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Monday May 5 2014
Baggio’s month of May

The month of May was always significant for one of Calcio’s all time greats, Roberto Baggio, as Dave Taylor remembers.

With Fiorentina and Napoli playing out the Coppa Italia Final at the weekend, it is perhaps apt to recall that in the same month of May, this particular fixture when played in the League saw Roberto Baggio’s first Serie A goal scored, 27 years ago.

On a very hot day in May in a Fuorigrotta concrete canyon, 70,000 fanatical Napoli fans were whistling and screaming insults at a cool 20-year-old Roberto Baggio stood in front of the home goal. The Fiorentina forward calmly took the ball and, placing it on the line at the left end of the D, set it up for a free-kick. Waiting patiently for Pierluigi Pairetto to settle the wall, the young ace kept a steady eye on the six defenders pushing and shoving in front of him. A few moments later the whistle went and with the crowd noise absolutely overwhelming, he took the smallest of run-ups to send a screamer through the wall into the bottom left corner and past the outstretched hands of Claudio Garella.

This was in 1987, in a month that features heavily in Il Divin Codino’s career and little did we know but that particular strike was to become a major milestone in Italian football history - it turned out to be a powerful portent for many more extraordinary strikes as Baggio continued to score unique goals throughout his career. Of course it wasn’t the only omen that magical day in the San Paolo, as Napoli would go on to win their first Scudetto, but that is another story.

It was also the first of many set-pieces that the Viola’s cultural icon would eventually convert. Unfortunately there seems to be no official record of his goals from free-kicks but we do know he converted 76 penalties out of 91 in Serie A, which is still the all-time record.

Looking back at some other special goals, many in May, his first for the Azzurri came two years later against Uruguay, which fittingly enough was also a free-kick in another 1-1 draw. All told Roberto went on to score 27 goals in 56 games for the La Nazionale, which is the fourth-highest in the all time rankings and certainly would and should have been more, if not for intransigence of several Coaches. The inspirational No 10 is also the highest Italian goalscorer of all-time in the World Cup, with 9 goals from 16 appearances.

One that will always resonate with Italian fans and lovers of the sublime was scored during Italia 90 against Czechoslovakia on his World Cup debut. The Azzurri were winning 1-0 when in the 78th minute the pony-tailed assassin collected the ball in his own half, took a few steps, a quick one-two with Giuseppe Giannini and then without missing a beat set off. Touching the ball nine times on a 40-yard slalom in seven seconds, he destroyed three opponents, before sending the goalkeeper the wrong way to score the goal of the tournament.

Before that competition, word got out during May that Baggio was to leave for Juventus and riots followed in Florence. However, it did not stop him becoming a nationwide cultural icon as he scored 14 goals in 33 games in his first season with the Bianconeri. The following campaign was even better with 18 goals, before really making his mark in 1992-93, scoring 21 times in just 27 League games. His inspiring performances continued the next campaign as he reached 100 Serie A goals, thanks to his fantastic finishes, mindboggling power and a very short back-lift.

In total the Divine Ponytail scored 291 goals in his club career with 221 coming in the League and all but 13 in Serie A. Scoring from all angles including strikes from mazy dribbles, chips, volleys, set-pieces, penalties and one-on-ones, the calcio conjurer also produced uncountable assists as the world’s best fantasista

One of these unforgettable goals was his significant strike against PSG in the 1993 UEFA Cup semi-final second leg, which helped Juve into the final. Over the two-legged final, against Borussia Dortmund again in May, he scored three more to guarantee him his only major European trophy, after the 6-1 aggregate win. That year also saw him voted World and European Player of the Year cementing his status as one of the game’s greats. 

Internationals, Cup games, League games you name it he made poetry before scoring in it. Reflecting on a career built on many magical moments like the above, the only outfield player to be awarded a ten out of ten by La Gazzetta said: “With soccer I have the ability to do things differently. That is why I admire Leonardo da Vinci. He was able to create things other people wouldn’t believe in.” The very same could be said about Roberto, who of course retired 10 years ago in this very merry month of May.

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Have your say...
When he turned 35 he had 60 goals fromlike 68 penalties.
A lot of penalties that he missd were after he turned 35.
Keepers ve studied him for a longer time n after nt bn taken to WC2002 Baggio had no ambition.He wanted to retire.But he stayed on for another 2 Years as The Brecia president requested him to.
on the 30th June, 2014 at 12:01am
Immagine Italy's squad of the mid-90ies if Sacchi & Co. would have been smart enough to anticipate today's dominant tactical scheme: 4-2-3-1

Pagliuca
Benarrivo-Costacurta-Baresi-Maldini
D.Baggio-Albertini
Donadoni-R.Baggio-Zola
Signori
on the 13th June, 2014 at 5:06pm
9 World Cup goals (most ever for Italy, along with Rossi and Vieri) but Robby's were over 3 World Cups...no other Italian has scored in 3 World Cups. AND he did it with limited opportunities AND no Euro tournaments! Can you believe that??? INSANE! In South America he would have been in every single game, but in Italy he was seen as a 'problem'. Robby should have been in at least Euro '96 and 2000. Even the 2002 WC he would have been more than useful! Robby was the best!
on the 15th May, 2014 at 12:49am
Always brings a tear to my eye when I think of him. And u get there's idiotic people who only remember one moment (not to be mentioned here) and forget that he repeated what Diego did in 86 , maybe without the cherry on top but people forget how Diego got his cherry ;) haha,,, italy defended when they had the best attackers and now they attack with nobody up there
on the 7th May, 2014 at 2:47pm
122 penalties 106 scored. Extremely cool head to convert so many penalties. A great super player.

ALL-TIME from free kicks
1) Sinisa Mihaijlovic - 28 goals
2) Del Piero - 22 goals
3) Roberto Baggio - 20 goals
4) Gianfranco Zola - 20 goals
5) Andrea Pirlo - 19 goals
6) Maradona - 14 goals
7) Enrico Chiesa - 13 goals
8) Michel Platini - 13 goals
9) Álvaro Recoba - 13 goals
10) Giuseppe Signori - 12 goals
11) Francesco Totti - 12 goals
on the 7th May, 2014 at 12:43pm
My favourite player ever. In my eyes the best ever. Its a disgrace he didn't get more Italy caps and we overlooked so often. Its heartbreaking he never won the world cup. We love you Roby. On you tube there is a great video of Baggio which plays the song forever young. Very emotional.
on the 7th May, 2014 at 8:25am
It's a shame that Italy have criminally under used their greatest players- just think what Italy may have done with the likes of Marco Simone throughout the 1990s, Vialli (and Baggio) at Euro 96, Miccoli & Quagliarella at the last World Cup (where is Q' this time round by the way?).

Baggio could well have lit up a few Euro tournaments too...

A genius player, second only to the likes of Maradona (as one contributor pointed out). What a waste that Italy's stars could have shined so much brighter
on the 7th May, 2014 at 6:26am
Criminal really for a player of his talent to have only 56 caps. If only Prandelli had been the coach at that time, it might have been all very different.
on the 6th May, 2014 at 10:51pm
The reason I have followed and supported Italian football for 20 years now and I'm now 32...Hes apart of the person I've become.
on the 6th May, 2014 at 2:45pm
Baggio was a phenomenon. A true legend of the game. Creative and intelligent, he conjured goals from thin air. Poet, artist, alchemist. Italy could use a player like him now...one that virtually single-handedly dragged us to a WC final. His mazing run against Chechoslovakia exemplifies how awesome he was. Divino Codino...we await your second coming!
on the 5th May, 2014 at 11:15pm
A true great! The best. Plain and simple.
on the 5th May, 2014 at 9:07pm
Clearly the best Italian player ever and one of the best fantasistas and trequartistas ever. A class act and his career could've been so much more with some level headed coaches.
on the 5th May, 2014 at 4:18pm
I know that generations throw up various hero's/greats etc but in my view Baggio is simply the best that Italia have ever had.
I will concede that the great Diego Armando is No1 but I would place Baggio in the second places occupied by various Dutchmen,Spanish etc...dependant on your view.
Anyone who describes this Player as anything less than an all time great simply does not know their Football.
An immense, skilful player who in my opinion is still being missed by our great Footballing Nation.
on the 5th May, 2014 at 4:01pm
Many players have outstripped him in terms of medals and statistics, but I still believe that Baggio was as good as anyone.
Imagine what he could have done with decent knees?
Di Canio's comments (in his autobiography) re. Joe Cole ("he is more gifted than Baggio") still annoy perplex me in equal measure.
on the 5th May, 2014 at 3:05pm
He scored the occasional header too! Great article! Baggio had so much drama throughout his career;so much entertainment and emotion:it would make a great series of films! Imagine what he would do in today's more attacking climate, where good defenders are at a premium, & where forwards get so much protection. Oh, & the pitches aren't half bad either. A great great player & so underrated (when people/pundits speak of all-time great).
on the 5th May, 2014 at 2:48pm

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