10 December 2020
What awful news to wake up to.
Paolo Rossi – Pablito – has passed away. He was the hero of an unforgettable World Cup for all of Italy, but for us he was much, much more.
Paolo represents so much for an entire nation of Juventus fans who celebrated with him in front of their television sets, week after week after week. And though those television sets gradually began showing the action in colour, those special moments remained gloriously black and white for us.
If you look in your childhood bedrooms or in your lofts, you’ll probably find an old poster of that incredible Juventus team – a side that won literally everything there was to win between 1981 and 1985, when Paolo was there to score the big goals. He was reborn at Juve, leaving difficult times behind him, becoming the player that was feted in the piazzas and fountains of every Italian town in that balmy summer of 1982.
Having played for Juventus at youth level between 1973 and 1975, making three appearances in the Coppa Italia, Paolo’s “real” career with the Bianconeri began in 1981, although he could only make three Serie A appearances that season. Yet those three appearances were enough to convince Italy coach Enzo Bearzot to take him to Spain, where he would wow with incredible goals in incredible games, returning home with the World Cup after an unforgettable tournament. His efforts were rewarded at the end of 1982 with the Ballon d’Or, recognising him as the best player on the planet.
Paolo scored all types of goals, using his uniquely physical style to his advantage. “Watch out for Rossi,” the goalkeeper would say, but before the defender had turned to see where he was, Paolo would already have the ball in the back of the net.
He scored 44 times during his triumphant spell with Juventus, helping the team to win two Scudetto titles, one Coppa Italia and three European trophies: the Cup Winners’ Cup, the European Super Cup and the European Cup itself.
Perhaps the most iconic Paolo goal was the one scored against Manchester United to send Juventus through to the Cup Winners’ Cup final in 1984. After a 1-1 draw in the away leg in Manchester, Juve and United were again locked together at 1-1 in the 90th minute back in Turin. As the seconds ticked away, it was Paolo who reacted quickest after Gaetano Scirea’s shot from the edge of the area took a deflection off a United man. Paolo pounced on the loose ball and coolly slotted past the keeper, before wheeling away in celebration as the fans went wild.
If you managed to find that old Juve poster, stick it up. Say your goodbyes to that fantastic No.9. They don’t make many like him.