When Calcio Ruled The World: Beppe Signori

Giuseppe “Beppe” Signori was one of the most complete and ruthless forwards of his era. His name is remembered, but why is he not on a pedestal. When one writes about him, the sentence feels like it should start with “lest we forget”. When he was at Lazio, he was more deadly than the eagle on his shirt; he was immense, he was devastating, so why is he overlooked?

Followers of the Italian game know who Beppe is. They know he played for Lazio and they know he scored goals, but there was so much more. The man with a left foot that destroyed teams in the world’s best league needs more accolades than this, does he not?

Despite humble beginnings at SC Leffe and Piacenza, he went on to become part of Zdeněk Zeman’s fabled Foggia side, which earned him his move to Lazio in 1992. Here he blasted on to the centre stage, scoring 23 goals in 24 games in his first season to win Serie A’s Golden Boot.

This was the first season that Seria A was broadcast in Britain, thanks to Channel 4 and James Richardson, and many fans in the UK won’t forget Signori’s devastating ability to poach goals and score from set pieces.

His classic, short walk up to the penalty spot had Lazio fans enthralled and opposition goalkeepers baffled. Penalty after penalty was dispatched, adding to his total. He scored a lot of goals from inside the box, but he could also strike a ball. When he took a long shot against Cremonese in a 4-2 win in the 1993-94 season, the ball was hit so well it threatened to pierce the opposition net:

The 1994-95 season continued in the same vein, with Signori scoring 17 goals in 24 matches as Lazio finished second in Serie A. That season, he started to drift away from his marker more and scored many more goals from open play. He proved much more dynamic, more complete, and now added the odd headed goal to his arsenal.

In 1995-96, Signori scored 24 goals (12 of which came for the penalty spot) to become the league’s top scorer. This was his high point, his victory in the amphitheatre. Admittedly, 12 of his goals came via penalties, but his penchant for one-step penalties, ballistic free-kicks and tap-ins only fuelled his reputation for being a bloody-minded finisher.

He also indulged in the spectacular this season. Just look at this incredible volley scored against Juventus in a 4-0 win. He started to drift out towards the left wing, deceiving defenders, and just when they thought they had figured him out, he did this:

He scored 15 goals in 32 games in the 1996-97 season as Lazio finished fourth. He improved his workrate and came deeper for the ball, continually adapting his game. Time was running out and in the 1997-98 season he scored two goals in six games before leaving for Sampdoria on loan. He still managed to finished top scorer in the Coppa Italia that year, in an amusing twist of fate.

His career was tainted after he retired, with accusations of match fixing and betting scandals. In 2011, he was banned from all football activity for five years. Perhaps this has muddied the memories. One thing is for sure, when calcio ruled the world, nobody was as deadly from the spot and nobody had been so single-minded about scoring goals.

Words by Richard Hall: @Gentleman_Ultra

Richard is the founder of The Gentleman Ultra and an Italian Football Writer contributing to @Guardian_sport, @FootballItalia, @CmdotCom, @SiriusXMFC and beINSPORTUSA