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Rossi

Italy

Full name: Paolo Rossi
Date of birth: 23/09/1956
Position: Forward
International caps: 48
International goals: 20
World Cups: 1978 - Second Round
1982 - Champions
World Footballer of the Year: 1982
European Footballer of the Year: 1982
Clubs: Como
Lanerossi Vicenza
Perugia
Juventus
AC Milan
Hellas Verona
1975-1976
1976-1979
1979-1980
1982-1985
1985-1986
1986-1987

Paolo Rossi's career was slow to take off, as he was dogged by knee problems while playing for Juventus' junior side. After three operations and they loaned him to Como, for whom he played his first professional match, and then to Serie B club, Lanerossi Vicenza. While there, he was converted from a winger to centre-forward.

In his new position, Rossi became an instant sensation, and his 21 goals in 1976-77 helped the club gain promotion to Serie A. They subsequently paid £1.5million to transfer him permanently. The following season saw Rossi show he could perform at the highest level, as he scored 24 goals in the league. This wasn't missed by national coach Enzo Bearzot, who selected Rossi for Italy in the run-up to the World Cup.

Rossi in action

In Argentina, in the 1978 World Cup, Italy started well, winning all three of their first round group games (against France, Hungary and hosts Argentina) with Rossi scoring twice. In the second round group games, Italy drew with West Germany, beat Austria 1-0 thanks to a Rossi goal, but lost to the Netherlands forcing them into the third place play-off rather than the final match. Despite losing that 2-1 to Brazil, Rossi had grown as a player during this tournament - showing the world the striking nous that had made him such a top player in the Italian league. However, Rossi was about to enter a personal nightmare.

Lanerossi Vicenza were relagated the next season, and Rossi was put up for sale at a price of £3million. Napoli were interested, but he refused to join them, and instead went to Perugia on loan. In his first 20 games for Perugia, Rossi scored 13 goals, including two against Avellino in a 2-2 draw, in early 1980. However, at the end of that match, Rossi was accussed of being involved of the betting scandal (known as Totonero) and was subsequently banned for three years, later reduced to two years. In 1981, while still suspended, Rossi was bought by Juventus for £0.5million. His enforced hiatus ended in late April 1982, where upon he immediately helped Juve to the Serie A title and was then recalled to international football for the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

Rossi in action

The tournament started poorly for Italy, as they scraped through to the second round with draws against Poland, Peru and Cameroon. Rossi was described as wandering aimlessly around the pitch in those games. However, Bearzot stood by him, despite the wishes of the Italian press. In the second round group stage, Italy were against the reigning champions Argentina and the world number one side Brazil. A narrow 2-1 victory over Argentina showed signs of an improving team, but Rossi hadn't scored after gour matches. In the memorable deciding game that Brazil only needed to draw to reach the semi-final, Rossi came alive and scored a magnificent hat-trick - Italy winning 3-2. He continued to impress in the semi-final against Poland where he scored both goals in the 2-0 victory. In the final Rossi scored the first goal in the 3-1 victory over West Germany. He ended the tournament with the Golden Boot (for top scorer), the Ballon D'Or (for best player) and most importantly the World Cup trophy - a hat-trick of titles he is alone in acheiving at a single tournament. He later added the 1982 European and World player of the year awards to his clutch of honours.

Back at Juventus, Rossi actually played poorly in the following season, only scoring 6 goals, although the club did win the Coppe Italia. The subsequent season, Rossi was back on form, as he netted 13 times in the league, contributing to his second Serie A title with Juventus. That season also saw the club victorious in the European Cup Winners' Cup and European Supercup. The following season, Rossi was part of the squad including Platini who were triumphant in the 1985 European Cup, which will always be remembered for the Heysel disaster.

Italy failured to qualify for Euro 1984 and Rossi was also in decline; he moved to stuggling AC Milan for a season and then on to Hellas Verona in 1986, just after his non-appearance for Italy in 1986 World Cup. Rossi retired from football in 1987.