Christian Vieri's list of football honours clearly falls short of what his talent deserves. But this fiery character who for so long lacked stability has found his spiritual home at Internazionale, where he has been lethal weapon number one for the last six seasons.
"Of course it's a minor satisfaction to have got my 100th goal, but it's a shame it wasn't accompanied by a well-deserved victory. What matters most is not me scoring but that Inter win," insisted Vieri earlier this month, after his goal in a draw with Parma (2-2) saw him enter the club's annals.
His coach, Roberto Mancini, backed up the striker's claim. "I'm sure that he would have preferred not to score but to win the game. That's a side of the man that's not sufficiently well known, but his goalscoring figures speak volumes about the kind of career he's had. What's more, I have no doubt that Christian will score many more goals in an Inter shirt."
Vieri is very much singing from the same hymn sheet. "I've still got ten months left on my Inter contract and I see my future here. So far, I've had six intense years and have a very strong bond with the players, the fans and the directors," emphasises Vieri, who launched his love affair with Inter in typical swashbuckling style with a hat trick against Verona on 29 August 1999.
A goal every 106 minutes
And he has continued to come up with the goods ever since. In 1999/2000, for example, he bagged 13 goals in 19 appearances, then the following season, he scored 18 in 27, nine of them winners. In 2001/02, he boosted his average by netting 22 times in 25 encounters, including five braces, but it was in 2002/03 that he had his finest season to date in an Inter shirt with 24 goals in 23 games, a staggering rate of a goal every 78 minutes over a whole season. In 2003/04, his average fell slightly (13 in 22 matches), but six of his strikes were still decisive. As for this season, he has currently registered 11 goals in 19 matches, an extremely healthy tally, particularly when combined with his twelve goals garnered in Inter's European campaign. But it is his overall record in Serie A that is most impressive: 100 goals in 134 games, or one every 106 minutes, 43 of them match-winners, a prolific rate that is all the more formidable for being spread over six seasons.
"Bobo" Vieri's own personal favourite is a spectacular effort in his first season with Inter in 1999, also against Parma, when he dispatched a left foot shot on the turn that rocketed into the roof of the net past then Parma keeper Gianluigi Buffon, who remembers it to this day.
A complete athlete
Perhaps more than any other player, Vieri needs to be 100% fit in order to do himself justice by unleashing his trademark explosive force. This season, therefore, he has had to make some tough sacrifices to get back to peak condition after beginning the campaign while still nursing a knee injury. Misunderstood by a section of the public as he struggled to rediscover the route to goal, Vieri needed all of Mancini's diplomacy to help him get back on his feet. "But I'm young, I still have a lot of room for improvement. And what's more, I still need to lose two or three kilos," was the self-deprecating quip from the player who, before settling in Milan, got through a staggering nine clubs between 1989 and 1999. This wanderlust seems to run in the family, as his father, Roberto Vieri, was a highly skilled attacker whose career took in spells with Juventus, Roma, Bologna and Fiorentina.
Today, "Bobo" is quite rightly regarded as one of the best strikers in the world. Immensely strong physically and athletically prodigious (he does 30 metres in 3.9 seconds and 3,100 metres in 12 minutes), Serie A's top striker (129 goals) boasts a powerful and precise left foot, allied with awesome aerial prowess.
Having bounced back from the disappointment of the Squadra Azzurra's ill-fated FIFA World Cup Japan/Korea 2002™ and Euro 2004 campaigns, the Inter striker is determined to do everything in his power to remain at the top for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™.
Vieri fact file
Date of birth: 12 July 1973
1m85 - 82 kg
Current club: Inter Milan
European Super Cup Winner's Medal in 1996 (Juventus)
Winner of the Cup Winners' Cup in 1999 (Lazio)
Italian Championship Winner's Medal in 1997 (Juventus)
Top scorer in Spanish Championship in 1998 (Athletico Madrid)
Top scorer in Italian Championship in 2003 (Inter Milan)
Italian Cup Finalist in 2000 (Inter Milan)
1st match in Serie A: Torino - Fiorentina: 2-0 on 15/12/1991
1st cap: Italy - Moldova: 3-0 on 29/03/1997
89-90 Prato (Serie C1), 90-91 Torino, 91-92 Torino, 92-93 (Nov) Torino, 92-93 Pisa (Serie B), 93-94 Ravenna (Serie B), 94-95 Venice (Serie B), 95-96 Bergamo, 96-97 Juventus, 97-98 Athletico Madrid (Spain), 98-99 Lazio, Inter Milan since 1999-2000.