Roberto Baggio


Roberto Baggio : biography

18 February 1967 –

Fiorentina snapped him up in 1985, and during his years there, despite initially being sidelined due to recurring injury problems, he rose to cult status among the team’s fans who consider him to be one of their best ever players. 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 and 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. 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 Vialli, with a record 13 in the competition. Fiorentina were knocked out to eventual winners Sampdoria. He 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 in a tie-break qualifier against Roma. He led Fiorentina 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.

1990–1995: Juventus

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. He also inherited the number 10 shirt. 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. During his time at Juventus, between 1992 and 1995, 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 as Juventus finished out of possible European Qualifying spots in a disappointing 7th place, although they reached the semi-finals of the European Cup Winner’s Cup, in which Baggio was top scorer. Juventus were eliminated by Cruyff’s Barcelona "Dream Team", who lost in the final to Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. 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.

In the 1992–1993 season, he was appointed team captain, and he won his only European club trophy, helping Juventus to the UEFA Cup final in which he scored twice and assisted another, defeating Borussia Dortmund. He ended the competition as the second highest scorer. 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 a fantastic goal by Baggio. 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 and the FIFA World Player of the Year titles. He scored a personal best of 30 goals in all competitions during this season.