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  • Writer's pictureSimon Basten

Giuseppe Signori

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

There is no doubt that Beppe Signori was the Lazio hero of the 1990s. He is one of the best goal scorers of all time, an exciting player who had power in his shot, speed and football intelligence.


Source Wikipedia

Born in Alzano Lombardo on February 17, 1968, he began playing football in the youth teams of Inter and turned professional in 1984 at just 16 when he started playing for Leffe in Serie D and then in Serie C2. In 1986 he signed for Piacenza in C1 but did not play much and the following year went to Trento where he played 40 games. Back at Piacenza in 1988-89 he debuted in Serie B.


This is where his life changed. Foggia manager Zdenek Zeman had already seen him play at Trento and when he signed for Foggia in 1989 he asked President Pasquale Casilio to sign Signori. Beppe often mentions his first meeting with the Czech. “When I first saw him he waved and said Hi Bomber. But I was a number 10, not a goal scorer”. Zeman had the magnificent ability to read a football player. He could already tell that Signori was going to be a goal scorer even if Signori had never even contemplated the idea.


In that team, Signori would start playing with his right-wing counterpart, Roberto Rambaudi and also meet two former Lazio players, Francesco Fonte and Mauro Meluso. The team struggled at first but in the second half of the season they flew. Beppe-gol scored 14 goals.


In the second year Foggia destroyed all opposition and returned to Serie A after 13 years. The forward trio Rambaudi-Baiano-Signori created havoc in Serie B (the trio would score 15, 22 and 11 goals respectively), as they did in Serie A the following year (10-18-11) when Foggia just missed out on an incredible UEFA Cup qualification. At this point Casilio put most of the squad up for sale. It was time to cash in.


In 1992 Lazio had an ownership changeover. The new owner of the club Sergio Cragnotti had ambition and money so he invested in a number of players. In came four protagonists of Italy’s Under-21 national team – Mauro Bonomi, Dario Marcolin and Beppe Favalli from Cremonese plus Luca Luzardi from Brescia – as well as more experienced players such as Roberto Cravero from Torino, Diego Fuser from Milan and Aron Winter from Ajax. Cragnotti needed a star player and that was Paul Gascoigne who had been signed by the previous Lazio owner, Gianmarco Calleri, but due to a bad injury in his last game for Tottenham, had been out for a year.


Cragnotti had been unable to convince Ruben Sosa to stay with Lazio. The Uruguayan signed for Inter and Lazio needed a substitute. In came Beppe Signori.


His first goal for Lazio came on his debut. On August 26, 1992, Lazio played at Ascoli in Coppa Italia and won 4-0. He scored Lazio’s third goal, on a penalty with his classic way of taking them, that is with no run up. Nobody had ever seen a player shoot a penalty with no run up before. He also scored in the return match and then in the first game in Serie A he scored two, in the second he scored again, as he did in his third, in his fifth he scored a hat trick, scored one in the sixth, the seventh … Beppe Signori scored time and time again, 32 that season, 26 in 32 games in Serie A and 6 out of 6 in Coppa Italia. What a player, unstoppable. A new Arne Selmosson.


His third goal against Inter in December 1992 is a classic. He received the ball in Lazio’s half, ran towards the centre of the pitch followed by Beppe Bergomi, once he was 40 metres from the goal, he turned left again, ran past Nicola Berti, got in the penalty box on the left and with a precise left foot shot beat the goalkeeper. What a goal. Even Ruben Sosa, who was in the stands, had to admire Signori and probably thought that Lazio had substituted him with a much better player.


Lazio came fifth and secured a UEFA Cup qualification. Signori also started playing for the Nazionale


In his second year, Beppe was injured for quite a few games so he only scored 23 times in Campionato. In 24 appearances. Lazio came fourth but the European adventure was short lived and Signori failed to score. Scoring in European competitions for Lazio would be a problem for Beppe.


In the 1994-95 season Cragnotti decided to hand over the team to Signori’s footballing father, Zeman. This meant that Beppe would probably have less scoring opportunities since he would have to cover the left flank slightly more than what he was used to under Dino Zoff. He did not play as much due to injury and scored slightly less than usual even if Lazio scored 98 goals in all competitions. Lazio came second, a long way away from champions Juventus but all in all it was a very good season.


Cragnotti thought that the summer transfer window of 1995 was the last opportunity to sell Signori for a large profit. Beppe Signori was sold to Parma for 25 billion lire plus Dino Baggio and Pippo Inzaghi. Lazio needed money so when the Parma President Calisto Tanzi, looking to make his team stronger, made the offer, Cragnotti saw no reason to say no. The rest of the world did however say no. Firstly, the fans who organised a demonstration. 5000 people took to the streets to show their lack of appreciation for the deal. Secondly, the banks said that they would cover the debts if the deal did not go through. Thirdly President Zoff underlined all the technical problems that would have occurred if the deal did go through. Lastly, Beppe Signori said no. So Signori stayed.


Signori’s response to this was to be the leading Italian goal scorer (together with Igor Protti) for the 1995-96 season with 24 goals. Lazio did not do as well in Zeman’s second year but managed to arrive third at the end of the season. Signori also scored his first European goal, a penalty in the first round of the UEFA Cup in Lazio’s 5-0 win over Omonia Nicosia.


The 1996-97 season was a difficult one. Zeman was sacked in January. The team seemed to be fed up with him and were not following the Czech's indications. Back came Dino Zoff and things improved. Lazio managed to reach 4th place and Signori scored 15 goals that season.


Everything changed in the 1997-98 season with the arrival of Sven-Goran Eriksson. Sven had been working for Sampdoria for the last five years and had established a strong feeling with Roberto Mancini. Mancini had not renewed his contract with Sampdoria so Cragnotti convinced him to come to Lazio. It was a major change in philosophy: if Lazio had ambitions, it needed to think ambitiously.


Signori was no longer Lazio’s golden boy. The Lazio hero of the past years was not pleased with the new course. After initially being in the squad, Eriksson started putting him on the bench, preferring Mancini, Gigi Casiraghi and Alen Boksic. Signori had been plagued by a herniated disc and the cortisone he was taking to cure it, plus periods of inactivity, had increased his weight. On the pitch he was not giving what the fans were used to basically because he did not have it in him.


The last straw took place in Vienna in the UEFA Cup tie with Rapid. Signori had been warming up for a while ready to take Mancini’s place on the field. The plan changed when Mancini got sent off. The problem was that nobody told Signori to stop warming up. Beppe-gol was offended and asked to leave the club. Lazio loaned him to Sampdoria in December. A real pity.


The trauma that followed his move to Genoa, both physically and mentally, did not allow him to play well with Sampdoria. He played 17 games and scored three goals. The worst thing for him was probably to witness that Lazio thrived without him. They fought for the scudetto until April, reached the UEFA Cup final and won the Coppa Italia.


With Lazio Signori played 195 games (152 in Serie A, 24 in Coppa Italia, 19 in the UEFA Cup) and scored 127 goals (107 in Serie A, 17 in Coppa Italia and 3 in the UEFA Cup). He is Lazio’s fourth best goal scorer in all competitions behind Ciro Immobile, Silvio Piola and Giorgio Chinaglia third best for goals in Serie A and second behind Bruno Giordano for goals scored in Coppa Italia.


In the summer of 1998 Lazio sold him to Bologna and Signori started a second career in Emilia. He solved his physical problems and returned to being the goal scoring machine he was with Lazio. He stayed for six seasons, played 176 times and scored 84 goals.


His last two years of active football were played aboard firstly with Iraklis in Greece, but a serious injury put him out of action for most of the season, and lastly in Hungary with Sopron. He did try looking for a team once his contract expired but since there were no concrete offers in 2007 he quit.

Signori has 28 caps and seven goals with Italy. His Nazionale career started after former Milan manager Arrigo Sacchi took charge in late 1991. There was a slight problem though. Sacchi played with a 4-4-2 formation and decided that Signori had to play at midfield. But Signori was the greatest goal scorer of Italian football, so why should he play in midfield and not in attack? Because Sacchi preferred to have Roberto Baggio plus Gianluca Vialli, Daniele Massaro, Ruggero Rizzitelli or Pierluigi Casiraghi up front.


This problem hindered Signori’s Nazionale career which could have given him more prestige and goals. The problem came to an end in the USA '94 World Cup. In the second game against Norway, Italy were down to ten men due to goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca being sent off. Baggio was taken off the field to let Luca Marchegiani come in and it was up to Beppe Signori to play both at midfield and in attack. Italy had lost the first game to Ireland so were desperate for a win. Signori played a magnificent game and Italy won thanks to his assist for a Dino Baggio goal.


Beppe at this point asked Sacchi if he could play forward. The answer was no. Signori obeyed but after the game against Nigeria he called it a day. Either in attack or nothing. Sacchi as a consequence left him out in the quarter final against Spain (even though he did come in the second half and provide the assist for Baggio’s goal) and the semi-final against Bulgaria (he came on with 20 minutes to go). For the final Sacchi asked Beppe if he wanted to play in midfield again, but he refused. Signori did not play the final and Italy lost on penalties.


Signori went on to play a few more games for the Nazionale after the World Cup but was left out of Euro 1996.


When he stopped playing Signori was very optimistic and ambitious. He wanted to be a manager and started doing a little bit of punditry. But all this came to an end on June 1, 2011 when he was arrested on charges of money laundering. It was the same case that had seen Stefano Mauri arrested. Signori was accused, together with others, including his lawyer, of having laundered money, at least €600,000, from an illegal betting association in Singapore. The Italian Football Association suspended him for five years.


As in the Mauri case, there was no concrete proof. The arrest was made to force Beppe to confess. Signori always maintained his innocence, renounced the statute of limitations, and had the strong backing of all Bologna and Lazio fans who did not believe a word of what the Court of Cremona was accusing their hero of doing.


On February 23, 2021 he was declared innocent first by the Court of Piacenza and then on March 30 by the Court of Modena, for the simple reason that there was no case to answer. The Italian Federation rehabilitated him almost immediately, so after ten years of hell, Beppe Signori could return to the football world.


The whole case has been explained by Signori in a documentary.


Beppe Signori is a hero, a legend, a captain, a great player, a great goal scorer, who will always have a space in the hearts of all Lazio fans.


Lazio Career

Season

Total appearances (goals)

Serie A

Coppa Italia

UEFA Cup

1992-93

38 (32)

32 (26)

6 (6)

-

1993-94

28 (23)

24 (23)

1

3

1994-95

39 (21)

27 (17)

5 (4)

7

1995-96

38 (26)

31 (24)

4 (1)

3 (1)

1996-97

39 (15)

32 (15)

4

3

Jul-Dec 1997

13 (10)

6 (2)

4 (6)

3 (2)

Total

195 (127)

152 (107)

24 (17)

19 (3)

Sources


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