The 20 Best Serie A Players of the 1990s - Ranked

Oct 27, 2020, 11:45 AM GMT
Ronaldo, Roberto Baggio
Ronaldo and Roberto Baggio | Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images
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1990s Serie A is the best, and most littered with superstars, football league there has ever been ever.

And no, that's not an exaggeration. It's a fact.

To prove that, here's some of the footballers who didn't make 90min's list of the 20 best Serie A players of the 1990s:

Lothar Matthäus, Dennis Bergkamp, Gheorghe Hagi, Frank Rijkaard, Rudi Voller, Gianfranco Zola, Careca, Giuseppe Bergomi, Walter Zenga, Enrico Chiesa, Hernan Crespo, Antonio Benarrivo, Oliver Bierhoff, Vincenzo Montella, Antonio Conte, Didier Deschamps, Christian Vieri, Dario Hubner, George Weah.

Impressive eh?

So now let's take a look at who did make the cut:

20. Francesco Totti

By Max Cooper

Francesco Totti grew up dreaming of pulling on the red and yellow jersey of AS Roma, scoring goals in front of the Curva Sud, and giving silverware to the loyal Romanisti of Italy's capital. He never contemplated joining a Premier League giant, switching Rome for Madrid or becoming a global icon.

He just wanted to play football for Roma. And he did. For 25 years. Of course, he was one of the greatest players to walk the earth, and a wander through the cobbled streets of the most beautiful city on the planet will endorse this theory.

Read Max Cooper's article on Francesco Totti here.

19. Rui Costa

By James Cormack

Rui Costa was your archetypal number ten. Remarkably elegant in possession, equally adept at gliding past challenges and penetrating opposition defences with the most intricate of through balls, while his futsal roots meant he was the master of tight spaces.

From the greasy hair to the tape under the knee, the rolled down socks to the half tucked-in shirt, Rui Costa was the embodiment of the beauty of calcio in the 1990s.

Read James Cormack's article on Rui Costa here.

18. Gianluigi Buffon

By Max Cooper

Gianluigi Buffon is a household name in football. If you've held any minimal interest in the sport over the past 30 years, then you'll have heard of the big Italian. An imperious, commanding goalkeeper with a booming voice and baseball catching mitts, Gigi is largely heralded as the greatest shot-stopper of his generation.

Many others believe he is the best goalkeeper in football history. In fairness, it's easy to see why. A 2006 World Cup winner and a Euro 2000 finalist with Italy, a 10-time Serie A champion, plus three Champions League silver medals, Buffon has been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

Read Max Cooper's article on Gianluigi Buffon here.

17. Juan Sebastian Veron

By Jack Gallagher

Despite what happened in England during his time there and how much that failure has shrouded his career, those memories of a young Veron on the peninsula steaming through midfield, chipping 50 yard passes over the top of defences to Crespo and firing free kicks into the top corner of the net, still permeate through.

And no matter how many times he's been labelled a 'flop' by English football aficionados, one simple fact remains:

Juan Sebastian Veron was a f**king great player.

Read Jack Gallagher's article on Juan Sebastian Veron here.

16. Fabio Cannavaro

By Ross Kennerley

While his success in the following century would define his worldwide legacy, his path before that legendary night in Berlin had already begun many moons before. Cannavaro is not only one of the greatest of his era, but indeed of all time. A centre-back who encapsulated all of the traits we know to associate with Italian football, but all with his own unique approach.

One of the very best - well, sixth, to be precise - he will always be remembered for an unwavering dedication to his craft, one he damn well mastered.

Read Ross Kennerley's article on Fabio Cannavaro here.

15. Giuseppe Signori

By James Cormack

Giuseppe Signori stole the hearts of the Rossoblu faithful through his magical play style and the iconic one-step spot-kick technique among other prolific idiosyncrasies.

67 goals for Bologna took his Serie A total up to 188, which currently places him joint-ninth on the list of all-time scorers in calcio history, ahead of other goalscoring luminaries such as Batistuta, Mancini and Inzaghi.

In a revolutionised, attack-friendly Serie A, Signori flourished.

Read James Cormack's article on Giuseppe Signori here.

14. Ciro Ferrara

By Grey Whitebloom

The firm but fair Ferrara has no shortage of admirers throughout the game's greatest forwards, with the likes of Zbigniew Boniek, Ryan Giggs and the legendary Brazilian striker Ronaldo among those to have named him one of the toughest defenders they have ever faced.

Ferrara was a dependable and dexterous stalwart for two of Italy's giants at the peak of their powers, in a wonderful career spanning three decades.

Read Grey Whitebloom's article on Ciro Ferrara here.

13. Ruud Gullit

By Max Cooper

Gullit was immensely talented all over the pitch, in a variety of different positions, and his flexibility and versatility made him a glorious player to witness in full flow.

He simply had an unrivalled understanding of the sport. His education of the game allowed him to occupy any role on the pitch, and he could adapt seamlessly to his new surroundings. His reading of the game was second to none, and his ability to be in the right place at the right time was unparalleled.

Read Max Cooper's article on Ruud Gullit here.

12. Lilian Thuram

By Tom Gott

By the time 1996 came around, Calisto Tanzi had become obsessed with winning Serie A. Nevio Scala was sacked and replaced by Carlo Ancelotti, and the pair embarked on a shopping spree which brought plenty of new players to the club.

Ancelotti was influential in the transfer market and chose to pursue a move for a player he had watched closely during France's run to the semi-final of Euro 1996, right-back Lilian Thuram.

Thuram had caught the eye that summer. He was a tall, powerful and athletic player who boasted the technical grace and elegance which was rarely seen from defenders back then. He could tackle with the best of them and then embark on an unstoppable run down the right flank.

Read Tom Gott's article on Lilian Thuram here.

11. Gianluca Vialli

By Ross Kennerley

A leader on and off the pitch, his workmanlike approach and total commitment resulted in further on-field success. Operating across the front line in Turin, a keen eye for the spectacular saw him score a variety of acrobatic goals.

Someone who balanced class and grit in equal measures was sure to win over supporters in no time. Scudetti, Coppa Italia's and Supercoppa Italiana's helped, too. Yet his crowning achievement would come in 1996 where he captained I Bianconeri to Champions League glory against Ajax. Juve's outrageously good front line was spearheaded by Vialli, who would play his final match for the club that night.

Read Ross Kennerley's article on Gianluca Vialli here.

10. Alessandro Nesta

By Ross Kennerley

Starting out his career in the mid-90s with Lazio, further north, the finest Italian centre back the world has ever seen was coming to the end of his iconic career. Franco Baresi had dominated Serie A during his time at AC Milan, leaving behind a one of a kind legacy that would never be matched.

Nesta would come pretty darn close, though.

Read Ross Kennerley's article on Alessandro Nesta here.

9. Zinedine Zidane

By Ross Jackson

While Zidane would go on to achieve his goal of European success with Los Blancos and would ultimately become a Real legend, his time at Juventus will forever be the greatest period of his career for football romantics.

The glorious Juve kits of the 90s, the Zizou hairline still just about intact, the youngster pirouetting his way past some of the best defenders in the world.

There’s just something about the Old Lady and Zidane that felt right.

Read Ross Jackson's article on Zinedine Zidane here.

8. Marco van Basten

By Max Cooper

Football is a game of dreams, surrounded by the crippling nightmares of reality. One man who basked in the highest of heights and clung onto the faintest of hopes was Marco van Basten. One of the most talented and revered footballers of the 80's and early 90's, the Dutch striker's career was cruelly cut short by a devastating ankle problem at the age of 31.

To add to this pain, the Milan star didn't take to the field for I Rossoneri in the two seasons prior to his retirement, holding out hope that he could relive and replicate his greatest moments one last time.

Unfortunately, Van Basten never did recover to fulfil his destiny on the pitch, and while we are left with the bitter sensation of 'what might have been', we can draw from our experiences as football fans and be grateful for the glimpses of genius we did see from this mercurial striker.

Read Max Cooper's article on Marco van Basten here.

7. Roberto Mancini

By James Cormack

The mercurial brilliance of the generation's finest, Roberto Baggio, at a time when Mancini was reaching the peak of his powers - combined with his underperformance for the national team - meant the Sampdoria hero's career almost went under the radar. The emergence of supremely gifted trequartisti Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti once Mancini's powers started to fade also added further cloud to his career in a broader context.

But what can't be denied was the Italian's perfect - and unprecedented - blend of leadership and innovation from a player of his position. He was a rare breed and an icon in Liguria.

Read James Cormack's article on Roberto Mancini here.

6. Alessandro Del Piero

By Ross Kennerley

Juventus are littered with club legends. Players who've either been and gone or stayed there their whole careers, their Hall of Fame is well stocked.

Picking any one of those to be the face of the club is an unenviable task, but there is one name who unwittingly has made himself 'Mr Juventus': Alessandro Del Piero...not that any such title actually exists.

Read Ross Kennerley's article on Alessandro Del Piero here.

5. Ronaldo

By Max Cooper

Ronaldo may be more globally acclaimed for his spells with Spain's heavyweights, and his international heroics at the World Cup 2002 will allow him his deserved place within the Brazilian history books.

But Italy can sleep soundly at night, safe in the knowledge that they witnessed - even if all too briefly - the greatest striker in football history at his unadulterated best.

Read Max Cooper's article on Ronaldo here.

4. Franco Baresi

By James Cormack

Nicknamed 'Kaiser Franz' later on his career in homage to Beckenbauer, Baresi truly was a 'regen' of the German legend. His knack of stifling some of the world's elite attacking talent and the admirable elegance at which he went about this concept of 'defending' remains the benchmark over two decades since his retirement.

Playing in a division and for a country revered for churning out generational defensive talent seemingly year-on-year, Franco Baresi consistently stood out among the rest.

Read James Cormack's article on Franco Baresi here.

3. Gabriel Batistuta

By Max Cooper

His relentless consistency and brilliance was unheard of at Italy's top level, and he would hit double figures in every season while wearing the iconic purple jersey. Batistuta had reached a deific status, as the Angel Gabriel Omar became the patron saint of Firenze.

Not very heavenly however, was his trademark celebration. The Argentine regularly unfurled an air-machine gun upon inflicting the fatal wound, spraying imaginary bullets with glee over the pain he had inspired.

A beautiful angel with a machine gun. Just your regular hero.

Read Max Cooper's article on Gabriel Batistuta here.

2. Paolo Maldini

By Charlie Stewart

Five European Cups, seven Scudetti, one Coppa Italia, two gorgeous green eyes - Paolo Maldini has it all.

Renowned for his composure, class, ability on the ball, leadership, and incredible footballing brain, Maldini is widely regarded as one of the best defenders to ever play the game, both as a centre-back and on the left.

Read Charlie Stewart's article on Paolo Maldini here.

1. Roberto Baggio

By Max Cooper

There is so much to say about Baggio, and with all the words in the universe, it's hard to select the right ones. After all, we can never be as gifted as the man himself at emptying our mind onto a blank canvas.

Statistics and hard, quantitative data will never do him justice. That's what makes him so glorious.

Like a work of art, you can't break it down into cold facts and pluck 'the right answer'. You can simply gaze upon it, admire its beauty, and accept that its existence on this universe is impressive enough.

Read Max Cooper's article on Roberto Baggio here.

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