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  • Writer's pictureSimon Basten

Silvio Piola

Silvio Piola can still today be considered the best Italian centre-forward ever. He is the top Serie A goal scorer of all times with 274 goals (290 if one also adds the 1945-46 championship which was divided into two groups of teams due to the post-war difficulties), the current leading Serie A goal scorer for Pro Vercelli and Novara, third goal scorer in Nazionale behind Gigi Riva and Giuseppe Meazza, and second with Lazio behind Ciro Immobile.

Source Wikipedia

Born in Robbio, near Pavia, where his parents were working, on September 29, 1913, his family immediately moved back to Vercelli. He started playing football in a local youth team, Veloces 1925, which was soon annexed by Pro Vercelli. He debuted in Serie A at 16 years of age on February 16 1930 at Bologna. He became a first team player the year after. He stayed five years at Vercelli, appearing in 127 games and scoring 51 goals. In a game against Fiorentina, won by Pro Vercelli 7-2, he scored six goals, a record that still stands (equalled by Omar Sivori in 1961 in a Juventus-Inter 9-1 but in different circumstances since Inter had played with the youth team in protest against the Italian Federation).

By 1934 the time had come to go and there were huge bids to sign this world class champion. In the end Lazio bought him, thanks to the political intervention of high-level members of the fascist party. He did not come cheap, Lazio had to spend 250,000 Lire, an enormous sum of money at the time.

He stayed nine years, played 243 games (227 in Serie A, 10 in Coppa Italia and 6 in the Mitropa Cup) and scored 159 goals (143 in Serie A, 6 in Coppa Italia and 10 in the Mitropa Cup). He was twice top scorer in Serie A (1936-37 and 1942-43).

In his first two years, Lazio came 5th and 7th. It was only in 1936-37 with the signings of Giovanni Riccardi, Umberto Busani, Bruno Camolese and Giovanni Costa that Lazio became competitive. That season Lazio topped the table in the first half of the season but a number of injuries, including Piola’s, in the second half allowed Bologna to overtake the Biancoclesti who however arrived second with a strong finale. Lazio became less competitive over the years despite a good 4th place in 1939-40 and 5th in 1941-42.

Silvio Piola’s last year at Lazio was in 1942-43 where he scored 21 goals. He was the oldest player to score 10 goals in the first 8 games of the season (record broken by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2020). His 149 goals in Serie A with the Biancocelesti was overtaken only in 2021 by Ciro Immobile.

Once the war interrupted national football, Piola moved back to Piedmont in 1944 and was allowed to play for Fiat Torino. He then decided to stay and asked for a transfer. Lazio sold him to Juventus where he played for two seasons.

Juventus then thought he was too old and sold him to Novara. Piola proved them wrong by playing seven seasons with the Piedmontese club, taking them back to Serie A in his first year and keeping them there until he quit in 1954.

On the whole, Piola played 635 professional games and scored 349 goals.

The great SIlvio never won a scudetto, but he won a World Cup in 1938 which was played in France. There was no group phase at that point but just single matches with direct elimination. Italy, reigning world champions, played the first game against Norway in Marseille. They scored almost immediately with Pietro Ferraris (Ambrosiana Inter) but Norway equalised in the 83rd minute with Arne Brustad. In the 4th minute of extra time Piola scored the winning goal.

Source Wikipedia

In the quarterfinals Italy played against France. Gino Colaussi (Triestina) scored the opening goal in the 9th minute and France promptly equalised a minute later with Oscar Heisserer. A Piola double in the 51st and 72nd minute allowed the Nazionale to play the semi-final against favourites Brazil.

The Brazilian team were so sure to reach the final, that they had already booked air tickets and left out their best player Leonidas da Silva. Italy won 2-1 with goals from Colaussi and a Giuseppe Meazza (Ambrosiana Inter) penalty in the second half. Meazza had to take the spot kick while holding his shorts since the elastic had broken.

In the final Italy played Hungary. Colaussi scored in the 6th minute but the Hungarians equalised two minutes later with Pal Titkos. Piola re-established Italy’s lead in the 16th minute and Colaussi trebled in the 35th. In the second half, in the 70th minute, Gyorgy Sarosi reduced Italy’s lead but Piola made it 4-2 in the 82nd. A triumph for the Nazionale.

Piola would go on to play 34 games for Italy, the last one in 1952 in a draw against England. To note is that before Diego Maradona’s hand of God (his famous goal with his hand in Argentina England 2-1 in the quarter finals of Mexico 1986), there was Piola’s goal. In the game played on May 13 1939, Piola tried to head the ball but seeing he could not get to it he thumped it in with his fist. So England has a history of being fooled. In the end Piola scored 30 goals for the Nazionale.

Once he stopped playing he tried a managerial career and was head coach at Cagliari in two stints between 1954 and 1957. He was previously very briefly assistant coach for the Nazionale between 1953-54. Seeing that coaching was not his cup of tea, he worked for the Federation as a scout and teacher for managers’ courses.

Piola died at Gattinara near Vercelli on October 4, 1996.

He still holds a number of records:

• Italian footballer to have scored more goals in official competitions (390)

• Leading goal scorer in the Italian first tier championship (290)

• Leading Serie A scorer (274)

• Only player, together with Sivori, to score 6 goals in a game

• Youngest player to score a hat trick in Serie A (17 years and 132 days)

• Youngest player to score four goals in a match (18 years and 54 goals)

Source Wikipedia

He was a complete player. He could shoot with both feet, acrobatic, quite fast despite his height. He could score with shots from outside the box, headers, left foot, right foot, bicycle shot. An Italian journalist claimed he had the power of Gunnar Nordahl (powerful Swedish forward who scored more than 200 goals in Serie A), the header of John Charles (the tall Welsh champion who played for Juventus in the 1950s), the shot of Gigi Riva (legendary Cagliari and Italy forward), the quick thinking of Gianpiero Boniperti (one of the greatest forwards in Italian history) and the acrobatics of Guglielmo Gabetto (one of the protagonists of the Great Torino of the 1940s).

He is the greatest Italian centre forward of all time, and he played with Lazio.

Lazio Career


Total appearances (goals)

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Mitropa Cup


29 (21)

29 (21)




29 (21)

27 (19)

2 (2)



35 (31)

28 (21)


6 (10)


28 (15)

28 (15)




22 (9)

21 (9)




25 (10)

23 (9)

2 (1)



25 (10)

25 (10)




26 (21)

24 (18)

2 (3)



24 (21)

22 (21)




243 (159)

227 (143)

10 (6)

6 (10)



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