The whole shape of Italian football let alone the history of Parma and Juventus could have been dramatically different had circumstances turned out different in the summer of 1994.
A dark depressing cloud hung over the world of Calcio after that fateful night in the Rose Bowl where famously Italy missed out on World Cup glory in the most heart breaking circumstances.
With the Californian sun setting on the memorable 1994 World Cup, Serie A’s big guns were preparing for the season ahead. Having finished in the top five in three of their first four seasons in Serie A, Nevio Scala and Parma were out to trouble Italy’s finest yet again and mount a serious title challenge.
Turning their attention to bitter rivals Juventus, Parma were determined to sign one of Italy’s World Cup heroes in the form of Dino Baggio. Known as ‘The other Baggio’ or ‘Baggio 2’ as of course he shared his name with Italian Footballs golden boy, Roberto Baggio. Dino was teammates with his namesake at Juventus, when Parma came calling in 1994, ‘Baggio 2’ wasn’t too keen in swapping Turin for The Tardini. The midfielder snubbed Scala’s approaches, not only was Baggio keen to stay put, Juventus didn’t want to sell, so determined were they to keep Baggio they offered Parma a 20 year old forward going by the name of Alessandro Del Piero, as negotiations were underway for the Del Piero deal to go through, Baggio had a sudden change of heart and decided to move to Parma. I wonder what ever happened to that Del Piero boy………..
The 14 Billion Lire spend on Baggio looked to be money well spent, the midfielder was an instant hit, scoring his first goal in round three of the new season as Parma beat Cagliari 2-1 at The Tardini, Scala’s men went the opening five rounds unbeaten before Sampdoria put an end to that in round six, I’ Gialloblu would go on to finish third in the 1994/95 season. Baggio’s highlight came in the 1995 UEFA Cup final, coming up against his former employers, Juventus. Parma hosted the first leg, it took ‘The Other Baggio’ just five minutes to outshine the Juventus number 10 that night as Dino fired Parma into a 1-0 lead within the opening five minutes, Baggio’s goal was enough and Parma headed to Turin for the second leg. Despite Gianluca Vialli squaring the tie up two minutes before half time, Baggio made sure it would be Dino not Roberto on the front pages of Italy’s sports papers the next morning as he fired Parma ahead on the 53rd minute, ensuring the UEFA Cup would be returning to The Tardini for the second time.
1996/97 would see Scala leave and new president Calisto Tanzi hand pick Carlo Ancelotti to take the reins at Parma. Baggio would remain a vital cog in the Parma wheel, the heartbeat of the side, Baggio came so close to helping Parma secure their first ever Scudetto missing out by just two points to Juventus, a disappointing season the following year, Parma brought in Alberto Malesani for the 1998/99 campaign, arguably the most successful in the clubs history.
Baggio now in his third season at Parma was surrounded by superstars, Gianluigi Buffon, Lilian Thuram, and Fabio Cannavaro made a pretty mean defence, in front of that Baggio played alongside Diego Fuser, Juan Sebastian Veron and Stefano Fiore to name but a few, to top that lot off Parma had Hernan Crespo, Abel Balbo and Faustino Asprilla to choose from up front. Baggio once again excelled in Europe for Parma, playing a vital part in the clubs victorious UEFA Cup campaign, quite literally through blood, sweat and tears, with Baggio being struck in the head by a knife during an away tie at Wisla Krakow earlier in the competition. Baggio would win his third UEFA Cup winners medal as Parma’s star studded side destroyed French giants Marseille 3-0 in Moscow. Parma also became Coppa Italia champions that season beating Fiorentina on away goals, with the 1998/99 season going down as one of the most successful on the clubs history.
After six years and over 170 appearances for Parma, Baggio time at the Tardini came to an end after the 1999/00 season, Baggio would begin the new millennium in controversial circumstances, Parma came head to head with old foes Juventus in January 2000, referee Stefano Farina halted the game, awarding Juventus a free kick after Baggio fouled Juve full back Gianluca Zambrotta, Farina then proceeded to show Baggio a straight red card, Baggio lost the plot, making the ‘money’ gesture towards the referee, suggesting Juventus were paying him off, he then proceeded to spit on the ground near where Farina was standing, this led to Baggio being handed a two match ban as well as being hammered with a 20 million Lire fine by his club, on top of all that Baggio was banned from taking part in Italy’s friendly against Sweden in the February of 2000.
After 6 years, two UEFA Cup winners medals, a Coppa Italia and a Super Coppa under his belt Dino Baggio bid farewell to Parma as a move to the capital to join newly crowned Serie A champions was complete in October 2000 for a fee of 10 billion Lire.
Baggio made an emotional return to The Tardini in December 2013, taking part in a match to celebrate the clubs centenary, Baggio lined up for ‘Stelle Gialloblu’ despite bagging a brace, Baggio was on the losing side as ‘Stelle Crociate’ defeated Baggio’s side 7-5.
By Giovanni Dougall
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