The 1990s were a glorious time for Serie A in various ways. The league became a home to the world’s best players, witnessing significant investments from clubs. AC Milan under Fabio Capello and Marcello Lippi’s Juventus left an indelible mark on the continent. Amid defensive plays dominating, creative players struggled for attention, but the era birthed not one, but two iconic fantasista in the form of Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero.
The Emergence of Fantasista: Francesco Totti and Del Piero
Francesco Totti’s love for Roma and admiration for Giuseppe Giannini, ‘The Prince’ of Giallorossi in the 1980s, set the stage for his dream to follow in Giannini’s footsteps. On the other hand, Alessandro Del Piero, initially a goalkeeper, transitioned to become a key player for Juventus after starting in Serie B. Both made their debuts in the early ’90s, with Totti joining Roma in 1989 and Del Piero donning the black and white of Juventus in 1993.
Del Piero: His Journey and Baggio’s Influence
Del Piero’s career intertwined with fate, influenced by the Baggio duo—Roberto, the ultimate fantasista, and Dino, a hardworking midfielder. And then, Del Piero’s breakthrough came when circumstances favored him due to Roberto Baggio’s injuries. He inherited the number 10 jersey from Baggio, forming a dynamic attacking trio with Vialli and Ravanelli that secured Juventus’ 1996 Champions League victory.
Del Piero with Dynamic Style and Totti with Elegance
Del Piero’s bustling energy contrasted sharply with Totti’s languid elegance. While Del Piero’s style demanded quick decision-making and smart movements, Totti’s emotional dedication to Roma was manifested in a more relaxed demeanor. Under Zdeněk Zeman, Totti evolved into a prolific scorer, succeeding Giannini with the coveted number 10 shirt and achieving double-digit goals in successive seasons.
National Team Rivalry
Internationally, both iconic number 10s faced competition within the Italian national team. Totti’s early success at Euro 2000, including a memorable penalty goal against the Netherlands, contrasted with Del Piero’s missed chances in the final against France. Yet, both played pivotal roles in Italy’s 2006 World Cup triumph, igniting debates about their respective greatness.
Legacy of Loyalty and Different Styles
Del Piero’s journey from the Veneto to becoming a Juventus legend, overcoming adversities, and even staying with the club during the calciopoli scandal, contrasts with Totti’s unwavering loyalty to Roma, playing six years beyond expectations. And then, Del Piero’s predatory striker style differs from Totti’s free-roaming approach, symbolizing the varied artistry of Italian football.
Two Fantasisti, One Era
The years when Totti and Del Piero graced the pitch showcased the art of Italian football. As the defensive and attacking dichotomy was challenged, these two fantasisti entertained audiences, debunking doubts about having two in the same era. Finally, Totti and Del Piero, each with their unparalleled styles, systematically crafted illustrious careers, proving their greatness in the beautiful game.