Calcio had long been crammed with defensive hardmen. Luis Monti, Giorgio Ferrini, Tarcisio Burgnich, Claudio Gentile, Fulvio Collovati shook fear into opponents, while Italy had infamously engaged in wars such as ‘The Battle of Highbury’ and ‘The Battle of Santiago’.
Juventus recruited its latest brute in 1973. They called him Claudio Gentile. He was anything but gentile, the Italian word for ‘gentle’, crunching foes ruthlessly and regularly.
The following year La Vecchia Signora signed a beauty to accompany its beast. Gaetano Scirea, whom they lured from Atalanta, would become one of the classiest footballers in history. A sweeper who read the game impeccably, possessed the touch of a trequartista and sauntered effortlessly into midfield to launch attacks. The Lombardy native began 1974/75 on the *Bianconeri *bench but was quickly promoted to the starting XI. Juventus kept a clean sheet on his debut against Varese, and would only concede one goal in Scirea’s first seven Serie A games.
The Turin heavyweights finished the season as champions. It was the first of seven *Scudetti *Scirea would seize during 14 years as a Juve player, during which time he made 552 appearances – a record that lasted until broken by Alessandro Del Piero decades later. Scirea also remains one of only five men to have won the Intercontinental Cup, European Cup/UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, UEFA Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, alongside Antonio Cabrini, Sergio Brio, Stefano Tacconi and Danny Blind.
Scirea also excelled for Italy, winning 78 caps and playing an indispensable role in their 1982 FIFA World Cup™ triumph. Remarkably, in around 700 professional appearances, he never once received a red card.
“He was one of the greatest players in history,” recalled Dino Zoff, his long-time Juventus and Italy team-mate. “The most graceful player I have ever seen. He had the skill of a playmaker. He could do everything. There will never be another of his kind.”
Scirea quit playing in 1988 but didn’t quit his beloved Juventus, assuming the role of club scout. Twenty-five years ago to this Wednesday, while checking out upcoming opponents Gornik Zabrze in Poland, he was tragically killed in a car accident.
Scirea’s life may have spanned only 36 years, but his legend will live on infinitely.