Thursday, July 28, 2011

28 July 1925 - Before Forlan and Suarez, There Was Schiaffino

On 28 July 1925, Juan Alberto "Pepe" Schiaffino was born in Montevideo. Widely regarded as one of the greatest players to come out of Uruguay, he went on to star for Peñarol and AC Milan and played for both the Uruguayan and Italian national teams.

He began his professional career in 1943 with his hometown team, Peñarol, and stayed with them for twelve seasons. An inside forward and a gifted passer, he scored 88 goals in 227 league appearances for the club and helped them to six national titles (1944, 1945, 1949, 1951, 1953, 1954). During that time, he also made his first full international appearance, playing for Uruguay in a 1-1 draw with Argentina in December 1945.

He scored eight goals for Uruguay in 23 appearances and starred for them in two World Cups, including the 1950 World Cup title match against Brazil, which Uruguay went on to win, 2-1, after Schiaffino scored the equalizer in dramatic fashion.

In 1954, he moved to AC Milan for the then-world record fee of £72,000. He was an instant success in Italy, scoring a brace on his debut and leading Milan to the 1955 Scudetto, the first of four league titles in his six seasons there. In 1958, he scored the opening goal of the European Cup Final, though Milan eventually lost to Real Madrid 3-2 after extra time. When he moved to Milan, he also moved his national team allegiance to Italy, making four appearances for them between 1954 and 1958.

He finished his playing career with Roma, where he played from 1960 to 1962. He later returned to Uruguay, where he went on to manage both the national team (1974-75) and Peñarol (1975-76).

He died in 2002, shortly after being named Uruguay's Player of the Century.

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