ballon d'Or) and the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1993.
As a youngster, Roberto always had a keen interest in the sport of football and played for a local youth club over a period of nine years. After scoring 6 goals in one game; Baggio was persuaded by scout Antonio Mora to join Vicenza.
Baggio began his professional career at native club Vicenza
in Serie C1
during 1982. Fiorentina
snapped him up in 1985, and during his years there, he rose to cult status among the team's fans who consider him to be one of their best ever players. He made his Serie A
debut on 21 September 1986 against Sampdoria. He scored his first league goal on 10 May 1987 against Napoli
in a match best remembered for Napoli winning the Scudetto
for the first time in their history.
He was sold to Juventus amid outcry from Fiorentina fans in 1990 for €12 million (US$19 million),the world record transfer for a football player at the time. Following the transfer, there were full scale riots on the streets of Florence where fifty people were injured. Baggio replied to his fans saying: "I was compelled to accept the transfer".
In 1993 he won his lone European club trophy, helping Juventus to the UEFA Cup. His performances earned him both the European Footballer of the Year and the FIFA World Player of the Year titles.
Baggio won his first Scudetto with Juventus in 1995. This was the first of many league titles to come for Juventus in the 1990s.
After strong pressure from AC Milan chairman Silvio Berlusconi, he was sold to the Milanese club. At this time, he had been linked with Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers in the English Premier League, but no firm offers were made from either of these clubs.
He helped the club win the Serie A title, becoming the first player to win the scudetto in consecutive years with different teams. Baggio really joined Juventus in a bad period in their history, and it was revealed years later, in 2005, that he was all set to join Milan when his agent done a deal with Juventus instead, without Baggio knowing about it.
In 1997, when he was thought to be on the downside, Baggio transferred to Bologna in order to resuscitate his career, and after scoring a personal best 22 goals that year, was included in Italy's starting eleven for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in place of the younger and favoured Del Piero. Cesare Maldini has since been severely criticised for starting Del Piero ahead of Baggio, who was clearly in the better form, for the quarter-final match against France. When Baggio did come on for Del Piero, Italy seemed to play a lot better and Baggio nearly scored with a superb volley which only just missed the target. Had Baggio scored that shot, Italy would have won via the "golden goal" rule, and France would never have been World Champions. Cesare Maldini later apologized to Baggio for not giving him the playing time he deserved.
After the 1998 World Cup, Baggio signed with Inter Milan. This proved to be an unfortunate move, as the then coach Marcello Lippi did not favour Baggio and hardly played him. This caused Baggio to lose his place in the national team. In his autobiography, Baggio later declared that Lippi had effectively dumped him after Baggio had refused to point out which Inter's players had expressed negative opinions about the coach. His last contribution to Inter Milan was two goals against Parma in the playoff for the last remaining UEFA Champions League place.
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 appeared in great shape, in fact he scored eight goals in the first nine games. Unfortunately, during that season, he tore 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 an incredible 76 days only recovery. In his first game after 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. However, Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni did not take Baggio to Korea and Japan, considering him not fully recovered from injury. Fans and pundits criticised the omission of Baggio, and Italy without the inspiration of Baggio was eliminated before reaching the quarter-finals, failing to reach expectations.
Baggio continued playing at Brescia until his retirement in 2004. He played his last game on May 16, 2004 at the San Siro against Milan. In the 88th minute, Brescia coach Gianni De Biasi subbed Baggio off so he could get his curtain call. The 80,000 present at the San Siro gave him a standing ovation. He ended his career with 205 goals in Serie A, making him the fifth-highest scorer of all time behind Silvio Piola, Gunnar Nordahl, Giuseppe Meazza and José Altafini. His number 10 jersey was retired by Brescia. He scored his 300th career goal on 16 December 2002 in Brescia's 3-1 home victory over Piacenza. He is the first player in over 50 years to reach this milestone, behind only Piola (364) and 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.
1990 FIFA World Cup
Baggio's first World Cup
was the 1990 FIFA World Cup
, and although he was used most often as a substitute in the tournament, he was still able to display his quality, scoring twice including the "goal of the tournament" against Czechoslovakia. Baggio is also much remembered for his class; although regularly designated the penalty shooter for his team, he stepped aside when Italy was awarded one in the third place match, allowing teammate Salvatore Schillaci
to score and capture the Golden Shoe
1994 FIFA World Cup
Baggio was the cornerstone of the Italy
team during the 1994 FIFA World Cup
, leading them to the final after a disappointing start. He scored five goals, all in the knockout phase, and he started every match from the beginning: two in the round of 16
to beat Nigeria
(scoring with 2 minutes left of the game sending it into extra time, and then another goal in extra time), one in the quarter-finals to top Spain
(the game winner with 3 minutes remaining) and two to beat Bulgaria
in the semi-finals. Baggio was not fully fit for the final against Brazil
, which ended 0-0 after extra time; he took Italy's last penalty in the resulting shoot-out, but his kick went over the cross-bar and the Brazilians won the title. Two other Italians, Franco Baresi
and Daniele Massaro
, had already missed penalties; had Baggio scored, Brazil would have still have had a penalty to win the Cup nevertheless.
Baggio finished tied for second in the tournament in goals scored and was named one of the top three players.
1998 FIFA World Cup
In the opening match of the 1998 FIFA World Cup
. The first goal was scored by Christian Vieri
on an assist by Baggio. Chile took the lead 2-1, and Baggio would later make a good pass to Filippo Inzaghi
but the Chilean keeper Nelson Tapia
made an excellent save to keep the score 2-1. That was only the third time a team took the lead over Italy in a World Cup throughout the 1990s. Towards the end of the game a Baggio cross touched a Chilean defender's 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.
He scored two goals in the tournament; he also scored the winning goal against Austria as Italy topped their group.
In the quarter-final match against France, Baggio came on as a substitute in the second half. Italy had only one shot in the entire match which was just inches away, from none other than Baggio; the score remained 0-0 and the match went to a penalty shootout. Baggio scored his penalty, but Italy lost to the eventual champions France.
Baggio was given an international send-off match on 28 April 2004
He was invited to play for the European XI at the Football for Hope Indian Ocean tsunami relief benefit on 15 February 2005 at the Nou Camp in Barcelona, but he declined the invitation.
Baggio wrote an autobiography titled Una porta nel cielo (A Goal in the Sky, but also A Gate...). In it, he told of many rifts with managers.
Baggio is known as Il Divin Codino (The Divine Ponytail), for the hairstyle he wore for most of his career and his Buddhist background.
On his 40th birthday (February 18, 2007), Baggio started his new website to converse with his fans. As per his website he doesn't intend to return to mainstream football but rather exchange words with his fans on his blogs.
On October 8, 2008 Baggio appeared in a charity match between Milan and Fiorentina for Stefano Borgonovo, with whom Baggio played at Fiorentina during the late 1980s.
- U-23 European Footballer of the Year: 1990
- UEFA Cup Winners' Cup top scorer: 1990-91
- European Footballer of the Year (Ballon d'Or/Golden Ball): 1993
- FIFA World Player of the Year: 1993
- Platinum Football award by TV Sorrisi and Canzoni: 1992
- Onze D'Or by French Magazine 'Onze Mondial': 1993
- Bravo award with Fiorentina: 1990
- Golden Guerin with Vicenza: 1985
- Golden Guerin with AC Milan: 1996
- Golden Guerin with Brescia: 2001
- Azzuri Team of The Century: 2000
- FIFA Dream Team of All-Time: 2002
- 'Most Loved Player' Award via Internet Polls: 2001
- 'Most Loved Player' Award at the Italian Oscars: 2002
- FIFA 100: 2004
- Giuseppe Prisco award: 2004
- The Champions Promenade - Golden Foot 2003
- Guerin's Sportivo 150 Grandi del Secolo
- Placar's 100 Craques do Seculo
- Planète Foot's 50 Meilleurs Joueurs du Monde
- Italy All-time XI by Football Italia
- Juventus All-time XI by Football Italia
- Brescia All-time XI by Football Italia
- 318 goals in all competitions
- 76 goals from 91 penalties (best all time record in Italy)
- 32 goals in European competitions
- 9 goals in World Cup finals (Italia 90, USA 94, France 98)
Baggio, formerly a Roman Catholic
, converted to Nichiren Buddhism and is a member of the Soka Gakkai International
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 Rossi and Vieri). But Baggio is the only Italian to have scored in three World Cups. Baggio has scored 86 percent of his penalties in Serie A and International football, scoring 106 out of 122 penalties, more than any other player in Italian football history.
When Baggio was in the national team, Italy always left the World Cup at penalties: in 1990 against Argentina, in 1994 against Brazil, and in 1998 against France. Therefore, In 16 world cup matches he played Italy lost only one, Italy's opening game of USA 94 against Ireland. When Baggio played his 16th and last world cup game against France, Brazil's all time player with most caps in the World Cup did not have 16 games. This was a notable achievement for Baggio especially as Brazil won the world cup three times in the 1960s with the likes of Pele.
Roberto Baggio is the 6th of 8 brothers. His younger brother, Eddy Baggio
, is also a footballer. He currently plays with Sangiovannese
and has spent his whole career in the lower divisions of Italian football, never making an appearance in Serie A.
Baggio was the main player for Italian sportswear company Diadora. Throughout his whole career he wore Diadora football boots and gear.
Roberto Baggio is married to Andreina and has 3 children: Mattia, Valentina and Leonardo.