Roberto Baggio: The 'Little Buddha'

Born on the 18th of February in the year 1967, Roberto Baggio remains one of the eight children born to parents Matilde and FiorindoBaggio. Roberto’s home town is Caldogno, a small town located in the northern part of Viceza in Italy.

Fiorindo, Roberto’s father often enjoyed taking his son with him each time he went to watch football matches. In some cases, the little Roberto Baggio also played football on open pitches with his friends. Each time the father would want to take him away from the football fields, he often ran away and hid in a bid to avoid the father and continue playing football for as long as he wished. But, the father often managed to catch up with him based on his excellent bicycle riding skills.

Roberto’s early career football can be traced back to his home town, Caldogno at the age of 9. After putting up some excellent performances during the course of his first few matches, he managed to impress many people including the spectators and later attracted several scouts a few later. After being transferred to Vicenza in 1992, Roberto managed to feature in only two matches but without putting the ball behind the net. After featuring in six league games, he managed to score a single goal.

During the course of the 1984/1985 season, Baggio met a lot of success. After featuring in 29 matches, he managed to put 12 goals behind the net, a feat which propelled Vicenza to Italy’s second division. During the course of the same season, Roberto was signed by Fiolentina a big side in the A league of the country.

After his transfer, Baggio did not feature in many games. As a matter of fact, little significance is given to the first few matches that he featured in. but, the 1987/1988 season saw Baggio convert to Buddhism and got his nickname. Thanks to his excellent performance, he earned himself a place in the national team of Italy in 11th month of 1988. His first appearance in the national team came against Netherlands. Shortly after earning a place in the national team, Baggio tied a knot with his lovely girlfriend. The season that followed saw Baggio rise to fame after his excellent performances whenever he featured in Florentina’s matches. Thanks to his hard work and excellent skills, Fiorentina managed to reach the UEFA Cup final, but they lost out to Juventus.

Following the meeting between the Juventus and Fiorentina in the final of the UEFA Cup, Baggio moved to Juventus for a $17 million fee. Although the move was completed, the Fiorentina fans were not happy and they expressed their disappointment in the management team by demonstrating.

After playing for five seasons as a Juventus player, Roberto Baggio managed to put 78 goals behind the net after he featured in 141 matches. It was during the fifth season that he managed to win the UEFA Cup trophy with Juventus in 1993. During the course of the same year, he won the golden award along with the Best European footballer of the year award. FIFA also recognised him as the best footballer on the planet in 1993. Prior to moving to AC Milan in 1995, he won a brace of trophies with Juventus.

While at AC Milan, Roberto Baggio won the Schudetto. However, his first team place in the AC Milan line-up was taken up by ArrigoSacchi. Baggio could not stand the idea of being on the side lines and chose to transfer to Bologna on loan. After featuring in 16 games, he managed to score 22 goals, a feat which earned him the top scorer award in Serie A.

When the 1998/1999 season came to an end, Baggio moved to Inter, but he failed to tick as his team endured a humiliating season. Baggio was granted a permanent presence on the Inter bench, but suffered an injury which would go on to put him on the side lines for a devastating three months. After recovering from the injury, Roberto Baggio could still not make the first team line up as the coach of the team in 2000 put him on the side lines on most occasions. Marcello Lippi was the coach at the time.

Following the end of the year, Baggio decided to move to Bresca in a bid to secure first team football. He featured in 25 games and managed to score up to 10 goals, a feat which propelled his team to a remarkable 7th place finish in the league. This is the first time Bresca managed to finish on 7th spot since the founding of the club.

Although Baggio made himself a name during his spell at various clubs across Europe, it was his contribution to the success of the national team that accounted for his success. Not surprising, the largest chapter of his career had been made by his great performances for his national team. He is ranked the 3rd top scorer of the Italian national team since its founding after he scored 29 goals in 55 appearances.

In the year 1990, Roberto Baggio’s story with the national team began following Azeglio Vicini’s decision to place in the attacking role alongside SalavtoreSchillaci. This combination yielded a lot of success for the Italian national team and also accounted for Italy’s success in the 1990 World Cup. But, they were dismissed by Argentina in the semis of the tournament. This is not one of his remarkable matches in history as the Italian was placed on the side lines from the beginning of the match as coach Vicini believed he was too tired to make a notable impact on the pitch. Baggio eventually came in as a substitute but failed to make any serious impact and Italy lost to Argentina, who cruised into the final but lost to Germany.

The next world cup saw Roberto Baggio score a number of important goals and eventually led his team to the final. Italy played Brazil in the 1994 US world cup which saw Brazil emerge triumphant. This is a match that the Italians and Roberto Baggio never want to recall. Brazil won 3-2 because Baggio sent the ball flying into mid-air from the spot and missed a penalty kick which would have restored his side’s hopes of winning the tournament. After failing to convert from the spot, Roberto cried for a very long time prompting some of the Brazilian players to comfort him.

In the France 1998 final, Roberto Baggio was again part of the Italian squad thanks to the faith that Coach CesareMaldini had in him. But, Roberto Baggio was not really interested in playing for the Italian squad and it had to take the fans to convince the small Buddha to join his team mates in the camp. Reasons for Roberto’s initial decision to avoid featuring in the 1998 world cup are not that clear. But, he may have been lingering on the misery of the 1994 world cup final against Brazil which saw his side lose 3-2 on penalties. It is understood that the memories of the tragic final had a notable impact on the career of the Little Buddha. Perhaps his decision to join his team mates may have come as a result of HIS desire to get over the horrors of the 1994 final, pay back to the fans and redeem himself in the end. 

During the first match, Roberto Baggio was given a chance to convert from the spot and bury the misery of the 1994 final after Italy were awarded a penalty in a match which was initially 2-1 to Chile. The little Buddha converted from the spot and brought a smile on the faces of the Italian fans. This event enabled Roberto Baggio to get over the horror of the 1994 final and restore his desire to play football. But, Coach CesareMaldini put him on the side lines for the rest of the tournament and Italy were eliminated from the competition by the hosts France. The hosts played exceptionally well although Italy also put in their best which did not prove to be enough. This was actually one of the most blazing fixtures of the tournament which saw France proceed to the semis of the tournament. Some Italian fans still feel that the Little Buddha would have made an impact on the team’s performance if he had been given a chance to play in the team. But, no one will ever know since the prolific Italian forward hardly wanted to play in the 1998 world cup until the fans raised his spirit.

Based on his long and prolific career, we can easily deduce that the Italian is actually the 5th most productive striker of all time. This rank has been bestowed upon him by the football community across the world and Italy in particular. Such a rank is not surprising considering the fact that the Italian is the 3rd most prolific top scorer of all time in the Italian international footballing history thanks to the 27 goals that he has scored for the national side. His 200 plus goals that he scored in the Italian league also account for this recognition.

A brief comment on his 20 year career; he played for Bologna, Vicenza, Milan, Juventus, Brescia, Fiorentina and Inter, a total of seven teams and won a brace of Italian championship trophies in 1995 and 1996, a single Italian cup in 1995 and a UEFA Cup trophy which he won in 1993. In 1993, he also managed to win the best European footballer and world’s best footballer. 

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