Bologna celebrates today Giuseppe Signori’s birthday. In a town hopeless for Giacomo Bulgarelli’s death, the 41 anniversary of Beppe Gol is just a little good drop in an ocean of sadness. Whilst yesterday thousands of people were crying the departure of the most important champion in the history of the Rossoblu, Signori was just one day shy of his birthday. It has been surely a gloomy coincidence for the one who felt so right with the Bologna side.
But Signori’s tale is not just an Emiliana saga – when Beppe stopped playing in the Italian Serie A championship in 2004, the numbers achieved in his career were as impressive as the love showed by his fans – 20 years of football, 13 of them in the top division, 188 Serie A goals, finishing Capocannoniere three times (1993, 1994 and 1996). Despite this remarkable list of personal achievements, Signori won just one trophy in his two-decade-run through football – it was one Intertoto Cup with his beloved Bologna in 1998. Yet, the striker is 41 and still an unforgettable player for the Lazio and Bologna ultras.
The Imperatore, as he was named by the Lazio fans, was born on February 17, 1968, in Alzano Lombardo. At club level, Signori played for Leffe (1984-86), Piacenza (1986-87 and 1988-89), Trento (1987-88), Foggia (1989-92), Lazio (1992-97), Sampdoria (January-June 1998) and Bologna (1998-2004). After his departure from the “Città delle due torri”, he then had two short experiences abroad – in Greece, in 2004, with Iraklis Thessaloniki, and in October 2005, when he signed a one-year contract with the Hungarian team Sopron.
In 1992, Serie A football was stunned by a fresh and amusing team of young players, led by the new revelation of Coaches. Zdenek Zeman’s Foggia was stealing the headlines of Italian newspapers away from the big clubs, rising up the table with an attacking, attractive way of playing. Beppe Signori was the young, up-and-coming striker in this team. He was a fast, left-footed striker who was immediately appreciated by the tifosi and football critics as well as being a prolific goal scorer. During the first part of his career he was often used as a left-winger, where his accurate crossing and pace were put to good use. When he moved to the Lazio side in 1993, le Aquile fans immediately started to love him. Beppe rewarded their attachment with goals, finishing top of the scoring charts in consecutive seasons in 1993 and 1994. Signori has always had a close involvement with the ultras, at first in the Capital and then in Bologna as well. Both sets of fans loved his professional behaviour on and off the pitch, his strong sense of loyalty to the clubs he joined and obviously his main characteristic – an endless ability to find a way to score.
As with many other great champions – Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli among others – Signori never made his fortune with the national team, mainly because of his disputes with national Tactician Arrigo Sacchi. He played for the Azzurri 28 times, scoring seven goals. The only major tournament Signori played in was the 1994 World Cup, where he set up two crucial goals that allowed Italy to advance towards the dramatic final match against Brazil.
Maybe even more than his goals for the Azzurri or his crucial assists, it is the long quarrel with Sacchi during USA 94 that is still recalled by everyone. The boss wanted him to play as a midfielder – the striker suffered in the position on the pitch and the Italian media partly supported the player in the dispute. The sudden substitution he had after 60 minutes in Italia-Nigeria game has to be remembered – Sacchi took off Beppe Gol instead of the injured Paolo Maldini. Signori left the match shaking his head, followed by the insight of hundreds cameras from all over the world. The final score was 2-1 with Roberto Baggio grabbing the goals, and it proved enough to allow the Coach to maintain his policy. Signori went on playing as a midfielder, in spite of scoring almost fifty goals in the previous two Serie A campaigns with the Capitolini.
The following summer was by no means less turbulent. In 1995 rumours surfaced that he was to be sold by Lazio to Parma – the news caused rioting among the Biancocelesti fans, marching to Via Venato and pressuring management to halt the transfer. President Sergio Cragnotti eventually accepted the pleas to keep Signori in the team, breaking the multi-million-pound deal.
However, it was inevitable that one day Beppe would have to leave the Capital, and just three years later he suddenly moved to Bologna in 1998, where he enjoyed his longest stay at one club. The task was not easy – he had to replace another living legend in Roberto Baggio, who had scored 22 goals in his one amazing year at Bologna. Four years after the troublesome cohabitance at USA 1994, once again the Lombard striker had to face the Codino – not a real one, but the recent, legendary memory of him – the fantasista had been so good to the Felsinei before his unlucky spell at Inter.
In fact, Signori moved to Bologna after a six-month loan to Sampdoria, a town he did not like and a team he did not enjoy playing for. In June 1998 many journalists agreed that Signori was beginning the demise of his career, declaring his best days were behind him.
Everything about that was proved wrong: Signori’s second spell in Bologna was one of the most brilliant chapters of his career, with Beppe Gol and the Rossoblu forming a close bond. During the first three years with the Felsinei, he scored 46 goals – twice reaching 15 for a season (in 1998-99 and 1999-00) and once 16 in only 23 matches (in 2000-01). Just at that time Signori started to play less games, scoring not so much. Anyway he was still deep inside Bologna’s fans mind. When he retired, quite sure to state he had enough from football, his dues with this sport were surely paid.
Today is still a very sad day for Bologna’s ultras, but the remembrance of Beppe Gol on the pitch is a little help in trying to smile anyway.
Past Lessons in Calcio