Italian football has always had its fair share of legends. In recent years, the Azzurri have enjoyed the talents of players like Alessandro Del Piero, Andrea Pirlo, Paolo Maldini and Gianluigi Buffon to name but a few. However, a name that is seldom mentioned in the 21st Century is that of Giuseppe Meazza: the pioneer of the Italian game.
The Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, commonly known as San Siro, is named after the Italian forward who built a legacy at Inter Milan before moving to AC Milan followed by Juventus. A young Giuseppe was discouraged from playing football, as its modern riches held no place in 1920s Italy. Football was not perceived to be a worthwhile career, only a pastime that served no financial purpose.
However, Meazza continued with his love for football and would play on the street with a ball made of rags, using only his bare feet. His team of choice was AC Milan, and while the Rossoneri liked his natural footballing talent, they turned down the youngster due to his skinny build. City neighbours Inter were more forgiving towards Meazza’s frame, as he was quickly signed.
Giuseppe Meazza é o maior artilheiro da Inter com 245 gols em 398 jogos. Do elenco atual, Mauro Icardi é o maior artilheiro com 96 gols. pic.twitter.com/TqKDEJwXKD
— Canelada (@Canelada_FC) January 29, 2018
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Meazza’s time at Inter was the highlight of his illustrious career, scoring an incredible 241 goals in 348 games. His footballing genius was not only limited to club level, with the Inter striker maintaining his outstanding goal-scoring trend by bagging 33 goals in 53 appearances for Italy. This was a goalscoring feat that would not be bettered until 1973, when Gigi Riva scored his 34th goal for the Italian national side. Despite the passing of more than five decades since Meazza’s record being broken, ‘Peppe’ Meazza still holds second place.
His skill on the ball would make Lionel Messi blush, as the Italian’s low centre of gravity combined with an incredible agility meant that Meazza could dance through defences whenever he wanted.
Despite his short stature, Meazza was also brilliant in the air, as well as having immense vision and a near-perfect passing ability. While known for his excellent scoring record at both club and international level, Meazza should also be lauded for the amount of goals he provided for his teammates too.
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Even by today’s standards, Meazza could easily be described as one of the best players in the game. However, his off-field antics sometimes hindered his performance. He had a weakness for several vices which meant he would often visit brothels the night before a match, where he would drink heavily. Astoundingly, he was the only Inter player at that time who was permitted to smoke.
His love of alcohol and women landed the striker in hot water on multiple occasions, but his huge talent meant that he could get away with it all. On one occasion, after a night of heavy drinking and sex, Meazza was found by two Inter officials who were told to look for him as he hadn’t shown up to match day preparations.
The staff found Meazza snoring in bed, from which they had to drag him to the stadium where Inter would later play bitter rivals Juventus. This didn’t stop Meazza from scoring a brace however, as he was named Man of The Match in a magnificent display. Clearly, hangovers didn’t affect the footballing legend.
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After thirteen years with Internazionale, Meazza signed for his boyhood team, AC Milan, where he enjoyed a brief stint of two years. Following his time at Milan, Meazza would sign for fellow Italian giants Juventus, where he then went to Varese and Atalanta. Towards the end of his career, Meazza would then return to where it all started at Inter, but it was his first stint at the Nerazzurri where the striker played his best football.
During this time, Meazza won three Scudetti, a Coppa Italia and two World Cups with Italy. These incredible achievements made Meazza a footballing god to people all across Italy, and he was even the first ever player to gain a personal sponsor.
When the time came to hang up his boots, Meazza decided that he would enter the world of managing, where he would manage the club he had achieved such success at after a year managing Atalanta. The former striker even managed Besiktas in Turkey, before returning to Italy to coach Pro Patria and the Italian national side. Like in his playing days, Meazza’s managerial career also ended at Inter, a club he gave so much to, and a club that remembers Meazza as their greatest ever player.
Without doubt, Meazza’s revolutionary approach to football made him the greatest of his era, and he should be remembered as one of the best forwards the world has ever seen. His legacy for Italian football is immense, and as aforementioned, football has given him the honour of being the name of one of sport’s most iconic venues.