Roberto Baggio

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Roberto Baggio : biography

18 February 1967 –

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. 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 2003/2004 season. 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 most recently, Francesco Totti. At the time of his retirement, he was the fifth highest goalscorer in Serie A of all time, until Francesco Totti overtook him in 2011. Baggio’s number 10 jersey, that he had worn for 4 seasons, was retired by Brescia in his honour. 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.

Style of play

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. Baggio is also remembered as a symbol of the Italian National Team. 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 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, but that he scored more than a classic 10. He would go on to state that Baggio’s playing style coincided with the emergence and popularisation of the trequartista in Italian football. 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.

Baggio was also a playmaker, or fantasista, and was a versatile player comfortable attacking on both wings as well as in 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 although his preferred position was that of a more advanced trequartista. In his later career, he played as a trequartista or attacking midfielder. Baggio was a set piece and penalty kick specialist, who influenced several other future specialists, such as Andrea Pirlo. Although naturally right footed, he was comfortable using either foot, and usually began dribbling with his left foot. Despite his success, skill and talent, Baggio’s career is thought to have been affected by the many severe injuries he encountered. Although he was not imposing physically, he was known for his pace, acceleration, and timing, that gave him the ability to lose his markers. He was renowned for his vision, creativity, technical skills, passing, and tactical awareness, that allowed him to pick out attacking players making runs, and provide them with assists. 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 finishing. He has been known for his leadership and consistency, despite having played for many different clubs, as well as having had recurring injury problems and difficulties with several of his managers.