A gifted, yet lesser known player, Dino Baggio was forever in the shadow of his namesake. Unfortunate that Roberto Baggio, the footballer of a generation, came through just before him. Regardless, Dino deserves the his place in the limelight.
Dino retired at 34 after less than impressive loan spells at Blackburn Rovers and Ancona. Whereas his namesake bowed out with Inter Milan and 70,000 people chanting his name. Their paths later in their career couldn’t have been more different, and don’t look favourably on Dino as a player.
But in his prime he was as good as Roberto Baggio. He may not have had the pace or skilfulness of the winger. But his goalscoring abilities with both feet and domineering presence in midfield, meant Dino carved his own path.
He left Parma, his most successful club, with two Uefa Cup winner’s medals, a Coppa Italia and a Super Coppa. Dino had played at the highest echelons of Italian football; alongside talents like Crespo, Thuram and Buffon, before earlier playing alongside Gianluca Vialli and Antonio Conte.
Dino wasn’t without a big money move either. Juventus paying ten billion Italian lire for him in 1991. After proving a revelation in the Juventus midfield and winning over fans in spite of his past at Torino. He then moved to Parma for an increased 14 billion lire in 1994. Fees that equate to just over four and six million pounds.
Dino was a technically gifted midfielder; he showed up on big games for both Juventus and Parma and was directly and consistently involved in successful teams alongside several superstars of the footballing world. But in the history of Italian football Dino would fly under the radar.
It was Dino’s breakthrough into the national side for the 1994 World Cup, however, that would show his true talent. But again he continued to operate in the shadow of his namesake. Dino made key contributions to the Italian’s campaign. Including a 25-yard drive against Spain and a match-winning header against Norway. Even more so though Baggio excelled in breaking down opposition play and spraying balls out from the central midfield.
Despite glowing performances and this goal, he was still referred to as the other Baggio throughout the tournament. In keeping with his nuanced media presence, when Italy later lost the final to Brazil, Dino returned as a hero. Unlike Roberto who took the full brunt of the Italian media’s discontent.
He cemented a position as a tenacious, hardworking and versatile midfielder, who’s ability to get box-to-box was key to success. Similar to Sacchi’s recognition of Dino’s talents in 1994, Cesare Maldini would play him in every game of the 1998 World Cup.
“People didn’t believe in Dino Baggio, He has silenced a lot of them. Now, he has become a major weapon for us.”
Baggio is frequently overlooked when discussing great Italian players. Mainly because he was unfortunate to have a talented namesake in Roberto Baggio operating alongside and against him throughout his career.
But his talent in the middle of the field combined with an overall versatility that saw him take up every position during his career, means he deserves a place among Italy’s greats.