From Baggio to Ronaldinho: a parade of Golden Balls at the Sports Festival

The Divine Codino will be a guest at the inaugural ceremony. Rummenigge even won two: 1980 and 1981. And what magic the Brazilian…

Andrea Schianchi

There is no more prestigious goal for a footballer and when you get there it’s like walking in the clouds, far above your other colleagues, opponents or teammates. The Ballon d’Or, since it was established in 1956, has been the symbol of individual success, the best that can be achieved. If other triumphs are to be shared with the group, with the team, with the coach, this one is not: it arises from one’s own qualities, it is the result of one’s own commitment and one’s own skill, it is often the reward for a career (or for a year ) experienced on stage under the blinding light of the spotlight. Whoever takes home the trophy goes down in history: sometimes amid discussions and controversies, because they awarded him and maybe not someone else; sometimes, however, with a cascade of applause that really makes heads spin and risks destabilizing even the most balanced of champions.

parade of stars

At the Trento Sports Festival, from 12 to 15 October, the Gazzetta dello Sport presents 5 champions who won the Ballon d’Or: Roberto Baggio, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Andriy Shevchenko, Jean-Pierre Papin and Ronaldinho. Memories, emotions, chills. The great beauty of football takes center stage. And the decisive moments in the careers of these phenomena that contributed to giving happiness to the public come back to mind. Codino Baggio’s sumptuous dribbling, and his goals; Kalle Rummenigge’s acrobatics and cannon shots; the power and coldness of Sheva; the speed and cunning of JPP, someone who usually didn’t forgive when he saw the opponent’s goal; and then the imagination, extravagance and inventions of Ronaldinho, a poet lent to the universe of football. With these five heroes we will travel through football from the 1980s to the first decade of the 2000s, and it will also be a way to understand how this wonderful game has changed.

Blue in DNA

Roberto Baggio, who will be present at the opening ceremony (Thursday 12 October at 6pm), won the Ballon d’Or in 1993, when he wore the Juve shirt. Before him he wore that of Fiorentina (and his move to the Bianconeri was the subject of a real battle of the people), later he wore those of Milan, Inter, Bologna and Brescia. But the color that best represents it is blue. The blue of the national team. Baggio was, more than other champions of his era, a symbol of Italian football. More: it was a dream. The children went crazy for him, they imitated him, they studied his movements and plays and tried to reproduce them in games with their friends. An authentic hero to hold on to in times of difficulty (remember the brace against Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup?). The lawyer Agnelli, someone who knew a lot about football, had compared him to Raffaello: absolute perfection.

Class and power

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, present on Thursday 12th at 4.30pm, won the Ballon d’Or twice: in 1980 and 1981. He was, in that period, the best striker in Europe. He combined power with class. Precise in his shot, both right and left, very skilled with his head, courageous in his acrobatics, the defenders, when they had to mark him, made the sign of the cross: stopping him was impossible. His best period, the one during which he deserved the trophy, was the one he spent at Bayern Munich. Then, in a declining phase due to some physical problems, he landed in Italy, at Inter. And he immediately became an idol for the fans who recognized in him a player with above-average skills.


Jean-Pierre Papin (present on Saturday 14th at 4.30pm) is remembered above all for his qualities as a deadly centre-forward. He remained at Milan for two seasons, from 1992 to 1994, but the Frenchman had become great with the Olympique Marseille shirt. From 1990 to 1992, for three consecutive editions, he was top scorer in the European Cup, a trophy won with Milan in 1994. At the Rossoneri his career intersected with that of Marco Van Basten, in decline due to well-known physical problems. And remaining within the Rossoneri sphere, here is Andriy Shevchenko (he will perform in Trento on Friday 13th at 6pm), the east wind that sweeps everything. He won the Ballon d’Or in 2004, after in 2003 he had decided the Champions League final in favor of Milan against Juventus with a perfect penalty. A fantastic striker for his power and shooting precision, he marked an era that will remain forever in the memory of the Rossoneri fans and, more generally, of football lovers.


And then, in this series of phenomena, there is Ronaldinho, genius and recklessness. In Italy he made himself known with the Milan shirt, but previously he had enchanted audiences around the world with Barcelona. His famous “elastic” (ball is there, ball isn’t), his rude smile, his remote-controlled free kicks are pieces from an anthology. It’s impossible not to love him, despite his tantrums and behavior that is always on the edge. Ronaldinho (on stage Thursday the 12th at 8pm) was someone who addressed the ball as “tu”. And the great thing was that the ball almost always responded to him…