La Vecchia Signora has always been blessed with good keepers, in the last 25 years or so, you can count the number of starting keepers on one hand. Tacconi, Peruzzi, Van Der Sar, and Buffon. They seem to stretch out by decade, as Tacconi was our starting keeper for most of the 80s, before being replaced by Peruzzi, who would lead us throughout the 90s until leaving for Inter for a season, then finishing his solid career out at Lazio.
Nicknamed Orsone, or “Big Bear” for his built/large frame, Peruzzi was a mainstay of the the golden age of the 90s. Originally from Viterbo, a city about an hour north of Rome, he played in the AS Roma youth team, even being a ballboy at the European Cup final between Roma and Liverpool. After signing professional terms, he spent 3 seasons at Roma, then was sent on loan to Hellas Verona where he performed outstandingly to save the club from relegation. This season earned him a return to Roma, where he did not stay long. Roma’s coach publically called him a fatass in front of all his teammates. In tears, he went to the drugstore to get diet pills/appetite-suppresants which ended up earning him a 12-month ban as it contained a banned substance. (You can learn more about Peruzzi’s weight problems here) Unhappy with Roma’s handling of the situation, he demanded to leave and Juve swooped in to sign him at age 21 as a back-up keeper for the fiery and aging Tacconi. (34) Peruzzi’s start at Juve was not without controversy, Trappatoni made a stunning announcement just one year into his contract that Peruzzi would be Juve’s #1, Tacconi had officially been dumped. Tacconi was furious, and while he stayed until 1994 before transferring to Genoa, Tacconi refused to speak with Peruzzi. Peruzzi would stay with us until 1999.
Italy has a proud heritage of producing of the finest keepers in the world, and Peruzzi was no exception. Despite being a stocky man, (5’11″ ~210 lbs, 15 stone, or 95kg, his teammate Francesco Statuto said in the Roma youth team he used to constantly have candy, salami, and sandwiches hidden in his drawers) Peruzzi was one of the best keepers in the world. His reactions were incredible, and he never hesitated to come flying out to collect the ball. This guy was a brick wall, at his peak he was probably the best keeper in the world. I remember header after header where somehow Peruzzi would instantly react and deflect the shot past the post. Not only was he tremendous at reaction-saves, he was a decent penalty-saver too. With Verona, he saved a spotkick from Roberto Mancini which would have condemned the team to relegation. Lastly, his positioning was damn near perfect. I can’t recall a single game where he was ever caught badly out of position.
Early in his Juventus career, Peruzzi picked up his first European trophy, in the 1992-1993 UEFA Cup. In the two legged final against our former European archrivals Borussia Dortmund, Peruzzi conceded only one goal, keeping Borussia goalless for 178minutes after conceding an early goal. The final, pitting supercoaches Trappatoni against Hitzfeld, finished in a lopsided 6-1, with Dino Baggio hitting 3 goals and Roberto Baggio hitting two past the Germans.
This was not to be his only European trophy, as his greatest year at Juventus was the year of the Champion’s League triumph in 1996, back when it was actually difficult to get into the competition. Despite finishing runner-up to Milan in the Scudetto race, Peruzzi took us all the way back to his home, the Stadio Olimpico, to face European giants Ajax in the Champion’s League final. After 120 minutes finished drawn at 1-1, it was Peruzzi against his eventual successor, Van der Sar in penalties. The first penalty was taken by a young Edgar Davids, who would also join us 2 years later. Peruzzi saved it, as well as Ajax’s 4th penalty. Van der Sar guessed right every single Juventus penalty, but could not save them. Juventus claimed our 2nd European Cup trophy thanks to Peruzzi. He also played in the subsequent 1996 UEFA Supercup where we hammered PSG 9-2 over two legs (1 of the goals was a penalty), setting another record.
With the introduction of the Oscar del Calcio, Peruzzi easily claimed the first two years of title “Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year.” The next years award was won by a young Parma keeper, Gigi Buffon, after Parma finished in 4th, ahead of Juventus, Inter, and Roma. Lippi said farewell to the Bianconeri, and Parma coach Carlo Ancelotti joined the Bianconeri. This was the end of Peruzzi’s long and successful stint with Juventus, as Lippi was hired by Inter after a horrible season for the Nerazzurri. Peruzzi chose to follow Lippi to Inter, and Juventus brought in Edwin Van der Sar as his replacement.
While his Juventus career ended in 1999, it wouldn’t be right to end the posting with it, because his time at Lazio proved him to be just as good of a keeper. Inter had another lackluster year, and trigger-happy President Moratti fired Lippi, which meant Peruzzi had no reason to stay. He chose to move back home, but not to his childhood club Roma, but to their archrivals Lazio. Before anyone should think this was a step down from the likes of Juventus and Inter, Lazio payed a then-world record fee for Peruzzi. These were the Laziale days of Crespo, Veron, Nedved, Nesta, where they won both domestic and European titles under Sven-Goran Eriksson. Peruzzi played a vital role, but Cragnotti soon bankrupted and the team declined under Lotito.
He hung up his gloves last summer at the age of 37, having won every award short of a European Championship. A strong tribute to his longevity was the fact that he won the Oscar del Calcio for best keeper (Buffon was in Serie B) in his last professional season, beating out Frey and the impressive Julio Cesar. Many say Lazio’s inability to replace him was the reason for their disastrous 2007-2008 season.
Unfortunately, like Conte and Tacchinardi, Peruzzi didn’t have the best of luck with the Azzurri as well. In 1998, he was undoubtedly the best keeper in Italy and was the Azzurri’s #1 for the World Cup in France, but suffered an injury that pushed Pagiluca to the fore. He was again supposed to start at Euro2000 ahead of Francesco Toldo but once again was unfortunately injured just before the tournament. Doctors constantly had told him if he lost weight that the injuries would disappear. Unfortunately for him, despite intense pre-season training he would show up overweight, unable to keep it off. Trappatoni, the coach who brought him to Juventus, later called him to WC 2002 but Peruzzi famously refused. Lippi, another Italy coach who previously led him at Juventus called him up for WC 2006 as the 2nd keeper. He did not play, but all the Azzurri teammates praised him as one of the “secrets to their success.”
The reason I write about Peruzzi is he was a very interesting player, and during the time I grew up he was the Juventus and Italy #1. (of sorts) Angelo was not a bomb-thrower nor a boring interviewer, he would tell the truth about situations as he saw them. By all accounts, he’s always been a very friendly guy, nearly the opposite of Tacconi. But because of his unfortunate experiences with the Azzurri, we don’t usually remember him as the great keeper that he was.
Ciao, Angelo. Hope you are enjoying retirement.