Thanks to the newest running feature on YCS, I present a name that is one of the few memorable soccer figures in America in the pre-Beckham era. I am talking of course about Roberto Baggio. You may remember Baggio from the 1994 World Cup Final at the Rose Bowl, where he put his sudden death penalty kick waaaaaaaaaaay over the crossbar, clinching World Cup glory for Brazil. Baggio, ever the good sport (and capitalist pig), decided that this moment could best be memorialized in Japanese whiskey commercials. While his costly PK blunder may be the most remembered moment in his career, Il Divin Codino (The Divine Ponytail) had enough moments of excellence to counter his error on the biggest stage, and earn a place in Sports World Nostalgia.
Baggio spent 20 years playing 488 matches in Serie A, at a time when the Italian league was regarded by many to be the best in the world. In his career Baggio scored 216 goals, or on average, a little less often than once every other game, an outstanding clip.
During his time in Serie A, he won two Italian Championships; with Juventus in 1995 and with AC Milan in 1996.In 1993, Baggio was one of only four Italians in history to win the European Player of the Year award and is still the only Italian to do so since 1983. He was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1993 (The only Italian to ever win this award).
Baggio also made 56 appearances for the Italian National Team, scoring 27 goals in international competition, and was an integral component of Italy's World Cup teams in 1990 (2 goals, including the Goal of the Tournament), 1994 (5 goals) and 1998 (2 goals). Baggio was the first Italian player to score in three different World Cups. In the time between Pele and Beckham, there was Roberto Baggio, a "choke artist" with one of the finest careers of any footballer.