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Roberto Baggio Profile: Una Porta Nel Cielo

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Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

He is forever remembered for the wrong reason. His penalty kick miss at the final of World Cup 1994 against Brazil. Before that kick, he had never missed one for the Azzurri in seven attempts. In his Serie A career through 2001 (he retired in 2004), Baggio converted 71 out of 79 attempts.

baggiobook Roberto Baggio Profile: Una Porta Nel Cielo

Source of the penalty kick statistics: “Una Porta Nel Cielo.”

“As for the penalty, I don’t want to brag but I’ve only ever missed a couple of penalties in my career. And they were because the goalkeeper saved them not because I shot wide. That’s just so you understand that there is no easy explanation for what happened at Pasadena. When I went up to the spot I was pretty lucid, as much as one can be in that kind of situation. I knew Taffarel always dived so I decided to shoot for the middle, about halfway up, so he couldn’t get it with his feet. It was an intelligent decision because Taffarel did go to his left, and he would never have got to the shot I planned.

Unfortunately, and I don’t know how, the ball went up three metres and flew over the crossbar. As for taking the penalty in the first place, I was knackered, but I was the team’s penalty taker. I’ve never run away from my responsibilities. Only those who have the courage to take a penalty miss them. I failed that time. Period. And it affected me for years. It was the worst moment of my career. I still dream about it. If I could erase a moment from my career, it would be that one.

Source: Guardian Unlimited, 19 May 2002.

Video courtesy of YouTube.

Shadowed by Contradictions

  • A man with a philosophy more Eastern than Western.
  • A Buddhist in predominantly Catholic Italy.
  • An avid hunter of wildlife during his yearly trips to Argentina.
  • A fan of English football from his childhood.
  • A creative player born during the era of Italian catenaccio.
  • A player coached by the elite of Italian calcio (Fabio Capello, Marcello Lippi, Cesare Maldini, Arrigo Sacchi, and Giovanni Trapattoni); however, very few of them utilized him effectively.
  • A man who did not yearn for public acclaim, but in the end, he might have been the most adored Italian player of the modern era.
  • FIFA World Player of the Year in 1993. World famous in 1994 for a missed penalty kick.

His Autobiography

Recently, I re-read parts of his autobiography, “Una Porta Nel Cielo: A Goal in the Sky.” It was an excellent and intriguing look into il Codino Divino: The Divine Ponytail. It was published in 2001, and I had read it initially in 2004. I believe that an English translation is not yet available.

He had an interesting comment about former Italy and AC Milan manager, Arrigo Sacchi:

(In response to questions).

After the sacking of Tabarez, Sacchi. Directly from the National Team.

“And I didn’t play again. The club had maintained that, for an emergency situation. the best thing was to take refuge in the past. Everyone saw the results: immediately eliminated from the Champions League by Rosenborg, and the domestic season was one to forget. It was a massive error, to recook the soup…”

With Sacchi was it always more icy? (In terms of their frosty relations after the 1994 World Cup).

“For him it seemed as if I didn’t exist anymore. But I had a clear conscience: during the week I trained, I did my work, in the remote eventuality to be engaged with greater frequency.”

Years later, they reconciled during the filming of a TV commercial. In the commercial, Baggio converted the ill-fated kick.

Comments about Marcello Lippi

“Practically, he asked me to be a spy. I had never done this in my entire career, and I told him very clearly, ‘Coach, I will help you in all ways, but don’t ask me to name names.’ Lippi didn’t take this too well, and began to tell me ‘But what did you understand, that I would ever ask you to be a spy, you have misunderstood me.’ “

The Shootout in Pasadena

But as he noted in his book, two players before him, Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro, also failed to convert. We don’t hear their names associated with “The player who cost Italy the World Cup Final.” Without Baggio, Italy would have never reached the final in 1994. One missed kick should not define a game nor a stellar career. But often in life, we are defined by winning and losing. The one great failure after 99 successes. The one great success after 99 failures.

As Baggio concisely said after suffering a serious knee injury early in his career at Fiorentina:

“For my entire career, I played with one and a half legs.”

He reflected upon the kick forever associated with him:

“Only those who have the courage to take a penalty miss them.”

Career Honors

  • Under 23 European Player of the Year in 1990.
  • 56 caps and 27 goals for Italy.
  • Bronze Medal at World Cup 1990.
  • Played 16 games in three World Cup competitions: 1990, 1994, and 1998.
  • First Italian to score at 3 World Cups.
  • Tied for the most Italian World Cup goals (9) with Paolo Rossi and Christian Vieri.
  • Winner of the Ballon d’Or in 1993.
  • Winner of the UEFA Cup with Juventus FC in 1993.
  • FIFA World Player of the Year in 1993.
  • Silver Medal at World Cup 1994.
  • Serie A Scudetto (Championship) with Juventus FC in 1995.
  • Converted 71 out of 79 penalty kicks in the Serie A, which was the best ever in Italian football history. He converted 8 out of 9 for the Azzurri.
  • FIFA 100 Best Living Players: 2004.
  • Played for Vicenza, Fiorentina, Juventus, AC Milan, Bologna, Internazionale, and Brescia. He scored 205 goals in the Serie A.
  • 2007 Fair Play Award.

Link to his Blog

Roberto Baggio

Steve Amoia is the author and editor of World Football Commentaries, and also writes for Soccerlens.

Comments (16)

  1. I missed the point of the article, but as is suggested in it, its cruel to say that Baggio cost Italy the WC because he single handedly carried them to the final after the league games. The greatness of the man lies in the fact that even though he was shabbily treated by many a manager, he doesnt have a single bad word about any of them. He didnt apologize endlessly about his missed penalty either, just referred to it as a routine but extremely costly mistake. And lastly he was one of the most charismatic players who fused style and talent and did deliver the goods(except for one fateful moment)……

  2. I had two thoughts after reading this article. One of them was whether Baggio knew Capello, and whether he had formed an opinion of the now England manager. The other was that this freezing in time of one moment – the penalty miss – is precisely why it was so painful to see Zidane’s moment of madness against Materazzi. What should have been the culmination of a dazzling career with many peaks, has now been ridiculed and immortalized, shrouded in negativity. It’s the same with Baggio, except that the Italian was not “to blame”.

  3. Baggio was one of the best. That penalty miss in the World Cup was his career low, but it is pretty amazing when you think about it. It is pretty amazing that his career low came in the World Cup final. Zidane was different, but he too was amazing.

    After all he is right, he had courage to take a penalty, but he missed. Most people will run away from taking the decisive penalty in the World Cup final. Not him, he took it and he failed. He should not be condemned for this. Neither should Baressi.

    Even those of us who do not play football for money, trophies, glory or our nation can appreciate the difficulty in taking a penalty. It is a sure goal in the eyes of many, but somebody still has to stand over the ball and hit it somewhere where the goalkeeper cannot get it. It is hard and there is a lot of pressure. You know this if you have ever taken one in a match of any kind of importance.

  4. Iqnadirshah:

    The point of the article was a brief profile of a great player, along with some quotes from his perspective. Ahmed and I were discussing some of Baggio’s coaches, and it prompted me to revisit my memories of him.

    Hugo:

    He knew Mr. Capello, and played for him during 1995 to 1996 at AC Milan. Here are a few quotes that I should have added. Thank you for pointing it out.

    “How did you get along with Capello?”

    At the beginning, we got on well, later, less so.

    “Are you referring to the numerous substitutions?”

    No, or better, not only that. Surely, it annoyed me a great deal, just as the game was going well, he used to take me out. Always. He said it was to save me for the more important moments of the season, but I didn’t like it, because if I didn’t play the second halves of games, I could not score as much as I wanted, and couldn’t adjust (to the games) in the right way.

    Milan won the Serie A Scudetto (Championship) that season.

    “We had just won the Scudetto, and were going to Asia for a tournament… When we returned, we were on the same bus. He was a few rows in front of me, and began to stir me up.”

    “In what way?”

    He made very vocal remarks about my talent, he said that I didn’t accept the substitutions, that I was seen (interpreted) too well by the media. I remained in silence.”

  5. There’s also the fact that Baggio was supposed to go to AC Milan from Fiorentina but his agent did a last minute shift and agreed to the better offer from Juve. Rather than put his agent in the hot seat, Baggio agreed to go to Juve without mentioning anything about this at all. The truth came out sometime after his retirement. It seems that we can go on and on about this great player (and this may not be apt for this site but Madonna did voice her feelings for him in public, and as usual Baggio gave his “Buddha” stare as the reply and nothing else), thanx for the article(finally got the point steve!)

  6. Yo by the way, the ad you talked about, was it the Johnny Walker one, titled Roberto Baggio’s walk?

  7. Great player, legend of a haircut.

  8. Iqnadirshah:

    It was a commercial he called “Wind” in the book. They replayed the penalty kick, he made it, and he and Sacchi embraced. He said it was a genuine reconciliation between the two.

    From the Guardian article that I referenced above:

    “We saw each other in Como, not long ago, to film a commercial where the penalty at Pasadena went in and we won the World Cup. And the hug between me and Sacchi and me was very real. During the shoot, every time we had a break, all he did was talk to me and try to explain. We were sitting on two footballs and replayed the World Cup final. And this time we won it.”

  9. Frankly, I think that whole USA 94 penalty miss has been completely blown out of proportion.

    Yeah it was the miss of the best Azzurri player of the World Cup, yes it put the title directly into the hands of Brazil etc. etc. blah blah. What everyone seems to forget is that at that point, Italy were already 1 goal down due to the misses of Baresi and Massaro (reduced by the miss of Marcio Santos). Even if Baggio had scored his P.K., Pagliuca would have had to save the shot from the 5th Brazil spot-taker. Easier said than done.

    So in my eyes, anyone tying Baggio’s career to that penalty miss is just a big ignorant ass. Baggio was a true legend, one of the best Italian players that ever lived and probably one of the most loved. If Italy made the USA 94 final they owe in large part to Baggio, he litterally carried his team through to the playoffs. 2 goals in the final minutes against Nigeria, the match-winning-goal in the 87th vs. Spain, the two goals vs. Bulgaria in the semis… I mean should I go on?

  10. Marco, u r stating the obvious, nobody was being an ignorant ass anyway

  11. No one here Mufasa, but I’ve heard that argument time and time again, and it’s no coincidence the ‘penalty incident’ keeps getting mentioned over and over. Enough already.

  12. the explanation abt the penalty he took was so interestin..good article..baggio is certainly one of the most loved players ever..amazin character..his penalty sacrifice in the 90Wc just proves it.

  13. Legend player

  14. heya just wondering is there an english version of this R.Baggio bibiography that i could buy in the UK?? Cos i cannot find it anywhere, even on internet. It would be grateful if there is any chance that i could get this book, thank you very much!!

  15. Hi all. I went to Rosebowl for that 1994 final, and can see that he was in pain (he was wearing a bandage on his thigh). He did all he could, and yes even if he did score that penalty, Brazil still have one more shot. It’s destined i guess. BTW, where can i get the autobiography (Una porta nel cielo)preferably in english. TQ.

  16. Forza baggio!