Paolo Rossi

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Paolo Rossi
Paolo Rossi Vicenza.jpg
Rossi with Vicenza in the late 1970s.
Personal information
Date of birth (1956-09-23) 23 September 1956 (age 62)
Place of birth Prato, Italy
Height 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)[1]
Playing position Striker
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1973–1975 Juventus 0 (0)
1975–1976 Como (loan) 6 (0)
1976–1980 Vicenza 94 (60)
1979–1980 Perugia (loan) 28 (13)
1981–1985 Juventus 83 (24)
1985–1986 Milan 20 (2)
1986–1987 Hellas Verona 20 (4)
Total 251 (103)
National team
1977–1986 Italy 48 (20)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

† Appearances (goals)

Paolo Rossi (Italian pronunciation: [ˈpaːolo ˈrossi]; born 23 September 1956) is a former Italian professional footballer, who played as a forward. In 1982, he led Italy to the 1982 FIFA World Cup title, scoring six goals to win the Golden Boot as top goalscorer, and the Golden Ball for the player of the tournament. Rossi is one of only three players to have won all three awards at a World Cup, along with Garrincha in 1962, and Mario Kempes in 1978. Rossi was also awarded the 1982 Ballon d'Or as the European Footballer of the Year for his performances. Along with Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri, he is Italy's top scorer in World Cup history, with 9 goals in total.[2]

At club level, Rossi was also a prolific goalscorer for Vicenza. In 1976 he was signed to Juventus from Vicenza in a co-ownership deal for a world record transfer fee.[3] Vicenza retained his services, and he was top goalscorer in Serie B in 1977, leading his team to promotion to Serie A. The following season, Rossi scored 24 goals, to become the first player to top the scoring charts in Serie B and Serie A in consecutive seasons. In 1981 Rossi made his debut for Juventus, and went on to win two Scudetto titles, the Italian Cup, UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, UEFA Super Cup and the European Cup.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest Italian strikers of all time, in 2004 Rossi was named by Pelé as one of the Top 125 greatest living footballers as part of FIFA's 100th anniversary celebration.[4] In the same year, Rossi placed 12 in the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll. Since retiring, Rossi has gone into sports journalism and punditry. He currently works as a pundit for Mediaset Premium.


Early years

Rossi was born in Prato, Tuscany, Italy in the area of Santa Lucia.[5][6]

Although he was a member of the squad during the 1972–73 season, Rossi made his debut in professional Italian football with Juventus in 1973, making an appearance in the Coppa Italia, also winning a runners-up medal in the 1973 Intercontinental Cup with Juventus. Rossi was often injury prone during his first few seasons, only making 3 Coppa Italia appearances and no goals with Juventus between 1972 and 1975. After three operations on his knees, he was later sent to gain experience with Como, where he made his Serie A debut during the 1975–76 season, initially playing as a right winger, where his small build would not be a hindrance, making 6 Serie A appearances for the club, but failing to score once again.[7][8][5][9]

A young Paolo Rossi with Como in 1975.

His career came to a turning point when Vicenza (then Lanerossi Vicenza) engaged him on loan. Coach Fabbri decided to move him from the wing and place him in the center of the attack (because of injuries to the then center-forward) just before the season started. Rossi immediately showed a tremendous knack for getting open in the box and scoring, winning the Serie B Golden Boot in his first year at this more advanced position, with 21 goals. In the 1976–77 season, Rossi's qualities as an implacable striker led his team to promotion to Serie A, and he also led Vicenza to the second group stage of the Coppa Italia that season. In the following season, Rossi scored 24 goals, to become the first player to top the scoring charts in Serie B and Serie A in consecutive seasons, also leading Vicenza to an incredible second-place finish in Serie A during the 1977–78 season, only behind co-owners Juventus. Due to his performances, he was selected by the Italian national team's manager Enzo Bearzot for the 1978 FIFA World Cup. Rossi was also given his Italy debut under Bearzot on 21 December 1977, in a 1–0 friendly away win over Belgium.[7][8][9][10]

Rossi confirmed his growth during the 1978 World Cup tournament, gaining international fame as one of the world's best strikers. Playing for Italy as a central striker, he would switch positions with the two other forwards a fraction of the time, going to his original right wing position. Right winger Franco Causio, a two-footed player, would go left, and Italy's tall left winger Roberto Bettega would go to the center. This simple stratagem, made possible by the technical quality of all three players, created havoc on opposing defenses, and 1978 Italy showed an entertaining offensive style of play. Rossi totaled three goals and four assists in that World Cup edition as Italy reached the semi-finals of the tournament, only to finish in fourth place. Rossi was named as part of the team of the tournament for his performances, and he also collected the Silver Ball as the second best player of the World Cup. Rossi's goal in Italy's opening 2-1 group win of the tournament against France, on 2 June 1978, was also his first goal for Italy.[7][8][11]

Rossi up to this point had been jointly owned by Vicenza and Juventus. When the two clubs were called to settle the property, Lanerossi offered the shocking sum of 2.612 million lire for Rossi, who became the world's most expensive player, and Italy's most costly sportsman ever to that date. After the 1978 World Cup, during the 1978–79 season, Rossi made his European debut with Vicenza in the UEFA Cup, however, despite scoring 15 goals for the club in Serie A, his season was marked by injuries, and Vicenza was relegated to Serie B. Rossi was subsequently loaned to Perugia, in order to play in Serie A the following season.[7][8][10]


While at Perugia, he managed 13 goals in Serie A during the 1979–80 season, also helping the club to the round of 16 of the UEFA Cup. During the season, however, he was involved in the infamous 1980 betting scandal known in Italy as Totonero, and as a result of this Rossi was disqualified for three years, although this was later reduced to a two-year ban. As a result, Rossi missed out on the 1980 European Championship with Italy, where the team once again finished in fourth place, on home soil, after reaching the semi-finals. Despite the ban, Rossi always claimed to be innocent, and stated that he had been a victim of an injustice.[12][11]

1982 World Cup

Paolo Rossi kisses the 1982 FIFA World Cup trophy.

Despite his ban, Rossi was purchased back by Juventus's in 1981, and he returned to the starting line-up just in time for the end of the 1981–82 season to contribute to the club's 1981–82 Serie A title (scoring 1 goal in 3 appearances), and to take part in the 1982 FIFA World Cup, with Italy.[7] Italian journalists and tifosi initially lamented that he was in very poor shape, however, and this view seemed to be confirmed by Italy's first, appalling three group matches, in which he was allegedly described as a ghost aimlessly wandering over the field.[13]

Italy manager Enzo Bearzot, however, staunchly confirmed Rossi for the decisive round robin in the second round, in which his team was to face Argentina, the reigning World Champions, and Brazil, the biggest favourites to win the title, with a team consisting of world-class players such as Sócrates, Zico, and Falcão. After Italy defeated Argentina 2–1, also thanks to the defensive work of Claudio Gentile and Gaetano Scirea, who shut down the young Argentinean star Diego Maradona, Rossi scored three memorable goals to defeat Brazil 3–2 to qualify for the semi-finals.[9] In the semi-final match against Poland, Rossi's two goals won the match for Italy once again, granting them a place in the 1982 World Cup final. In the final against West Germany, Rossi scored the first of Italy's three goals, off of an indirect set-piece assist from Gentile, helping Italy to win the match 3–1, giving his team their third World Cup title. With six goals in total, he won the tournament's maximo goleador award — the Golden Boot — as the top scorer of the tournament, as well as the Golden Ball Award for the best player of the tournament, and he was named as part of the team of the tournament for the second consecutive time.[7][8][11]

Italian fans hung banners proclaiming him "Man of the match". Rossi's accomplishments in Spain gained him the title of European Footballer of the Year and World Player of the Year in 1982, as well as the 1982 Onze d'Or Award. Due to his notable goalscoring exploits during the 1982 World Cup in Spain, Paolo Rossi earned the nicknames "Pablito", and the "torero".[7][8][14]

Later years

Paolo Rossi with Juventus.

After the 1982 World Cup, Rossi continued to play with Juventus. During the 1982–83 season, Juventus finished second in Serie A, although Rossi helped the club to win the 1983 Coppa Italia, scoring 5 goals, also helping Juventus to reach the 1983 European Cup final, only to lose out to Hamburg; Rossi finished the tournament as the top scorer, with 6 goals. During the 1983–84 season, Rossi won his second Scudetto title with the club, notably scoring 13 goals, also helping the club to win the 1983–84 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, followed by the 1984 UEFA Super Cup. During his final season with the club, Rossi finally won the European Cup in 1985, finishing the tournament with 5 goals, behind only team-mate Michel Platini, and Torbjörn Nilsson, with 7 goals.[7][8][11][14]

After his stint with Juventus, he moved on to a then struggling Milan for a season in 1985.[5] During his time with Milan, he was remembered for his two-goal performance against Internazionale in a Milan derby match. Rossi was also selected to the 1986 FIFA World Cup roster for Italy, but did not play due to an injury. He made his final appearance for Italy on 11 May 1986, in a 2–0 friendly home win over China, in Naples. He ended his club career at Hellas Verona during the 1986–87 season, helping them to a fourth-place finish in Serie A, before retiring at the end of the season. He is currently involved in real estate, together with his former teammate Giancarlo Salvi.[7][8]

Rossi scored a total of 20 goals in 48 senior international caps for Italy.[15] Undoubtedly, his most important goal was the winner against Brazil in the 1982 World Cup which completed a famous hat trick and enabled the Azzurri to advance to the semi-finals at the expense of the South Americans. Rossi further represented Italy in the 1991 edition of the World Cup of Masters, scoring in the third place play off against Uruguay. Rossi is currently Italy's joint all-time top goalscorer in the FIFA World Cup, with 9 goals in 14 appearances over two editions of the tournament, alongside Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri. 6 of his World Cup goals came in 7 appearances in Italy's victorious 1982 edition, and 3 of his goals came in 7 appearances in the 1978 edition, where Italy finished in fourth place.[7][14]

Rossi was named by Pelé as one of the top 125 greatest living footballers in March 2004;[4] during the same year, he placed 12th in the UEFA Golden Jubilee poll.[16]

In August 1990, he was named vice-president of Lega Pro Prima Divisione club A.S. Pescina Valle del Giovenco.[17]

International goals

Scores and results list Italy's goal tally first.

Style of play

Paolo Rossi is widely regarded as one the greatest and most prolific Italian forwards of all time.[9] Although he lacked the intimidating physical presence of a typical out-and-out striker, Rossi was a quick, agile, prolific, and elegant centre-forward, with good technique, balance, quick reactions, and an eye for goal.[5][18] He made up for his lack of strength, physicality and power with his keen sense of opportunism, intelligence, positioning, and sharp finishing skills with his feet, as well as in the air, and also with his head.[11][9][7] Although Rossi was primarily known as a striker, he began his career as a right winger, and in his later career with Juventus, he was also deployed out of a position as a supporting forward, due to the offensive attributes of new arrivals such as Boniek and Michel Platini, in particular.[7]

Career statistics

Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Italy League Coppa Italia League Cup Europe Total
1975–76 Como Serie A 6 0
1976–77 Lanerossi Vicenza Serie B 36 21
1977–78 Serie A 30 24
1978–79 28 15
1979–80 Perugia 28 13
1980–81 0 0
1981–82 Juventus 3 1
1982–83 23 7 9 6
1983–84 30 13 9 2
1984–85 27 3 10 5
1985–86 Milan 20 2
1986–87 Hellas Verona 20 4
Total Italy 251 103
Career total 251 103


Italy national team
Year Apps Goals
1977 1 0
1978 10 4
1979 5 3
1980 3 0
1981 0 0
1982 11 6
1983 7 2
1984 6 3
1985 3 2
1986 2 0
Total 48 20








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