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Peruzzi at 50: From doping ban to World Cup winner

Published on: 16 February 2020

With Champions League action returning for Juventus in 10 days time, there is probably a generation of supporters unaware of just how important goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi was in their most recent success over two decades ago.

Not only a star component on that triumphant night back in 1996, the man who turns 50 today, was arguably best in his position during the nineties and performed with an incredible level of consistency for nearly 20 years in Serie A. 

Born in Blera in northern Lazio, the Italian started his career with the Biancocelesti’s crosstown rivals Roma during in 1988 and would eventually appear 26 times for the Giallorossi.

However, while a season on loan at Hellas Verona briefly interrupted his Roma career, a bizarre incident back in the capital in October 1990, brought it to a complete stop, when the failing a dope test and banned. Rather than performance enhancing drugs, though, the stocky 20-year-old had been using medication to suppress his appetite.

Although relatively short for a goalkeeper at just under six foot, Peruzzi’s bulky frame often made him appear smaller than he was and eventually acquired the nickname La Cinghialone – The Boar – but was no less agile for his physique.

It certainly did not detract potential suitors and in 1991 he moved to Juventus played six games during the latter stages of the campaign and also headed to the 1992 Olympic Games with Italy. 

Returning from his summer adventure, the talented shotstopper ousted Stefano Tacconi as first-choice and lifted the first silverware of his career. Starting both legs of the 1993 UEFA Cup final and keeping a clean sheet in the second-leg. 

Like Juventus, Peruzzi went from strength-to-strength over the next two years and helped them win their first Scudetto in eight years, as well as the Coppa Italia in 1995. However, missing the final versus Parma, was the first sign that niggling injuries would disrupt and frustrate the custodian. 

Towards the end of the 1994-95 campaign, though, Peruzzi had become a full international and began a period when he was undisputed first-choice for the national team. A disappointing early exit from Euro 96 would be his only major tournament as No.1, but became a World Cup winner a decade later as part of the 23-man squad in Germany a year before retirement. 

A year to forget for Italy, was still one to remember as he became a European champion at club level, saving two penalties in the final and playing a crucial role en route in the Champions League.

The unspectacular way in which Peruzzi went about his task is arguably why some may forget just how good he was throughout that decade and commented in 1995 that, “a great keeper must walk across the line. This way he disheartens the opposing strikers, because he seems to save shots effortlessly.”

With La Cinghialone between the posts the Bianconeri looked unbeatable and became World champions – another clean sheet defeating River Plate in the Intercontinental Cup – before Borussia Dortmund wrecked their hopes of retaining the Champions League. 

More continental disappointment followed, losing a consecutive Champions League final against Real Madrid in 1998, but domestically Juventus dominated. However, with unavailability becoming more frequent and appearing just 25 times during 1998-99, the club brought in Edwin van der Saar.

Scudetto hopefuls Inter swooped in and paid €15 million for his services, but finished a disappointing fourth place and Peruzzi, despite shutting Lazio out in the second-leg at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, was powerless to prevent a Coppa Italia final defeat. 

After one year in Milan, Peruzzi headed back to his birthplace. The Nerazzurri even making a profit when Lazio handed over €20 million and moving home certainly suited the Italian, spending seven seasons in Rome.

His time at Lazio even began with a Suppercoppa Italiana triumph over his former employers, although personally would not have enjoyed conceding three goals in the 4-3 win.

Although double winners in 2000, the reality was that Lazio were embarking on a period of on-pitch mediocrity and off-field instability and Peruzzi was an unused substitute during the only major trophy – 2004 Coppa Italia – secured during his time.

A year before the end of his contract, the veteran announced his intention to retire and was given an emotional farewell versus Parma on the final day of the 2006-07 season. Entering the match to widespread applause and was even named Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year for the third time – despite just 28 appearances.

Few may remember the name as the years pass by, but even fewer will equal Peruzzi for ability and contribution to a golden period for Juventus and Italian football.

Source: forzaitalianfootball.com

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