Giuseppe Meazza - Italy's best all-round footballer

In his heyday he was schemer, orchestrator and marksman in one: a player in a class of his own.

Giuseppe Meazza (left) and Hungary captain Gyorgy Sarosi shake hands before the start of the World Cup final in June 1938.   -  AFP

Giuseppe Meazza (born August 23, 1910) is regarded to this day as the best all-round footballer Italy has ever known. In his heyday he was schemer, orchestrator and marksman in one: a player in a class of his own. The San Siro stadium in Milan was renamed "Stadio Giuseppe Meazza' in his honour.

At the age of 17, his outstanding talent had already secured him a place in the top team of Ambrosiana-Inter Milan. In 1930 his club won the first Pan-Italian championship. With 31 goals under his belt Meazza attained the title of top marksman, as well as a great deal of the credit for his club's success. On February 9 of the same year, he played his first international against Switzerland in Rome, a debut which he aptly celebrated by scoring two goals.

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In his 20-year career "Peppino" followed Silvio Piola and the Swede, Gunnar Nordahl, to become the third best scorer in Italy. In 367 championship games, he scored 197 goals for Ambrosiana-Inter, nine for AC Milan and 10 for Juventus Turin - a total of 216 goals, which makes an average of 0.58 per match.

Continuing in the same vein as in 1930, he landed the top marksman title again in 1936 and 1938. During his time with Ambrosiana-Inter they won the championship title twice (1930 and 1938) and chalked up a Cup victory in 1939. In tandem with team-mate Allemandi, Meazza proved to be a boon to the Italian squad when they won the first World Championship in Italy in 1934. Four years later at the 1938 World Championship in France, Pozzo had to build a virtually entirely new team around the only surviving old hands, "Peppino" and Giovanni Ferrari.

 

Meazza was appointed skipper and Silvio Piola was shaped into a famous striker at his side. Victories against Norway (in extra time), France and Brazil, led Italy yet again into the final where they successfully defended their World Championship title against Hungary. The presentation of the trophy by France's President Albert Lebrun, was Meazza's moment of glory.

He had notched up a total of 53 international caps and 33 goals for his country – an Italian record that remained intact right up to the '70s when it was finally broken by the Sardinian, Gigi Riva. Towards the end of his career, Meazza donned the colours of Varese and Atalanta Bergamo before returning for his last season in 1946/47 to Inter Milan. He subsequently worked as a coach and mainly, as a sports reporter. Giuseppe Meazza died on August 21, 1979 just two days before his 69th birthday.

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