Italian footballer Roberto Baggio is often counted among the greatest players who have ever played the beautiful game and considering his record in a career that lasted for close to two decades at the very top of the game; it is not really a surprise. Roberto Baggio started off as a professional when he was only in his early teens and by the time he was 18 years old he was plying his trade for Fiorentina, one of the largest clubs in Italy based in Florence. Baggio became one of the most sought after players quite early on in his career due to the sort of skills he could bring to the table and hence he went on to play for the biggest clubs in Italy, including Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. On the other hand, Baggio also represented his national team Italy in three consecutive World Cup tournaments from 1990 to 1998 and in 1994 he was instrumental in taking Italy to the final of the World Cup. Baggio was included in FIFA World Cup Dream Team, in 2002, FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players, in 2004, and in the Italian Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
Childhood & Early Life
Roberto Baggio was born on 18 February 1967, in Caldogno, Veneto, Italy, to Florindo Baggio and Matilde Maggio. He was sixth of the eight children in the family.
Roberto Baggio skills as a footballer of rare talent were noticed early on. When Baggio was only nine years old, he was picked up by his local club Caldogno to be a part of the youth team at the club and in a matter of two years he established himself as prodigious talent who could score a lot of goals.
He was bought by the club Vicenza when he was 13 years old for a sum of £300 and he quickly went through the ranks to make his way into the main squad in the year 1983. During the next two years Baggio showed enough talent as a forward to generate interests from the bigger clubs in Italy.
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Fiorentina, the Florence based club, expressed interested in acquiring Robert Baggio following his exploits in the lower division and even though he suffered a career threatening injury, the club took care of the medical expenses as they completed the transfer in 1985 for £1.5 million. Baggio went on to play for Fiorentina for five seasons, scoring 39 goals in 94 appearances and became a legend at the club.
In 1990, two years after Roberto Baggio had made his international debut for Italy, Juventus—one of Italy’s biggest clubs—bought him for a then world record fee of £8 million. The transfer was an acrimonious one as riots broke out in Florence due to the anger among Fiorentina fans.
Roberto Baggio played for Juventus for five seasons and during that period he scored 115 goals for the club in a total of 200 appearances. During his stint with the club, Baggio helped them in winning the UEFA Cup in the year 1993.
In the year 1990, Robert Baggio made his first appearance in the World Cup for Italy and although he was not a regular starter; he impressed everyone as he scored two goals, one of which was a wondrous strike against Czechoslovakia.
In the 1994 World Cup in USA, Baggio was Italy’s biggest star and found the net five times as he led the team to the final. He missed the decisive penalty in the penalty shootout that saw Italy lose the final to Brazil.
In 1995, Roberto Baggio moved to AC Milan for £6.8 million after falling out with the powers that be at Juventus. At Milan, Baggio scored 12 goals across two seasons and although Milan did win the Seria A title right after he moved to the squad; he did not seem to have the same spark he had shown at Juventus.
In 1997, Roberto Baggio moved to Bologna FC which proved to be an excellent move as Baggio scored 22 league goals for the club and saved the club from relegation.
After a disappointing World Cup campaign in 1998, Roberto Baggio transferred to Inter Milan and things did not work out well for him at Inter as he suffered from injuries while on the other hand the appointment of Marcelo Lippi saw his role in the first eleven severely curtailed.
Roberto Baggio moved to Brescia in the year 2000 and throughout his time at the club for four seasons he was an integral part of the club as he scored vital goals and also assisted other team mates when it came to scoring goals. Baggio netted 45 times for Brescia during his time at the club and the club performed beyond its potential till his retirement in 2004.
Awards & Achievements
In 1993, he was named FIFA World Player of the Year and also won the European Footballer of the Year award.
In 1994, he was listed fourth in the FIFA Player of the Century internet poll.
In 2002, he was selected in the FIFA World Cup Dream Team.
In 2004, Football legend Pele chose him in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players.
Personal Life & Legacy
Robert Baggio got married to Adreina Fabbi in the year 1989 after having been in a relationship for a long time. The couple has three children: a daughter, Valentina, and two sons, Mattia and Leonardo.
Although Baggio was born a Catholic; he became a practicing Buddhist in 1985 after recovering from an injury that could have ruined his career as a footballer.