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Roberto Baggio v Czechoslovakia, 1990.

Italian football is a wonderful thing. Perhaps because of the thoughtful, more deliberate play involved, it lends itself to an operatic soundtrack.

When the game is played by those who have really mastered it, Rivera, Pirlo, Baggio…it is almost a performance piece, the pitch being the greatest of stages.

On the biggest stage, Baggio did not disappoint; his control of Italy’s 1994 campaign was a meisterwerk, particularly considering his injuries at the time. Before that, in his homeland, in 1990, we had this most beautiful aria.

Baggio’s ball control was always second to none. His ability to drift by, to ghost past, players was a feature of his game, never blessed with blistering pace, but never needing to be. He was not a rifler of shots, too. His goals tended to hit the net low, and roll to the back of the target – it gave them a finality.

Baggio made me fall in love with football. He played the game as if he were stood behind an easel, and he dipped his feet in paint every time he received the ball, and this goal was the most perfect blossoming of his great talent.

See him set off, jinking past players, defeating each and every one of them before getting to the next and then taking out the goalkeeper with an almost imperceptible dummy. It could hang on any wall in the world.

Roberto Baggio – guided.

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