Pablito in Verona: farewell to a legend

The Rossi’s last season, Hellas in the Eighties and the the mourning for an italian symbol

di Richard Hough

The column of the week from Richard Hough for all the Verona-lovers speaking english. 

 

While Maradona will always be remembered for his exploits at the 1986 World Cup, whenever the story of the 1982 World Cup is retold, one name stands above all others.

Paolo Rossi.

His hat-trick against Brazil in the second group stage secured Italy’s surprise victory, an encounter generally regarded as one of the greatest games in World Cup history.

Of course, Italy went on to win the World Cup in 1982, beating West Germany 3-1 in the final. While Marco Tardelli’s euphoric celebration remains the abiding image associated with that tournament, Paolo Rossi was unquestionably the outstanding player of that tournament, taking home both the Golden Boot and Golden Ball, in addition to his World Cup winners medal. Taking home three trophies from a single World Cup is a rare feat indeed!

By the time Rossi came to Verona in 1986, he had achieved just about everything there was to achieve in the game. Hellas were still enjoying a golden period, having lifted the scudetto just a year earlier.

For Rossi, it was to be the end of his illustrious playing career that had lasted little over a decade, a final swan song before he was forced out of the game at just thirty-one years old with a persistent knee injury that had plagued him throughout his career.

He made 27 appearances for Hellas Verona that season, and scored seven goals, helping the gialloblù to a fourth-place finish, a remarkable achievement by today’s standards.

Rossi was an icon of Italian football and, thanks to his World Cup exploits, a truly global figure too. For a player of that calibre to have come to Verona remains a source of great pride here in the city.

As the 1980s drew to a close, the fortunes of Hellas Verona began to decline too. Within a few years Hellas would fall from Serie A Champions to Serie B strugglers, and legendary coach Osvaldo Bagnoli would bring his formidable managerial career to an end.

But for a few seasons at the end of that decade, Hellas Verona were flying high in the upper echelons of Italian football, and one of the greatest players the world has ever seen was wearing the famous gialloblù.

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