Following Italy’s first, from Fiorentina’s Giancarlo Antognoni, the second goal in the 2-0 defeat of England in November 1975 was made purely in Turin by Juventus players. The move started with a pass from Romeo Benetti inside the centre circle to Franco Causio hovering over on the left flank. Benetti meanwhile slipped past two defenders on the inside, received the ball back from Causio and ran towards the by-line before crossing into the area from the edge of the box. By now an alert Roberto Bettega, hurtling through a bewildered English defence at the speed of lightning, launched into a full-length dive and connecting beautifully with Benetti’s ball at waist height, screaming a bullet-like header beyond a despairing Ray Clemence.
Personally for me it was an awesome strike and was one of the attractions that turned me onto Italian football, while others called it the best goal in calcio history. Yet it could have all been different as his first Primavera Coach the great Mario Pedraleat Juventus, where he had been since he was 11, saw him as a midfielder. It wasn’t until later that his successor Ercole Rabitti realised his attacking potential and moved him up field. “I see him as a striker and with a little more weight he can be like John Charles,” he said in 1968.
The following season 1968-69 saw Roberto spending time on the bench before a loan move to Varese for 1969-70. While at the Serie B outfit, Roberto scored 13 goals and helped the side win promotion to Serie A as champions with Coach Nils Liedholm also complimenting the young striker. “He allies tremendous athletic strength with impressive technical skills,” said the Milan legend. “He is particularly strong in the air, and can kick the ball with either foot. All he needs is to build up experience, and then he will certainly be a force to be reckoned with.”
Returning to Juve the following season, he made his Serie A debut as a 19-year-old away to Catania, scoring the winning goal on 27 September 1970. It was the start of a glorious 11-year career that saw him win seven League titles under three different Coaches. It was a career that also saw him become one of the most lethal strikers of modern football, a capocannoniere in 79-80 and the Bianconeri’s bandiera as well as the Azzurri’s.
Roberto won his first title in 1972 under Coach Cestmir Vycpalek, but sadly in January 72, after scoring his tenth goal in 14 games against Fiorentina, he finished the day in hospital. He was diagnosed with a lung infection and the initial stages of tuberculosis, which ended his season.
On his return the following campaign Juventus President Giampiero Boniperti said: “The best signing for this season will undoubtedly be Roberto Bettega.” It turned out to be true enough as his eight goals helped them win the Scudetto once again.
For the 74-75 season under Carlo Parola, Juve won their third Scudetto of the 1970s. However, it wasn’t until Giovanni Trapattoni took over as the club’s new Coach that the Bianconeri became the legendary team of the late 1970s. That side provided no less than nine of the team that saw the Azzurri reach the semi-finals of the World Cup in Argentina in 1978. Bettega had made his international debut three years earlier in 1975 and later shone alongside legends like Dino Zoff, Antonio Cabrini, Marco Tardelli, Claudio Gentile, Paolo Rossi, Gaetano Scirea, Beppe Furino and Pietro Anastasi under the great Enzo Bearzot.
With Roberto up front both Italy and Juventus always had alternatives, as they could either play it through to him or ping it up over the defence and Roberto’s anticipation would do the rest. In his first 12 games he scored 13 goals for the Azzurri before going onto win 42 caps while scoring 19 times.
After retiring from Juventus in 1983 following 326 league appearances and 129 goals, he played two summers with Toronto Blizzard before returning to Turin. In 1994 he formed a new group at Juventus with Luciano Moggi and Antonio Giraudo, nicknamed the Triade. They hired Marcello Lippi, who helped the return to the glory days of Bettega’s footballing years to win their first League title for nine years and the rest as they say like Bettega himself is history.
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