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The "Trequartista" & Italy's no.10: The most prolific role in football

Updated on June 20, 2013
Del Piero, Totti, Baggio & Mancini
Del Piero, Totti, Baggio & Mancini

There have been a lot of famous shirts in international football throughout history. The most famous and best known ones being occasionally the number 10 shirt which usually indicates the opponents best player. Brazil's no.10 shirt is seen as golden in regards to the best player must wear it. Pele started the regime of the shirt in the 60s and 70s and scored over 70 goals for Brazil in it and winning three World Cups. Since that time the Brazil public have demanded for the shirt only to be worn by the best player on the team. The notable recipients of the shirt over the years have been Zico in the 1980s, Rivaldo who graced the shirt in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, Ronaldinho in 2006 when he was the consecutive winner of the Ballon d'Or, and Kaka in 2010 where he would attempt to lead his team in South Africa.

Argentina's no.10 is equally as important as the Brazilian one. It was made famous most notably in 1986 by the one and only Diego Maradona, and currently resides with the best player on the planet, Lionel Messi. Between these two great players Ariel Ortega and Juan Roman Riquelme have worn the shirt, both unsuccessfully leading their teams in World Cups.

England's no.9 shirt is seen in England as the goal-scoring shirt. In England, it is the most pressurized shirt because whoever wears the no.9 jersey must score goals for the national team. England have never had a "playmaker" type of player and therefore a big centre-forward is valued more by the public. Players to grace the shirt have been Bobby Charlton in 1966 where he famously lifted the World Cup at Wembley, Gary Lineker throughout the 1980s, Alan Shearer throughout the 1990s, and more recently the shirt has gone from Wayne Rooney to a number of hopeful strikers.

The no.10 shirt is remarkable because it is valued almost everywhere in the world with the same understanding. The understanding that whoever wears the shirt should be the one to fear the most when playing an opponent. France's 10 jersey is no different. The shirt was worn by three-time consecutive Ballon d'Or winner Michel Platini in the 1980s where he famously led France to win the 1984 European Championships, and then later by Zinidine Zidane who scored two vital goals in the 1998 World Cup Final to win the trophy. Karim Benzema is the resident of the shirt nowadays and with the shirt comes titanic pressure.

Although all of these jerseys have substantial reasons to argue that their shirt is the most prolific in the world, it is the Italians who have the most famous shirt in international football.

Roberto Baggio
Roberto Baggio

Roberto Baggio

Roberto Baggio totaled 27 goals in 56 caps for his national team, the fourth-highest of all time for Italy, tied with future successor, Alessandro Del Piero, who managed this tally in 91 appearances. Roberto Baggio is probably the most iconic figure in Italian football history. He played for a number of clubs and publicly stated that he didn't know where he belonged in regards to Italian clubs. He spend five years with Fiorentina between 1985 and 1990 and stated that he loved the club. When he scored against Fiorentina a year after leaving for Juventus he cried, and stated after the match that he "bled purple."

The 1990 FIFA World Cup which was held in Italy was Baggio's real coming out party and when the world stood up to acknowledge his talent. Italy finished in third in that tournament, losing to Diego Maradona's Argentina in the semi-finals.

Baggio then led Italy in the 1994 FIFA World Cup, gracing the no.10 shirt for the Azzuri. He led his team all the way to the final in the United States. He scored two goals against Nigeria in the last sixteen of the competition, more notably a penalty which came in extra-time. He then scored an 88th minute winner against Spain in the quarter-finals to put Italy into the final four, and then added a double against Bulgaria to put his beloved Azzuri into the final. However it would be Baggio that eventually lost the final for Italy. He missed the deciding penalty that saw Brazil lift their fourth World Cup.

Baggio participated for Italy in the 1998 World Cup but by then his role in the first eleven was taken over by his good friend and former Juventus colleague, Alessandro Del Piero. Roberto Baggio retired from football in 2004 where he ended his career with Brescia. The Italian FA gave him one last game in 2004 for Italy where it allowed the whole of Italy to say farewell to the legend.

Alessandro Del Piero
Alessandro Del Piero

Alessandro Del Piero

Alessandro Del Piero, Turin's and Juventus' king. Del Piero, or "King Alex" if your a native of Turin, played 702 times for his beloved Biaccaneri and scored 290 goals for the famous black and white. Evidently he had similar starts to his career with Juventus and Italy. It was his mentor and close friend Roberto Baggio who wore the no.10 for both the Old Lady and the Azzuri, and was the main man and playmaker for both teams. It wasn't until 1995 when Roberto Baggio was sold to Milan that Del Piero made his mark on both Juventus and Italy. In 1996 Juventus won their first European Cup since 1984 where Platini had led his team to European glory. Del Piero was an integral part of the '96 European champions and also became a runner-up in the competition for the following two years; losing to Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid.

With his beloved Juventus Del Piero won 8 Serie titles (two were provoked due to the 2006 scandal) one Coppa Italia and one UEFA Champions League. But what his most prized triumph was winning the 2006 FIFA World Cup with Italy.

Del Piero first participated for Italy in the 1996 European Championships in England but only managed to play 45mins for the Azzuri. In the 1998 World Cup in France, he again had to compete for the "trequartista" role with Roberto Baggio who had regained form with Bologna. However, two years later Del Piero was the main man for Italy when they took part in the European Championships. He helped his team reach the final which they eventually lost to France.

Like his predecessor, Roberto Baggio, Del Piero had to give way to his successor in Euro 2000 to Roma sensation Francesco Totti. During the lead up to 2002 FIFA World Cup Del Piero volunteered to give up his no.10 jersey so that Totti could occupy it and then adopted the no.7 shirt for his remaining years with Italy. This is hugely significant because Del Piero recognised that the no.10 shirt was phenomenally monumental in Italy and that only the best player should wear it.

Del Piero did go on to win the 2006 FIFA World Cup with Italy and scored a memorable extra-time goal against Germany in the semi-final to put his team into the final in Berlin. He also competed for Italy in the 2008 European Championships but now being behind Antonio Di Natale and Luca Toni in attack, he decided to retire after the tournament's end. Del Piero stacked up 91 caps for the Azzuri and scored 27 goals for them, equalling his boyhood hero Roberto Baggio.

Francesco Totti
Francesco Totti

Francesco Totti

Francesco Totti, Mr. AS Roma himself. Born and bred within the walls of Rome, he reached his dream of playing and captaining Roma at a young age. Francesco Totti made his debut for his hometown club Roma at the tender age of 16. In 1998 he became the club captain and therefore began his recognition as the club's and Rome's symbol. It was not until 2000 when Fabio Capello arrived in Rome that Totti became the best "trequartista" of his generation and arguably in the history of Italian football. Totti won his first Scudetto under Capello in 2001, taking the title off bitter city rivals Lazio who had won the league the year before. Totti won Italian Player of the Year in both 2000 and 2001 and the Italian public were urging him to play significant minutes for Italy.

The Italian national team was strong going into the 2000 European Championships, and Alessandro Del Piero led the team where he would play the "trequartista" role for the side. However as the tournament progressed, with Totti's fine performances, he took over the role and Del Piero moved to a more advanced position. Ever since that tournament Totti made the playmaker role his own for the Azzuri.

After the tournament Del Piero voluntarily gave the no.10 shirt to Totti, recognising that he was now Italy's best player. Italy had a poor outing in Euro 2004 but when the 2006 World Cup came about, Italy had one of their strongest ever teams. The team was mostly used up of Juventus and Milan players. Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta, Mauro Cameronesi, and Del Piero were all from the Biaccaneri, and Alessandro Nesta, Andrea Pirlo, and Gennaro Gattuso were all from Milan. Totti was one of four Roma participants in the team, along with veteran Christian Panucci, and midfielders Simeone Perrotta and young Danielle De Rossi. Francesco Totti was outstanding throughout the whole tournament and most notably scored a 95th minute penalty against Australia to win the game in the last sixteen.

After the competition ended, Totti, like many other Italian players, decided to retire from international duty. The Italian pubic were confused because Totti was still in the prime of his career. He stated that he had "nothing else to achieve with Italy" and now wanted to focus on winning trophies with his beloved Roma.

At present, Francesco Totti has made 678 appearances for Roma and scored 282 goals. He is currently the second all-time scorer in the Serie A history with 227 goals and is still one of the best players in the Italian Serie A.

Antonio Di Natale
Antonio Di Natale

Antonio Di Natale

Antonio Di Natale was a late bloomer to the game. He began his career with Empoli but never really had much recognition. He moved to Udinese in 2004, a move which would be influential in his career. He scored 11 league goals in his first season with the black and white and went on to score a lot more. During the past four seasons Di Natale has been deadly in front of goal and has competed for the European golden boot in every season. In 2010 he scored 29 Serie A goals, in the following year he scored 28 goals in all competitions, in 2012 he scored 29 goals in all competitions and last year he managed 26 goals. Considering that Udinese are a mid table team in the Serie A, Di Natale's goal ratio is impeccable.

Di Natale made his Italian debut in 2002 when still playing for Empoli. He made a few appearances in friendly matches in the following years but never implemented himself within the squad. He would be absent for the 2006 World Cup, losing out to Alessandro Del Piero, Luca Toni, Francesco Totti, Vincenzo Iaquinta, Alberto Gilardino and Fillippo Inzaghi. It wasn't until the European Championships in 2008 where Di Natale would come to be recognised as Italy's best player. Del Piero and Toni were also in the squad but it was Di Natale who's shoulders the country's hopes were on.

Italy would lose to eventual champions Spain in the quarter-finals. Di Natale would again be called-upon to to be Italy's playmaker in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. By this time Italy's golden generation had passed and it led to Italy not even progressing through their group. Di Natale decided to retire from Italy after the competition and wanted to concentrate on getting Udinese into Europe. However, when new coach Cesere Prandelli called on Di Natale to represent Italy in the 2012 Euros, Di Natale accepted. He scored a crucial equaliser against Spain a group game and played an integral part in getting Italy to the final. They would eventually lose to Spain 4-0. Di Natale again retired from Italy after the tournament and has yet to put back on an Italian shirt. The World Cup is next year and after Di Natale's 26 goal season last year, it is ludicrous not exercise the idea that he may return one last time.

Sebastian Giovinco
Sebastian Giovinco

The Future?

Last summer, Antonio Cassano, the forgotten prodigy perhaps, wore the no.10 shirt for Italy in the European Championships but is not involved with the current squad at the Confederations Cup. It is unknown who will wear the famous shirt for the Azzuri next summer. All we do know is, whoever wears it, has a great burden on their shoulders. Sebastian Giovinco of Juventus is the current occupier of the shirt for Italy in the Confederations Cup but has yet to implement himself in the first eleven for the blues.

Young playmakers such as Antonio Candreva of Lazio and Lorenzo Insigne of Napoli are candidates for the role next summer but is unlikely that they will bring the same success as their predecessors did.

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