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He played for the Italian national team in three World Cups, and is the only Italian player ever to score in three World Cups. He helped reach second place at the 1994 World Cup and third place at the 1990 World Cup.
He won both the European Footballer of the Year (Ballon d'Or) and the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1993. Pelé named Baggio as one of the 125 greatest living footballers in his 2004 FIFA 100 list. Baggio was voted eighteenth in a poll organised by the French weekly magazine France Football consulting their former Ballon d'Or winners to elect the Football Player of the Century.
As a youngster, he always had a keen interest in the sport of football and played for a local youth club over a period of nine years. After scoring 6 goals in one game, Baggio was persuaded by scout Antonio Mora to join Vicenza.
Baggio began his professional career at native club Vicenza in Serie C1 during 1982. Fiorentina snapped him up in 1985, and during his years there, he rose to cult status among the team's fans who consider him to be one of their best ever players. He made his Serie A debut on 21 September 1986 against Sampdoria. He scored his first league goal on 10 May 1987 against Napoli in a match best remembered for Napoli winning the Scudetto for the first time in their history.
He was sold to Juventus amid outcry from Fiorentina fans in 1990 for €12 million (US$19 million), the world record transfer for a football player at the time. Following the transfer, there were full scale riots on the streets of Florence where fifty people were injured. Baggio replied to his fans saying: "I was compelled to accept the transfer".
In 1993 he won his lone European club trophy, helping Juventus to the UEFA Cup, in the final of which he scored twice. His performances earned him both the European Footballer of the Year and the FIFA World Player of the Year titles.
Baggio won his first Scudetto with Juventus in 1995. This was the first of many league titles to come for Juventus in the 1990s.
After strong pressure from Milan chairman Silvio Berlusconi, and due to his minority to the emerging talent Alessandro del Piero, he was sold to the Milanese club. At this time, he had been linked with Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers in the English Premier League, but no firm offers were made from either of these clubs.
In 1997, when he was thought to be on the downside, Baggio transferred to Bologna in order to resuscitate his career, and after scoring a personal best 22 goals that year, was included in Italy's starting eleven for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in place of the younger and favoured Alessandro Del Piero. Cesare Maldini has since been severely criticised for starting Del Piero ahead of Baggio, who was clearly in the better form, for the quarter-final match against France. When Baggio did come on for Del Piero, Italy seemed to play a lot better. Cesare Maldini later apologized to Baggio for not giving him the playing time he deserved.
After the 1998 World Cup, Baggio signed with Internazionale. This proved to be an unfortunate move, as the then coach Marcello Lippi did not favour Baggio and hardly played him. This caused Baggio to lose his place in the national team. In his autobiography, Baggio later declared that Lippi had effectively dumped him after Baggio had refused to point out which Inter's players had expressed negative opinions about the coach. His last contribution to Inter was two goals against Parma in the playoff for the last remaining UEFA Champions League place.
After two years with Inter, in order to be called up for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, he transferred to previously unfashionable Brescia. At the start of 2001-02 season, he scored eight goals in the first nine games. Unfortunately, during that season, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee; despite this severe injury, he came back three games before the end of the season, making a 76 days only recovery. In his first game after comeback, he scored two goals against his former team Fiorentina, the first of them after only two minutes from the start of the match. Then he scored again against another team he played for, Bologna. However, Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni did not take Baggio to Korea and Japan, considering him not fully recovered from injury. Fans and pundits criticised the omission of Baggio, and Italy without the inspiration of Baggio was eliminated before reaching the quarter-finals, failing to reach expectations.
Baggio continued playing at Brescia until his retirement in 2004. He played his last game on May 16, 2004 at the San Siro against Milan. In the 88th minute, Brescia coach Gianni De Biasi subbed Baggio off so he could get his curtain call. The 80,000 present at the San Siro gave him a standing ovation. He ended his career with 205 goals in Serie A, making him the fifth-highest scorer of all time behind Silvio Piola, Gunnar Nordahl, Giuseppe Meazza and José Altafini. His number 10 jersey was retired by Brescia. He scored his 300th career goal on 16 December 2002 in Brescia's 3-1 home victory over Piacenza. He is the first player in over 50 years to reach this milestone, behind only Piola (364) and Meazza (338).
Baggio totalled 27 goals in 56 caps for his national team, the fourth-highest of all time for Italy. He is the only Italian player ever to score in three World Cups, with a total of 9 career World Cup goals which puts him even with Christian Vieri and Paolo Rossi as Italy's top World Cup scorers. For all his talent he was never rewarded with a victory in an international competition. He missed a penalty in the final of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, which contributed to Italy losing the trophy to Brazil on penalties.
1990 FIFA World Cup
Baggio's first World Cup was the 1990 FIFA World Cup, and although he was used most often as a substitute in the tournament, he was still able to display his quality, scoring twice including the "goal of the tournament" against Czechoslovakia. Baggio is also much remembered for his class; although regularly designated the penalty taker for his team, he stepped aside when Italy was awarded one in the third place match, allowing teammate Salvatore Schillaci to score and capture the Golden Shoe.
1994 FIFA World Cup
Baggio was the cornerstone of the Italy team during the 1994 FIFA World Cup, leading them to the final after a disappointing start. He scored five goals, all in the knockout phase, and he started every match from the beginning: two in the round of 16 to beat Nigeria (scoring with 2 minutes left of the game sending it into extra time, and then another goal in extra time), one in the quarter-finals to top Spain (the game winner with 3 minutes remaining) and two to beat Bulgaria in the semi-finals. Baggio was not fully fit for the final against Brazil, which ended 0-0 after extra time; he took Italy's last penalty in the resulting shoot-out, but his kick went over the cross-bar and the Brazilians won the title. Two other Italians, Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro, had already missed penalties.
Baggio finished tied for third in the tournament in goals scored and was named one of the top three players.
1998 FIFA World Cup
In the opening match of the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Italy played Chile. The first goal was scored by Christian Vieri on an assist by Baggio. Chile took the lead 2-1, and Baggio would later make a good pass to Filippo Inzaghi but the Chilean keeper Nelson Tapia made an excellent save to keep the score 2-1. That was only the third time a team took the lead over Italy in a World Cup throughout the 1990s(not correct as Rep of Ireland beat Italy 1-0 in the world cup in USA 1994). Towards the end of the game a Baggio cross touched a Chilean defender's hand, resulting in a penalty scored by Baggio which, made the score 2-2. With this goal, he became the first Italian player to score in three World Cups.
He scored two goals in the tournament; he also scored the winning goal against Austria as Italy topped their group.
In the quarter-final match against France, Baggio came on as a substitute in the second half. Italy had only five shots in the entire match, one of which was just inches away, from none other than Baggio; the score remained 0-0 and the match went to a penalty shootout.
Baggio was given an international send-off match on 28 April 2004 against Spain.
Baggio wrote an autobiography titled Una porta nel cielo ("A Goal in the Sky", but also "A Gate in the Sky"), including details about his rifts with managers.
Baggio is known as Il Divin Codino (The Divine Ponytail), for the hairstyle he wore for most of his career and his Buddhist background.
On his 40th birthday (February 18, 2007), Baggio started his new website to converse with his fans. As per his website he does not intend to return to mainstream football, but rather exchange words with his fans on his blogs.
In March 2008 Baggio—who has owned a ranch property in Argentina for many years—gave a lengthy interview with Gazzetta Dello Sport. In it he discussed many topics, including the team he now supports: Boca Juniors. "How did I become a fan of Boca? It's an interesting story. A rainy Sunday, I was at my house with a friend of mine and I saw a game on TV. The score was 4-0, and was played at the Boca stadium, La Bombonera. At one point they scanned across the crowd at their fans: they danced, they sang, they twirled flags and banners. A contagious joy. I said to my friend, 'It's beautiful to do this when their team is winning.' And he turned to me and said: 'Roberto, are you watching? Boca are losing 0-4! …' From that moment Boca has become my team. That stadium gives me incredible feelings."
On October 8, 2008 Baggio appeared in a charity match between Milan and Fiorentina for Stefano Borgonovo, with whom Baggio played at Fiorentina during the late 1980s.
Club Playing Honours
- Serie C1: 1984-85
- Serie CA: 1985-86
- UEFA Cup: runner-up 1990
- Serie A: 1994-95, runner-up 1991-92, 1993-94
- Coppa Italia: 1995, runner-up 1992
- UEFA Cup: 1993, runner-up 1995
- UEFA Intertoto Cup: 1998
International Playing Honours
- FIFA World Cup: runner-up 1994, 3rd place 1990
Individual Playing honours
- U-23 European Footballer of the Year: 1990
- UEFA Cup Winners' Cup top scorer: 1990-91
- European Footballer of the Year (Ballon d'Or/Golden Ball): 1993
- FIFA World Player of the Year: 1993
- Platinum Football award by TV Sorrisi and Canzoni: 1992
- Onze D'Or by French Magazine 'Onze Mondial': 1993
- Bravo award with Fiorentina: 1990
- Golden Guerin with Vicenza: 1985
- Golden Guerin with AC Milan: 1996
- Golden Guerin with Brescia: 2001
- Azzuri Team of The Century: 2000
- FIFA Dream Team of All-Time: 2002
- 'Most Loved Player' Award via Internet Polls: 2001
- 'Most Loved Player' Award at the Italian Oscars: 2002
- FIFA 100: 2004
- World Soccer Awards 100 Greatest Players of the 20th Century #16
- Giuseppe Prisco award: 2004
- The Champions Promenade - Golden Foot 2003
- Guerin's Sportivo 150 Grandi del Secolo
- Placar's 100 Craques do Seculo
- Planète Foot's 50 Meilleurs Joueurs du Monde
- Italy All-time XI by Football Italia
- Juventus All-time XI by Football Italia
- Brescia All-time XI by Football Italia
 Selected statistics
- 318 goals in all competitions
- 76 goals from 91 penalties (best all time record in Italy)
- 32 goals in European competitions
- 9 goals in World Cup finals (Italia 90, USA 94, France 98)
Baggio played in 16 World Cup matches for Italy. Ireland is the only team against which Baggio played more than once in his 16 games of FIFA World Cup play. He is the highest Italian goalscorer of all-time in the World Cup, with 9 goals from 16 appearances (along with Rossi and Vieri). But Baggio is the only Italian to have scored in three World Cups. Baggio has scored 86 percent of his penalties in Serie A and International football, scoring 106 out of 122 penalties, more than any other player in Italian football history.
When Baggio was in the national team, Italy always left the World Cup at penalties: in 1990 against Argentina, in 1994 against Brazil, and in 1998 against France. Therefore, In 16 world cup matches he played Italy lost only one, Italy's opening game of USA 94 against Ireland. When Baggio played his 16th and last world cup game against France, Brazil's all time player with most caps in the World Cup did not have 16 games. This was a notable achievement for Baggio especially as Brazil won the world cup three times in the 1960s with the likes of Pele.
Roberto Baggio is the 6th of 8 brothers. His younger brother, Eddy Baggio, is also a footballer. He currently plays with Sangiovannese and has spent his whole career in the lower divisions of Italian football, never making an appearance in Serie A.