Roberto Baggio was a footballer known for his independent, free-thinking ways during his career, with this autonomous character leading to fallings out with some of the most high-profile coaches in Serie A.
A star footballer who was so distinctly different to his peers, both on and off the pitch – whilst other players chose to revel in the glamour and celebratory lifestyle that their profession brought, Baggio shunned this constructed limelight, instead choosing a more divine path by seeking to use his standing for the betterment of others; humanitarian efforts like fighting famine, ill health and raising money for the homeless.
Despite a truly eventful career his passion for football never wavered – his mere presence on the pitch confirmation of this, despite suffering terribly with injuries for the majority of his career – and this mixed with his Buddhist mantras in a devoutly Catholic country, led to him leaving some deep, meaningful and original quotes over the years.
Here are 50 of his best…
I have a clear idea of the fundamental rule that should guide the life of everyone: the happiness of the individual cannot and must never go through the misery others.
The Baggio way of life.
As with every other profession, there are good and bad things, but the most important thing is, whatever happens, to be at peace within yourself. You meet so many people that you’re not going to get on well with everyone. You have to make your choices. And stick by them.
On his relationships in football.
Kids today don’t play using their instincts, but already do what they’ve been taught. So, their personality, in footballing terms, doesn’t come through completely.
In 1997 when asked if optimism is returning to the game.
Being a Buddhist allows me to find joy. On and off the pitch. When I stop playing I want to be happy with my wife and my children. That, for the time being, is my conception of happiness.
In 1995 when asked about his future outside of football.
I decide where I will play. I mean, if I have to play up front, who will support the strikers?
When asked if he will be moved further forward on the football pitch.
I am still fond of all the teams I played for, although the club I really support is Boca Juniors.
When asked about which of his former clubs he supports.
I didn’t demand it. The tifosi and the journalists did. That’s different. Me, I just want to win.
In 1995 when asked if he had fallen out with Arrigo Sacchi after reports claimed he demanded Italy play with a more adventurous team.
The reason I didn’t leave Italy was simple. Serie A is not the most beautiful league in the world, but it is certainly the most difficult. I always want to show my strengths where it is most difficult.
On why playing outside of Italy never appealed to him.
I think it is better to have 10 disorganised footballers [on your team] than 10 organised runners.
Baggio’s conception of how a football team should be chosen.
He said I looked tired, but I was 23! I would’ve eaten grass to play.
About former Italy coach Azeglio Vicini who left him out of the starting line-up against Argentina in 1990 World Cup semi-final.
The criteria for my move to Brescia was that I could enjoy my football and play how I like to.
Why he chose to join Brescia.
My career has been plagued by injuries forcing me to run in an unbalanced fashion. That style creates other fitness problems which at my age become increasingly difficult to overcome. The pain is simply too much to carry on and I will hang up my boots at the end of the season.
In 2004, announcing his retirement.
They had to drill through my kneecap and reattach all the ligaments with 220 internal stitches. I am allergic to the more powerful painkillers, so I was in absolute agony day and night for months.
Describing the pain he suffered during the operation after his first knee injury.
I have never really been satisfied with the easily scored goal.
Describing his joy of scoring unique goals.
That man is mad!
About Arrigo Sacchi for substituting him against Norway after just 22 minutes in the 1994 World Cup.
That was an incredible moment for me. It was my first game and I managed to score. It’s hard to describe the emotions I felt after that strike.
On his Czechoslovakia goal in Italia ‘90.
I knew what I had to do and my concentration was perfect. But I was so tired that I tried to hit the ball too hard.
On his physical and mental state before taking that penalty.
When we take on a challenge, we may win or we may lose; but despite the short-term result, if we keep on fighting, we prove that we have won as human beings.
One of his Buddhist mantras.
Football has been my passion. I carried the ball to the bathroom to play. As a child I had a recurring dream. I imagined to play the final of a World Cup with Brazil. I’m one of those lucky humans who can claim to have realised a dream.
Revealing he made his childhood dream come true.
I can only say thank you. He still believed in me, and gave me the chance to live four years longer in football, good years, full of meaning. He is a frank and sincere person in a world full of pimps, sycophants and opportunists.
About his former Brescia coach, Carlo Mazzone.
The basic attitude of my life has been passion. To realise my dreams I always acted driven only by passion. Passion moves everything, it is a truly extraordinary power.
The Baggio attitude.
It’s better to make the ball move, it doesn’t sweat…
Because this is my work. This is my life. It’s made of sweat and tears. But this time I really cried because I was very, very happy.
After semi-final v Bulgaria.
Never. Even if I’d have had to play with one leg, I would have done.
In response to being asked whether he considered missing the World Cup final due to his injury.
I have lost three World Cups, all on penalties…if you’ll allow me this, it really gets on my nerves.
After losing to France on penalties in World Cup ’98 – which followed losing on spot-kicks to Argentina in 1990 and Brazil in 1994.
It affected me for years. It was the worst moment of my career. I still dream about it. If I could erase a moment, it would be that one.
On that penalty.
If I drown, better to do it in the sea than in a puddle.
Making light of his above disappointment.
No, I’m a disaster!
When asked to sing a song from his favourite band, The Eagles.
It was difficult to take the decision to retire, but modern-day football has made me tired, although my passion for the game has always remained the same.
After annoucing his retirement.
From the very start of training to the last minute I would have the ball between my feet. Today all most seem to do is just run – three-quarters of the session is without the ball.
Lamenting modern-day training methods.
Today if you don’t run, not only do they say you are slow but you are ignorant because you do not understand the ‘new’ football.
More lamenting of training.
Perhaps they were a bit jealous, as everybody used to love me, even opposing fans. Was I stealing the show, denying them the role of protagonists they were desperately claiming for themselves? Modern football is increasingly dominated by the coaches, their narcissism to put themselves above the team and their players.
Wondering why the likes of Marcelo Lippi snubbed him at Inter.
A brilliant player always makes the difference. But the most important thing is to feel you have given everything. It doesn’t matter what everyone else says. You have to feel it within yourself.
The importance of feeling you have given it your best shot.
I find it astonishing that after four long years of preparation for the World Cup, you end up deciding so important a title on penalties. It is no way in which to decide the world champions.
The disbelief that a shoot-out should conclude a World Cup final.
I don’t know. He certainly has all he needs to become a great player. He has the advantage of playing for a club like Juventus at the age of 20. With or without me. We have already proved we can play well together.
When asked if a young starlet named Alessandro Del Piero is ‘the new Roberto Baggio’.
It is my job to make the difference, to create and to score.
A fantasista’s role.
All my teammates allow me to express myself fully. Without them I am nothing.
Confirming there is no ‘i’ in Team.
I couldn’t leave the 25,000 Bologna supporters. I respected them too much.
On why he chose not to join Inter midway through the season in January 1998 when the Milanese club wanted to conclude a transfer earlier than what transpired.
Today I would prefer it if it reached down to the bottom of my back.
When asked if he was to cut off his ponytail after winning his first Scudetto.
If I were to play only when I didn’t feel pain, then I’d step onto the pitch two or three times a year.
Revealing, after retirement, how he felt for the majority of his career due to his serious injuries.
I held on because of my passion for the game. It’s what kept me going until now, because the truth is my leg has never fully recovered.
Ever since I was a little boy I have learned to trap the ball and love it.
His relationship with the football.
He wants to be Baggio? And I want to be him, he is indestructible!
When told that Javier Zanetti had stated that he wanted to be Baggio.
The most beautiful thing about my career is the feeling people have for me.
Said upon his retirement.
This is better than the Golden Ball award. Compared with this, other personal and professional achievements pale into insignificance.
After being awarded the Nobel Man of Peace title in 2010 for his charitable work.
When you set up a goal, or score one yourself, the pleasure is truly complete.
His feelings as a fantasista.
Effort and hard work builds a bridge between dreams reality. Embrace your dreams and give chase. Everyday heroes are the ones who always give the maximum in life.
A Baggio mantra.
My greatest achievement was to just keep going, to maintain my desire to amaze and entertain despite this constant agony for two decades. I take great pride from that.
Upon his retirement.
No, come on. Pele and Maradona are from another planet. I’m part of that group that is following them, and it’s a good group.
When told he was considered by many to be on the same level as Pele and Maradona.
Tonight’s game will be the most beautiful memory of my career. Over the course of a professional career there are the goals and the victories, but nothing was as beautiful as the demonstration of affection that these people gave me today.
After his final game for Italy in 2004.