Baggio: ‘I envy todays players, I would like to play again’


Legendary Italian forward Roberto Baggio says he is envious of todays football players and revealed he still dreams about the missed penalty in 1994. The former Juventus, Bologna and Brescia striker spoke with La Gazzetta dello Sport ahead of the new Serie A season and offered his thoughts on the title race, Napoli’s success and why he would have liked to play in Japan, but during the 2002 World Cup:

Today the Serie A championship starts again. Do you feel the call of the forest in these moments? Do you miss playing football ? And what do you miss?

“Absolute envy for those who can still do it. I really loved playing football . Every now and then I get to thinking about the joy I got from doing certain things with the ball. But also the fatigue of training, that fatigue that makes you feel good…. That feeling of fulfillment from working hard.”

Do you still play some games among friends?

“I ended it for good after the game in Rome for Pope Francis in 2014. Maradona was there and I wanted to make a good impression. For three months I went to Bologna, three times a week, to play at least one half. On the last day of training I thought it best to shoot five free kicks. On the third one I tore up. I went to Rome I was not walking, but I still played one half because I had made a commitment. I had to say: never again.”

Would Baggio accept a space offer from Arab soccer?

“I don’t know. In my time I got big offers from Spain and then especially Japan. But I had the national team. I wanted to stay in Italy to always conquer the Azzurri jersey. I wanted to go to Japan, but at the 2002 World Cup.”

What did you think of Napoli’s scudetto?

“I was very pleased with it. It was the best performing team all year. It played really good football and brought out really strong players like Kvaratskhelia, Osimhen, but I also really liked Kim, the defeder. I think in the end it’s good for football to have a team different from the usual notes that wins the championship. I have to give kudos to President De Laurentiis, to Spalletti, to everyone…. They dismantled the old team and built a very strong one “.

Is there anything about this Napoli that reminds you of Maradona’s?

“The joy of playing football. And it is not true that the Napoli of the 1980s was only Maradona. There were quality champions like Careca, De Napoli, Carnevale. Behind Diego there was a very strong group.”

Have you followed the transfers of the summer market? Who strengthened the most?

“I followed little, but two transfers have remained in my mind. The first is Tonali’s move to Newcastle, which I did not expect. Without him, Milan are losing a lot. The other is the move of Frattesi to Inter, because he is a player I like and follow.”

How do we start again? Who does he see as the favorite for the championship?

“It’s hard to tell right now. Everyone has changed something and the Milanese in particular have changed a lot and tried to reinforce themselves, but they need time to find the balance. Napoli will want to confirm itself and Juve will try to redeem itself with the advantage of being able to bet everything on the championship. It will be important to see how they start. Last year Napoli started well and then continued in confidence.”

You are an iconic champion of world football and enjoy the unconditional esteem of even former rivals.

“I can’t hide that I’m pleased. I think I had some talent, but I think I was appreciated because I worked so hard on it and because I always behaved with loyalty and seriousness with everyone. There is an episode that my youngest son told that moved me. We were together at Andrea Pirlo’s farewell match and my son approached one of the players to ask for an autograph and overcoming his shyness he told him, “I’m Leonardo Baggio, my dad played with you….” And the player, with his unique smile replied, “No… I am the one who had the privilege of playing with your father!””.

Who was he?

“One who is unfortunately no longer here. Gianluca Vialli, and just thinking about him gives me goosebumps. My son was born in 2005, when I had already stopped playing, but there are still many people who love me and tell him that I did something good. Here, people’s love and the esteem of my colleagues fill me with pride.”

When you happen to hear Francesco De Gregori’s song that says “Nino don’t be afraid to take a penalty kick,” what do you think of?

“I change the record….”

Did you make peace with the missed penalty from 11 meters in the final with Brazil at World Cup ’94?

“Peace is a big word-it’s something you don’t erase. Winning a World Cup was a dream I had been chasing since I was a child, and in America it ended in the only way I hadn’t even considered. You don’t know how many times I had dreamed of playing in the final, scoring goals and winning to make Italy cheer. Instead, the wish train went backwards…..”

Yet they say you learn from those moments. One grows.

“Today maybe I could say yes. Today. But that day, the next day and the months after, whoever had said that defeat teaches something would have gotten a solemn vaffa… Then, as Diodato sings, life sometimes puts you in front of the unexpected, ‘on the edge of a destiny that can change…’ I think at that moment you take the hit, but you also have to decide who you want to be in the future: you can feel sorry for yourself all your life or you can lift your head and look forward to redeeming yourself. That choice determines who you will be in the future. In that sense, yes, it was a moment of growth.”


Serie A obsessive.