This month celebrates a quarter century since an unknown twentysomething called James Richardson emerged as a staple in our lives via Channel 4’s groundbreaking coverage of Serie A.
Remember, to keep the list interesting, a player is limited to a single appearance and dead balls are denied entry.
Of course not everyone will agree with the list, so let your opinions be known.
5. Alessandro Del Piero vs Fiorentina 1994/95
The goal that simultaneously created a superstar and signalled the end of Roby Baggio at Juventus. A staple of the ‘goals of the 1990s’ video compilations that you find littered throughout the Internet. The volley that changed Del Piero’s life.
Del Piero was very nearly sold by Juventus to Parma the previous summer, only for fortunate circumstances to derail the move. It’s difficult now to imagine Del Piero playing in any other Serie A shirt other than black and white. Yet if it hadn’t have been for Dino Baggio changing his mind, history would be so very different.
While he made it look easy, it was anything but. As any player who has played the game at any level – even Sunday league – will attest to, attempting a volley from a pass that’s coming from behind you is one of the most challenging skills there is. To pull it off whilst running is a mark of genius.
4. Francesco Totti vs Parma 1997/98
Nobody could do the cucchiaio (spoon) quite like Roma’s icon. Totti almost made a career out of daintily chipping goalkeepers. From his outrageous panenka in the semi-final penalty shoot out at Euro ’00 to the goal against Inter in 2006, yet this one early on in his career has got lost amongst the pile.
The beauty of this goal against Parma (last time they feature, honest) is that it’s on his weaker foot and the angle isn’t exactly ideal for such a goal, yet Totti, who was wearing the No.10 shirt for the first time this season, produced a goal worthy of the number.
It also doesn’t harm the value of the goal by seeing who was in goal for Parma that day, one Gigi Buffon. Upon his retirement this year, Buffon asserted, “some of his goals against me were so wonderful that I would have been ruining a masterpiece had I managed to save them.”
It’s fair to say the goalkeeping great had little chance of saving this one regardless.
3. Alvaro Recoba vs Brescia 1997/98
A left foot that contained so much force it could’ve generated electricity for a small village. Not many footballers can claim to upstage Ronaldo at any point in their career’s, let alone a 21–year-old making their debut in European football, and all within the space of twenty minutes. Alvaro Recoba belongs to an exclusive club of one.
Thrown on with Inter losing 1–0 at home to newly promoted Brescia, nobody knew what to expect of the Uruguayan. Nowadays a quick search into Google or YouTube would’ve solved that question before Recoba had even signed, but in 1997 the Internet was still in its infancy, and Google was another year away from existence.
All the focus was of course on Ronaldo, also making his debut. The Brazilian was somewhat subdued, but still showed flashes of his genius. Recoba then changed the match.
To even contemplate shooting from the distance he was from the goal could be viewed as outrageous, but then again Recoba specialised in the outrageous. It isn’t hyperbole to say he possessed the ability to score from anywhere inside the opposition’s half.
The ball rockets (you will never find a better goal that comes as close that expression) into the top corner. To show that it was no fluke, a few minutes later he majestically curled the ball into the opposite top corner from a free kick from roughly the same distance.
Alvaro Recoba; you wonderful, inconsistent little maverick.
2. Zinedine Zidane vs Reggina 1999/00
A goal that contains all the hallmarks of classic Zidane: the tight control, the delightful elegance, the spatial awareness, and the ability to glide from left to right foot in an instant.
As absurd as it may sound, Zidane’s place amongst the pantheon of Juventus legends is currently undergoing a retrospective debate. Many fans believe that whilst he became the best player the world during his time in Italy and became the Zidane the world all knows, he didn’t deliver his finest performances in black and white, citing his two poor performances in the 1997 and ’98 Champions League finals.
Others argue that of course he deserves legendary status, he’s Zidane after all. When he produces moments like this, you can understand their argument.
The goal itself is almost immaterial; it’s the build up that is most mesmerizing. The outside of the boot flick to Del Piero from the throw in, the charge to the edge of the box, and sheer beauty of the pullback and shifting the ball on to his left foot in one glorious movement that took three Reggina defenders out of the picture.
Yet it should be noted that the finish was also magnificent; an emphatic finish that gave the keeper with next to no chance.
1. Roberto Baggio vs Juventus 2000/01
The touch. The Touch. The touch. The TOUCH.
“I was never satisfied with the easily-scored goal,” Baggio once stated. For a career that was criminally short on medals and trophies, he more than made up for it with improbable goals and moments of irrefutable genius that will long outlive the statistic of merely a few trophies won in a 20-year career.
As was noted at the beginning of this piece, all 25 goals could’ve just as easily belonged to Baggio, and the list would be equally as good, if not better, than what has appeared.
There will be no brief description of the goal here; no amount of words can do it justice. Just press play and marvel. Marvel at the pass, the run, and the touch. It’s simply a work of art. Baggio was a painter who used a ball instead of a brush, and the football pitch was his blank canvas.
Baggio, described by Richardson as being “remarkably other” over the course of multiple interviews, was the defining player of the Gazzetta era. The best player throughout its entire stretch, he seemed to operate on an entirely different playing field to every footballer of the period, on and off the pitch. Your typical footballer he wasn’t.
There have been very few players, then or since, who could manipulate the ball like Baggio. There wasn’t a type of goal missing from his repertoire; no goal was off limits.
It also set Andrea Pirlo off on his upward career trajectory. Previously struggling as a No.10, his six month stint back at Brescia changed his career, and this was an early demonstration of the damage he could inflict being deployed further back in midfield.
There are so many reasons why this goal is no.1, but it always falls back to one thing.
Read Football Italia at 25: Celebrating Gazzetta’s Greatest Golaccios (Part I) here
Read Football Italia at 25: Celebrating Gazzetta’s Greatest Golaccios (Part II) here
Words by Emmet Gates: @Emmet Gates
Emmet is a freelance football writer based in Italy. He is the author of Goal O’The Times and as well as The Gentleman Ultra, he has written for FourFourTwo, These Football Times and In Bed With Maradona.