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Posts Tagged ‘Roberto Baggio’

In and out: Gigi Maifredi.

Bologna’s third Serie B stint started shortly after Gigi Maifredi’s departure. A dismal Serie A campaign saw them relegated in 1991. Maifredi returned after his Juventus dismissal, but was quickly out the door again as Bologna finished a poor 13th in Serie B (1991-92). By now the title-winning sides of yesterday were like ancient history, and a soul-destroying 92-93 saw Bologna relegated to Serie C1 again.

Here begins a new era for football in Bologna. Bologna Football Club dissolved on June 19th, 1993 after years of financial trouble, but re-emerged as Bologna Football Club 1909 in Serie C1. The refounded side were allowed to keep their league place, and finished fourth in Serie C1’s Group A at the first time of asking.

This meant another year in the doldrums (1994-95). The Rossoblu, however, had become almost unbeatable. Losing just once all season, Bologna stormed to the Serie C1 title with games to spare. On the last day of the season they stood 22 points clear of second-place Pistoiese, having accumulated 81 points and a +42 goal difference in 34 games.

Bologna’s momentum continued. A water-tight defence helped them battle through Serie B in 1995-96, and they were promoted as champions by the season’s end. History suggested that Bologna were back where they belonged, and they justified this with a seventh-place Serie A finish in 1996-97.

Legendary Azzurri forward Roberto Baggio joined the Rossoblu for a single season in 1997-98 and was a huge hit despite his advancing years. Baggio finished with a career-best 22 Serie A goals, firing Bologna to Intertoto Cup qualification and going on to star for Italy at the 1998 World Cup. The Divine Ponytail left for Inter after the World Cup, but his in Bologna remains one of his career’s most productive.

Change was afoot for the Rossoblu. They won the Intertoto Cup to gain entry into 1998-99’s UEFA Cup. Coach Carlo Mazzone arrived in the dugout and another heroic forward, Giuseppe Signori, took Baggio’s place. Bologna finished ninth in Serie A but fared well in Europe. Victories over Sporting Lisbon, Real Betis, Slavia Prague and Olympique Lyon saw them march to the UEFA Cup semi-finals, which they lost to eventual winners Parma.

1999-00 saw new coach Sergio Buso sacked after just seven games in-charge. In came ex-player Francesco Guidolin, who led Bologna through their second-consecutive UEFA Cup campaign. The Rossoblu again lost to the competition’s eventual winners (Galatasary), but fell in the third round on this occasion.

The Rossoblu were on a high, but fell to 11th (2002-03) and 12th (2003-04) in Serie A and struggled badly after Signori’s 2004 departure. A disastrous end to the 2004-05 campaign saw Bologna claim just 11 points from their last 15 games, forcing them into a relegation playoff with Parma. Bologna won the first leg 1-0, but were relegated after losing the home leg 2-0.

Down went Bologna, and in came Renzo Ulivieri who’d previously managed the club from 1994 to 1998. Majority shareholder Giuseppe Gazzoni Frascara left the Rossoblu and the club finished eighth, outside the playoff positions. Napoli, Genoa, and the Calciopoli-stricken Juventus made Serie B their home in 2006-07, severely limiting Bologna’s chances of promotion. They went one better than the previous year by finishing seventh, but still missed-out on the playoffs.

That coveted promotion came the following season, and Bologna have been a Serie A side ever since. They’ve constantly battled against relegation and haven’t finished above 16th in the past three years, but veteran striker Marco Di Vaio’s goals (56 in 108 games) have helped keep them afloat.

Bologna’s story is one of incredible highs and terrible lows. They’ve been Italian champions seven times and have tasted cup success at home and abroad, but they’ve been up-and-down since the ‘80’s and almost went out of business in 1993. Still, Bologna have never been outside the top tier for longer than six seasons and only Genoa, Milan, Inter and Juventus have more Scudetti to their name

The Rossoblu are currently 17th in Serie A: one position and four points from the relegation zone. Stefano Pioli is the new manager, and the ex-Chievo man has claimed four points from four games since his October appointment.

Watching Bologna can be a frustrating experience. They have some exciting attacking players, but it rarely comes together on the pitch. Di Vaio has recently overcome a six-month goal drought with three goals in his last five games, but his all-round play has been largely disappointing.

Prospect: Gaston Ramirez.

Gaston Ramirez, the 21-year-old Uruguayan, is Bologna’s most interesting prospect. Ramirez can play up front or out wide, but he’s played mostly as an attacking midfielder this term. He’s an excellent ball carrier who loves running at players, and his through-balls have already provided three assists from nine starts. Manchester City and Chelsea have reportedly been monitoring his progress, and it’s easy to see why.

Ex-West Ham player Alessandro Diamanti is the other key man in attack. A player of unquestionable ability (check his cheeky back-heel assist against Siena last week), Diamanti’s Achilles heel has been his inconsistency. The trequartista rarely produces two good performances in a row, and must improve if he’s to be anything more than a luxury player for the relegation-threatened Rossoblu.

Bologna are a counter-attacking side who are happy to concede possession and break with pace. This can make for some exciting moments as the Rossoblu plough down the flanks, but they’re more reactive than proactive. Bologna’s players lack the quality to control games and impose their will on opposing teams and their aggression has cost them numerous goals from set pieces this season.

It’s not hard to build an argument for Bologna’s survival. Pioli’s Chievo boasted a very tight defence, and Bologna’s defence should improve if the manager can transfer his ideas to the Rossoblu’s ageing defenders. Di Vaio could do with a more reliable strike partner than Robert Acquafresca, but the Rossoblu definitely have the firepower to outscore the likes of Cesena and Lecce.

Lets hope that this club of great tradition can escape the relegation battle sooner rather than later.

Sources

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Tomas Brolin wasn’t the only excellent midfielder to strut his stuff at the Stadio Tardini in the ‘90’s. I chose Brolin because I wanted to celebrate the highs of his career. A lot of people only remember the podgy Tomas Brolin who shambled his way through spells at Leeds and Crystal Palace, but he was a great player once upon a time and I don’t think that should be forgotten.

That said, Parma also fielded a lot of top quality midfielders who made the most of their opportunities and enjoyed lengthy, successful careers. Here are a few of my favourites.

Dino Baggio

A rock-solid defensive midfielder who deserves a lot more international credit, Dino spent 7 seasons with Parma and scored 20 goals in his 172 Serie A appearances for the Gialloblu. Baggio came to Parma after the 2004 World Cup. Wanting to stay at Juventus, Baggio rejected Parma’s first contract offer but changed his mind a few days later. The move effectively scrapped an already agreed deal to take Alessandro Del Piero to Parma, but that didn’t exactly work out badly for the Bianconeri…

Baggio’s period at the Tardini was very successful and he collected two UEFA Cup winners’ medals and one for the Coppa Italia during his time there. He was a stalwart for Parma during their most successful period, and also won 60 international caps in a 9-year Azzurri career.

My first memory of Baggio comes from watching him at USA ’94. A confused 6 year old, I still remember turning to my father and saying “’Dino’? I thought Baggio’s name was ‘Roberto’?”. I’m glad I finally sussed the difference between the two as both were wonderful players in their own right.

Massimo Crippa

Read his name again: Massimo Crippa. He just <I>sounds</I> like a hard-man, doesn’t he?

Crippa, like Baggio, was a defensive midfielder but his playing style was much more abrasive. Signed from Napoli in 1993, Crippa held Parma’s midfielder together for 5 seasons before departing for Torino at the age of 33. He was a true battler: the kind of player who never gave anything less than 100%. Even when all hope seemed lost and his teammates had surrendered, Crippa puffed his chest and carried on like he could beat the opposition on his own.

But Crippa wasn’t just a pure destroyer. Sure he wasn’t quite as classy as Baggio, but Crippa was comfortable with the ball at his feet and was very adept at recycling possession. He was gritty, ferocious and strong in the challenge, but Crippa was no hatchet man and he rarely lost the ball.

In addition to winning the UEFA Cup and Super Cup with Parma, Crippa won Serie A, the Supercoppa and a further UEFA Cup with Napoli. Crippa was capped 17 times by Italy, and finished his career in 2002 after a two-year spell with non-league Canzese.

Juan Sebastian Veron

A completely different type of player to Crippa and Baggio, Veron is (was?) one of the classiest playmakers of his generation. Veron only played for Parma for a single season (1998-99) but he helped the Gialloblu scoop two trophies (UEFA Cup & Coppa Italia) that year. Because of the briefness of Veron’s Parma stay it’d be a stretch to call him one of the club’s all-time greats, but this isn’t about that: this is about my favourite Gialloblu players.

Veron, like yesterday’s subject (Tomas Brolin), endured a rough stay in England but he was always world-class in Serie A. Equally at home in deep and advanced positions, Veron’s technical quality, vision and passing made him one of calcio’s great creators. He was the heartbeat of the side spraying passes around the field and dictating the game like a metronome.

I’m sure Parma would’ve achieved even greater things if they’d been able to keep hold of Veron, but Lazio’s lure was too much for him and he left the Gialloblu in 1999 for approximately £18m. To be fair to Juan Sebastian, the move paid-off: he won Serie A, the Coppa Italia, the Supercoppa and the UEFA Super Cup in two seasons with the Aquile.

Honourable Mentions

Journeyman Stefano Fiore played for 12 professional clubs before his retirement this year and enjoyed two spells with Parma in the ‘90’s. I remember him and Diego Fuser in Gialloblu shirts crica 1998 with Fiore as playmaking and Fuser occupying the right channel. Alain Boghossian always springs to mind and not just because he has a fantastic surname: the Frenchman was real terrier around the centre circle.

Two players that I’m too young to vividly remember but definitely deserve a shout: Gabriele Pin and Marco Osio. I know that Osio in-particularly was hugely popular with the fans, and not just for his impressive Jesus-haircut/beard combo. One of Parma’s first real stars during the ’90’s.

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