Paolo Rossi was an Italian professional footballer who played as a forward. In 1982, he led Italy to the 1982 FIFA World Cup title, scoring six goals to win the Golden Boot as top goalscorer, and the Golden Ball for the player of the tournament.
Born: September 23, 1956, Prato, Italy
Died: December 9, 2020, Rome, Italy
Height: 1.78 m
Spouse: Federica Cappelletti (m. 2010–2020)
Children: Alessandro Rossi, Sofia Elena Rossi, Maria Vittoria
Awards: Ballon d’Or, FIFA World Cup Golden Ball, Milliyet Sports Award for World Athlete of the Year
After the 1982 World Cup, Paolo Rossi continued to play with Juventus. During the 1982–83 season, Juventus finished second in Serie A, although he helped the club to win the 1983 Coppa Italia, scoring five goals. He also helped Juventus to reach the 1983 European Cup final, only to lose out to Hamburg; he finished the tournament as the top scorer, with six goals. During the 1983–84 season, Paolo Rossi won his second Scudetto title with the club, notably scoring 13 goals, also helping the club to win the 1983–84 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, followed by the 1984 UEFA Super Cup. During his final season with the club, Paolo Rossi finally won the European Cup in 1985, finishing the tournament with 5 goals, behind only teammate Michel Platini, and Torbjörn Nilsson, with 7 goals.
After his stint with Juventus, he moved on to a then struggling Milan for a season in 1985. During his time with Milan, he was remembered for his two-goal performance against Internazionale in a Milan derby match. Paolo Rossi was also selected in Italy’s squad for the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, but did not play in the competition; an injury caused him to struggle during the team’s fitness tests, owing to the high altitude of the region. As a result, he was replaced by Giuseppe Galderisi up-front in the team’s starting line-up. He made his final appearance for Italy on 11 May 1986, in a 2–0 friendly home win over China in Naples. He ended his club career at Hellas Verona during the 1986–87 season, helping them to a fourth-place finish in Serie A, before retiring at the end of the season. He was involved in real estate, together with his former teammate Giancarlo Salvi.
Rossi in 2007
Paolo Rossi scored a total of 20 goals in 48 senior international caps for Italy. Undoubtedly, his most important goal was the winner against Brazil in the 1982 World Cup which completed a famous hat trick and enabled the Azzurri to advance to the semi-finals at the expense of the South Americans. Rossi further represented Italy in the 1991 edition of the World Cup of Masters, scoring in the third place play-off against Uruguay. Rossi is currently Italy’s joint all-time top goalscorer in the FIFA World Cup, with nine goals in 14 appearances over two editions of the tournament, alongside Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri. Six of his World Cup goals came in seven appearances during Italy’s passage to triumph in 1982, and three of his goals came in seven appearances during the 1978 tournament, when Italy finished in fourth place.
Pelé named Paolo Rossi as one of the top 125 greatest living footballers in March 2004; during the same year, Rossi placed 12th in the UEFA Golden Jubilee poll.
In August 1990, he was named vice-president of Lega Pro Prima Divisione club A.S. Pescina Valle del Giovenco.
Following his retirement he also worked as a pundit for Sky, Mediaset Premium, and Rai Sport.
Paolo Rossi died on 9 December 2020, at the age of 64, from lung cancer. Paolo Rossi left behind his second wife, Federica Cappelletti, and three children.
Paolo Rossi became a household name after leading the Azzurri to victory at the tournament in Spain, finishing as top scorer and being named best player.
At club level he first came to prominence as a prolific scorer for Vicenza, earning a move to Juventus and later playing for AC Milan.
His death was announced on Thursday, following what Italian media report had been a long illness.
Paolo Rossi’s wife Federica Cappelletti posted a picture of them together on social media with the words “Per sempre” (“forever”).
She did not disclose the cause of his death.
Paolo Rossi scored 20 goals in 48 appearances for the Italian national side, and more than 100 Serie A goals during spells with Vicenza, Perugia, Juventus, Milan and Verona.
Following his performances at the 1982 World Cup, he was awarded the Ballon d’Or which at the time was given to the European footballer of the year.
After retiring from football in the late 1980s, Paolo Rossi worked as a pundit for Sky, Mediaset and Rai.
The Italian football federation (FIGC) said flags would fly at half-mast at its headquarters in Rome and its technical centre in Florence.
“Pablito’s passing away is another moment of deep pain, a wound to the heart of all fans that is difficult to heal,” said FIGC president Gabriele Gravina.
“We’ve lost a friend and an icon of Italian football.
“In spurring the national team on to success in 1982, he had Italians celebrating in squares across the country, both for him and with him.
“He indelibly tied his name to the Azzurri and, through his style of play, inspired numerous strikers of future generations.”
A statement from Vicenza, who Paolo Rossi helped win promotion to Serie A in 1977, said: “Sometimes there are simply no words to express the pain we are all experiencing.”
Milan, where he played in the 1985-86 season, said Paolo Rossi would “forever be in our memory”.
Iconic Paolo Rossi part of Italian history
Italy’s triumph sparked an outpouring of emotion back home, providing national unity and joy at a time when the country was beset by political and social unrest.
Those images of Paolo Rossi and his team-mates becoming world champions will forever be ingrained in the country’s culture, says Italian journalist Daniele Verri.
“We are all shocked here because Paulo Rossi is such an iconic figure for Italian football,” Verri told BBC World Service.
“He is part of Italian history that goes beyond football.
“For those who were lucky enough to see him play in the 1982 World Cup we cannot ever forget what he did.
“The images of Spain 82 are part of Italian culture.”