On 11 July 1982, many of us weren’t yet here. Nevertheless, everyone knows what happened on that date, when, at the Santiago Bernabeu, the Azzurri experienced glory. ‘Mundial’ may be a Spanish word, but, for Italians, it means one thing: 1982. The year that Italy became world champions.
And then there was Pablito, a name coined by Enzo Bearzot. This was what he was known as to everyone: Interisti, Milanisti, Juventini. Paolo Rossi, the man who destroyed a Seleçao side containing the likes of Zico, Socrates and Falcao. A hat-trick at the Sarrià Stadium, Italy 3-2 Brazil. Then there was Italy vs. Poland, another two goals. And finally Italy vs. Germany, he opened the scoring before a certain Altobelli finished things off. “11 July is the birthday of all Italians,” Pablito used to say. As a result of his exploits, Rossi won the Ballon d’Or, the third Italian following Sivori and Rivera to do so. It was what he deserved after such a unique and inimitable feat.
During his club career, he played for Juventus, Como, Lanerossi Vicenza, Perugia, Milan and Verona. A quick thinker on the pitch and blessed with an eye for goal, he was as elegant as he was ruthless.
Paolo Rossi left us yesterday at the age of 64, precisely on a date when he bagged a brace against Inter in 1979. On 9 December 41 years ago, Inter ran out 3-2 winners against Perugia. Two headers from Rossi, wonderful instinct. In describing that encounter, Beppe Viola mentioned how he was on another level. He scored against us on a further two occasions, with these goals coming in a 2-2 Derby draw in 1985.
We say goodbye to him with a photo from that Perugia vs. Inter match, one which was taken three years before Pablito transformed 11 July into the birthday of all Italians.
FC Internazionale Milano, together with Nerazzurri fans across the world, express their deepest condolences for the passing of Paolo Rossi. His family are in our thoughts.