Friday, December 7, 2007

Roberto Baggio

On the 18th of February, 1967, this legend started in Caldogno, a small town in the north of Vicenza in Italy. In the Baggio family, which had had 5 children -- Gianna, Walter, Carla, Giorgio and Anne Maria; our soccer hero was born -- Roberto! As a person who loved soccer, he always thought of football, and didn't want to live without it. Roby's career began in the place where he had been there for 9 years. Just after a few matches, Roberto had become a little star, always scored. At the end of a game in which he had 6 goals, a scout Antonio Mora persuaded him to join Vicenza, a Serie C team at that time.

With Vicenza
However, under the coach Cad, Baggio didn't have much chance to play, and his first season just went pass. But a good news was that a new man arrived in the next season, Baggio therefore had more chances to play, he then gave his first career goal to Bruno Giorgi as a present, thanked the coach for putting him in a such important place. Furthermore, his good performance in this season brought him an under 16 national team place.

The 84-85 season, Baggio was on track, he got 12 goals in 29 league games, this helped Vicenza to climb to Serie B. But on the 3rd of May, Roberto went pass Serie B, joined a Serie A team, Fiorentina.

With Fiorentina
Baggio finished his first season in Fiorentina quietly. But in the next season, he finally took part in a Serie A game on the 21st of September, 1986, against Sampdoria. However, he hurt his knee in this season! Oh God! This is unfair, Baggio had just got a chance to show his talent, and now......wait a minute, he scored his first Serie A goal in the game vs Napoli on the 10th of May, 1987, not bad then! At least had a goal!

Good things continued to come, in the next season, he totally recovered, and had 9 goals. On the other hand, he was called by national team for the first time in November, 1988, to play in Rome against Holland. Moreover, everyone will get married one day, and no exception for a soccer player, Roby stopped his long run with girl friend Andreina, formally became a couple after the end of this season.

The following season, Baggio finished beautifully with 17 goals in 32 league matches. He also took the team to the final of UEFA Cup, but unfortunately they were beaten by a Torine team, Juventus, couldn't bring the cup back to Florence. The UEFA Cup winner Juventus, however, signed Baggio with a world record transfer fee -- US$17 million, it was about 7.5 million pounds. But this announcement made Fiorentina fans angry, caused riots in the streets.

World Cup '90
Anyway, Baggio's great form gave him a place in Azeglio Vicini's Italian national team in World Cup '90. However, as he was not brought up by Vicini from junior team, in Italy's 1-0 winning first and second match, there was no Baggio. But these poor results forced the coach to change. In the last match in the first round, Baggio and Schillaci partnered in front aimed at beating Czechoslovakia. They successfully combined together! And Roby scored the best goal in this tournament.

After that, Italy went into the semi-final against Argentina. Before the match started, Vicini told Baggio that he was to be in the bench when the game began, the reason was he looked tired, but Roberto rebutted "I am 23! I will have eaten grass to play." No effect, he only played in the second half. 120 minutes over, the result was still leveled, penalty! Baggio luckily scored 1. But the game belonged to Argentine goalkeeper, who kicked Italy out......the host only got a third place.

With Juventus
Forgot about the sad memory in the World Cup, Baggio had a good start in Juventus, he scored 14 goals in 33 league games. On the 2nd of December, his wife brought a third person! Calm down, she just born their first child, Valentina. In the next season, Roberto played in 32 Serie A matches, got 18 goals.

92-93 seoson was Baggio's best season in Juventus, he put the ball into the net 21 times in 27 league games. Baggio also led Juventus to play in the UEFA Cup, he took part in 9 games and scored 6 goals, and Juventus became the champion, this was Roberto's first major title that he had ever won.

The following season, Baggio gave his 100th Serie A goal to Genoa. In December, he was recognized by the World, he became the European footballer and World's footballer. Baggio scored 17 goals in 32 league matches this season. In May, 1994, shortly before the World Cup, his wife born their 2nd child, named Mattia.

World Cup '94
In World Cup '94, Roberto's ponytail and his excellent goals brought him a lot of supporters. Could enter the final was a good news, but Baggio hurt his thigh during the semi-final, and quite serious, the doctor told him not to play in the final. But he didn't want his fans disappointed, so he ignored his injury, went into the field again. However, his hurt thigh held him down, he couldn't find a way to score, but the most unfortunate was that during penalty shootout, Baggio missed the most important kick, therefore gave the cup to their opponent -- Brazil. Since then, the relationship between him and Sacchi has been worsen.

With Juventus
The injury from the World Cup made Baggio only played in 17 league matches and only got 8 goals. Although Juventus won both Serie A and Coppe Italia, the team moved towards Del Piero. And they said if Baggio accepted a decrease of 1/3 of the original salary, then he could stay. But of course Roby was not that foolish, he chose to leave, to either AC Milan or Inter Milan. Finally, on the 6th of July, he moved to the red and black AC Milan.

With AC Milan
However, this was a really bad decision, because he was only a substitution, and was not in the mind of coach Capello. He played 28 matches but only got 7 goals. As a result, Roby had contributed very little to the winning of the league.

At the beginning of the next season, Baggio got some hope, because Capello left the team, Taberez arrived. But when everyone thought that he might go up again, the poor performance of Milan cost him the place in the start-up. Towards the end of the season, things went worse as Sacchi returned to Milan. Enemy met everyday, there was no chance for Baggio to stay. At last, in order to prove himself as a great player, he moved to a medium size team -- Bologna, on the 18th of July, 1997.

With Bologna
No more ponytail, Baggio proved his move to Bologna was totally right. He regained his form with helps from teammates, for example, Swedish Kennet Andersson, Russian Igor Kolyvanov, Italian Fontolan, and defender Paramatti, etc......Baggio finished this season with 22 goals, just 5 fewer than German Bierhoff, and 3 fewer than Brazilian, his current Inter Milan teammate -- Ronaldo. Inter therefore once again invited Roby to join. And he decided to go back to San Siro Stadium after World Cup '98.

The over-importance of Del Piero, and under-importance of Baggio by Cesare Maldini was one of the factors which caused the failure of the Italian team in World Cup France. The no.18 player did very good in France, with 2 goals. However in the third round, when the Italian met the host, although Baggio scored the first during the penalty shootout, Italy was once again kicked out.

With Inter
After a season of good performance in Bologna and World Cup '98, many people did expect Baggio to continue this in Inter, since he had Ronaldo as his partner. However, as everybody could see, Roby's first season playing for Inter was not so good. The beginning of the season was not so well, they had lost 4 Serie A matches before the wonderful return of Baggio, he scored twice when Real Madrid travelled to San Siro. Since then Inter's supporters thought they could have a smoother season, but...

With Inter
Injuries of Baggio, Ronaldo, Zamorano and Ventola totally broke down Inter's forward line, plus the poor defence at the back, ended up with a bad season without any trophy. They finished the local league in the 8th place, and were out of Italian Cup as beaten by Parma; while most importantly, they lost to Manchester United in European Champions League, who later beat Juventus and Bayern Munich to win the Cup.

With Inter
The beginning of the 1999/2000 Season was full of expectation, with Vieri joining Inter, Baggio should be able to make a great combination with him. But unluckily the coach was the one who dumped Roby in Juventus -- Lippi. When he said that Baggio was in his Inter plan, everyone was satisfied, but soonly afterward they all realized that the coach's plan was to leave Roby outside the first team. With limited appearance, he didn't only lose a bit of form, but also a National Team place in EURO 2000, where the Italians lost the final match to the French.

Overall, this season might be again disappointing, but Roby did a wonderful job in his last game for the Milan team, as he scored two brilliant goals in the Champions League play-off match against Parma. After that he was eventually out of contract with Inter on 30th June.

After thinking for about four months, Baggio finally made a decision in September 2000 to join newly promoted club Brescia, mainly due to the fact that he could play much more than he could in bigger teams, and that it is close to his home in Vicenza. After two games against Juventus, it is obvious that going to Brescia was not a bad decision, and in fact he made history with a club that never stayed in Serie A for two consecutive seasons.

With Brescia
During the first three years with Brescia, captain Baggio led the team to three consecutive salvation in Serie A, and personally he scored 33 goals in 70 league games. The main reason for his success in these seasons was the understanding and believe from coach Mazzone, so that he had the chance to get the most out of himself, and show off his strengths. Also, Baggio had a number of high-quality teammates, including Spanish star Guardiola, wing Bachini, midfield rising star Appiah, defenders Petruzzi, Calori, Bonera, Martinez, as well as stable keeper Sereni. They had been in great assistance to Baggio, who could take the advantage and concentrate on organizing attacks.

With Brescia
The 2003/2004 season was Baggio's final year as a player, as he led Brescia to a historic 4th consecutive salvation. He scored his 200th Serie A goal in the match against Parma on 14th March 2004, after which he received a standing ovation from all the spectators at Parma's home ground, a great honour to a great soccer player.

Baggio played his final match on 16 May 2004, against an A.C. Milan led by his former teammate Paolo Maldini, when he left the field in the second half, all the players, coaches and staffs from both teams, as well as all the spectators at the San Siro Stadium gave him the biggest standing ovation to farewell one of the greatest soccer player in soccer history.

The story ends here, but his legendary will live forever in the heart of all soccer fans.

This is Roberto Baggio...

NICKNAME: Roby, Codino Divino (Divine Ponytail)
DATE OF BIRTH: 18th February, 1967
PLACE OF BIRTH: Caldogno VI, Vicenza, Italy
HEIGHT: 174cm
WEIGHT: 73kg
PARENTS: Father Fiorindo, Mother Matilda
SIBLINGS: 1. Gianna, 2. Walter, 3. Caria, 4. Giorgio, 5. Anne Maria, 7. Nadia, 8. Eddy
WIFE: Andreina Fabbri
CHILDREN: Valentina, Mattia
1990 - World Cup Italia third place
1993 - World Footballer of the Year
1993 - European Footballer of the Year
1993 - UEFA Cup champion
1994 - World Cup U.S.A. second place
1995 - Serie A champion 1994/95
1995 - Coppa Italia champion 1994/95
1996 - Serie A champion 1995/96

RELIGION: Buddhism - Soka Gakkai International
CARS OWNED:Mercedes Benz, Jeep Grand Cherokee
HOBBIES: Hunting, Listen to music
FAVOURITE DRINK: Fragolino wine
FAVOURITE ACTOR: Roberto Benigni
FAVOURITE SONGS: Hotel Calfornia by Eagles, November Rain by Guns N' Roses