Giuseppe “Peppino” Meazza is widely considered to have been one of Italy’s greatest ever footballers, who throughout three decades dazzled and amazed countless numbers of fans with his superb natural skill and deadly finishing. He is remembered with the greatest affection at Inter where his career saw him tally 361 games in which he scored an impressive 243 goals. His memory is immortalised in Milan as the stadium where both Inter and Milan ply their trade is named after him. It was not only at club level where he impressed as his national honours include 33 goals in 53 appearances plus two World Cup victories.
The cocktail that made Giuseppe Meazza so special was best summed up in La Gazzetta dello Sport the day after his debut when they described him as “intelligent, fresh and quick”. He was a natural ball player with sublime skill, who was as mentally in tune with the game as he was physically. However, it was his dribbling ability that he was most revered for, turning defenders inside and out, riding tackles made by defenders who would not think twice about going through him, and shimmying or dummying the goalkeepers who at the time had seen nothing like him before. This brought about nicknames for his style of play due to its popularity – “gol alla Meazza” and “finte alla Meazza” are common sayings for describing goals that involve supreme skill, dummies, fakes and audacious pieces of trickery. The great journalists of the time compared his ability to that of the South Americans claiming no other Italian of the time had such technique and ability to do what Meazza did with the ball.
Italy circa 1934
The man on the pitch was an exaltation of skill and cavalier in his playing style, not only obsessed with the final outcome, but also hell bent on enjoying the path to it. Such a description could also be applied to his personal life in which he is best described as a Libertine. His passion for football was only equaled by his passion for women, wine and song – Meazza’s indiscretions were widely publicized. His was best known for spending the night before a game in a house of disrepute and thought nothing of turning up late and taking liberties with his coaches. In the great Italian World Cup winning teams under Vittorio Pozzo he was the only player allowed to smoke, his talent being used as a bargaining tool in a team with a coach so strict he would meticulously censor their mail. Meazza also loved cabriolet and loved to dance – he would often stay out until the early hours with different women on his arm. However, his performances on the pitch never showed signs of being influenced by his vibrant lifestyle. It has been the case with so many creative geniuses on the pitch that they need to find an outlet in their personal life to give them the same high that they get on the pitch – Meazza was no different.
With all Meazza’s ability it is no surprise that his club career and national career were littered with trophies. He spent 13 years at Inter collecting three league titles in 1930, 1938 and 1940 and a Coppa Italia in 1939. These domestic honours were interspersed with twice winning the greatest accolade of all, the World Cup, which he lifted in both 1934 and 1938. Top scorer three times in Serie A and three times in the Mitropa Cup, Meazza’s goal scoring record was fantastic, often scoring four or five goals in a game – including a hat-trick in the first three minutes against Roma in 1930. While his off field antics occasionally saw him thrust into the limelight for the wrong reasons, his consistency on the field ensured he stayed out of trouble with the club. He once said: “Luckily I lived near the stadium, and I managed to get there in a rush. My teammates and the coach looked at me disapprovingly. It was only five minutes before the kick-off, so I quickly changed and joined the team on the pitch. I could hear the Inter directors saying: ‘We’ll deal with him after the match. We’ll find out what he’s been up to.’ Luckily I scored a hat-trick so afterwards no one said a word!”
He left Inter in 1940 to go to arch rivals Milan where he was a Coppa Italia runner up. He also had spells at Juventus, Varese and Atalanta before returning to end his career at the Nerazzurri as player coach.
Meazza is deservedly revered as one of Italy’s and Europe’s great players. When defining a great player, people often look for national cups and championships to prove that the player had the ability to win at the highest level. He had them in abundance. Others argue that it is a world title that truly defines a “great” player. He had two of those. Finally others have said that it is not silverware but just skill so great that the player becomes an enigma, like a great artist so talented that they do not even understand themselves, leaving a troubled person struggling to cope with the gift they are born with – Giuseppe Meazza was certainly that.
Name: Giuseppe “Peppino” Meazza
Age: Born 12/08/1910, Died 21/08/1979
Position: Inside right, Inside left
Clubs: (Appearances/Goals): Inter 348/245, Milan 37/9, Juventus 27/10, Varese 20/7, Atalanta 14/2, Inter 17/2.
Club level honours: Serie A 1930, 1938 and 1940. Coppa Italia 1939
National honours: FIFA World Cup Winner 1934 and 1938. Dr.Gero Cup Winner 1927/30 and 1933/35
Past Lessons in Calcio
Alessandro Del Piero
Marco van Basten