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Born: Wednesday 4 July 1928, Barengo, Italy
Equally at home as a centre-forward, inside-right or on the right wing, Giampiero Boniperti was one of the greatest players in the history of Juventus. Representing Italy in two World Cups, he stayed with Juventus for his entire professional career, setting appearance and goalscoring records that lasted almost 50 years. He remained with Juventus after his retirement and went on to spend many years as a director and later as club president.
Boniperti was born on 4 July 1928 in Barengo, near Novara. Having first learned the game in his home town, he moved to lower division side Momo as a teenager and it was there that he first came to the attention of Juventus. They were keen to sign him and Boniperti did not take long to decide to make the move to Turin, although he insisted that both Momo and his home town club Barengo should benefit financially from the deal.
Boniperti joined Juve during the summer of 1946, shortly before his 18th birthday. Impressing in junior games, including one in which he scored all seven in a 7-0 win, he found himself drafted into the first team towards the end of the 1946-47 season. Juventus were trailing some way behind the legendary 'Il Grande Torino' side of their city rivals and finished a distant second, but Boniperti immediately showed his potential. In just six league appearances he scored five goals from the centre-forward position which was his usual role at the time and ensured that the following season he would be a first choice in the team.
His first full season in Serie A turned out to be the most prolific of Boniperti's career as he scored 27 league goals to clinch the 'Capocannoniere' award as the league's leading scorer. That season also brought a first international appearance in a 5-1 defeat to Austria in Vienna, after he had made just 14 Serie A appearances, although he would have to wait a couple of years to become established in the Italian side. His first international goal came in his second game, also against Austria, 18 months later.
The first major honour of Boniperti's career came in the 1949-50 season. In the first season after the tragic air crash which had decimated the great Torino team, it was Juventus who took the Serie A title by five points from Milan. Boniperti again broke the 20-goal barrier and earned himself a place in Italy's squad for the World Cup in Brazil. Playing at inside-right in the first match against Sweden, he was unable to prevent a 3-2 defeat and with Italy already eliminated, did not appear in their final game against Paraguay.
Juventus claimed another league title in 1951-52, with Boniperti passing the 100 goal mark for his Serie A career before his 24th birthday. Although he was still prolific at club level, the international stage proved to be another matter and by the time he won his 20th cap for Italy, Boniperti still had just two goals for the national team. He did however score twice for the 'Rest of Europe' team which took on England at Wembley in the FA's 90th anniversary match. Early in 1954, with Juve on the way to a second consecutive runner-up finish in the league, he finally doubled his goal tally for Italy in a vital World Cup qualifying game against Egypt which took his country to the finals in Switzerland.
Boniperti captained his country in their opening game against the hosts and scored the equalising goal on the stroke of half-time. Unfortunately, Italy ultimately lost the match 2-1 and he found himself left out of the team for the remaining matches as the team suffered another group stage exit. Through the mid-1950s there was also disappointment at domestic level, with Juventus finishing as low as 12th in Serie A in 1955-56, but the signings of Welshman John Charles and Argentinian Omar Sivori game Boniperti a new lease of life.
Although he had always been capable of operating in a wider position, Boniperti now regularly found himself playing out on the right wing and although he would never again be such a prolific goalscorer, he developed a superb understanding with his new team mates. With his speed and flair on the ball he was able to outwit opposing defenders with ease, cutting in from the touchline and regularly creating goals for Charles and Sivori.
The new forward line had an immediate impact. In his first season appearing regularly in the wider role, Boniperti was ever present in the league and although he scored only eight goals he played a crucial role in Juventus taking the title by eight clear points from Fiorentina. Although they lost that title in 1959, they did win the Coppa Italia with a 4-1 victory over Inter, giving Boniperti a first cup winner's medal. In 1959-60, Juventus went one better and completed a league and cup double, denying Fiorentina in both.
Boniperti won the last of his 38 international caps during that double winning season, scoring Italy's goal in a 2-1 defeat to Austria. Although Juventus won yet another league title in 1960-61 Boniperti was no longer guaranteed to be the automatic choice in the team that he had previously been. He was only 33 years old, but did not wish be a bit-part player in the squad and took the decision to retire from playing after 15 years at the club. His final game was a 9-1 win over Inter in a match which had controversially been ordered to be replayed after a pitch invasion and Inter fielded a youth team in protest.
In all Boniperti scored 178 goals and made 444 appearances for Juventus in Serie, both of which were club record figures at the time and remained so until broken by Alessandro del Piero in 2006 and 2010 respectively. After his retirement, he was quickly offered a seat on the board at Juventus. By 1971 he had been named club president, a position which he held for 19 years. During that time Juve won nine league titles, three domestic cups and all three major European club competitions.
Boniperti also served as managing director at the club before leaving in 1994 to pursue a career in politics, being elected to the European Parliament. After Juventus' involvement in the 'Calciopoli' scandal of 2006, which saw the club demoted to Serie B, Boniperti was brought back to the club as honourary president to help rebuild Juve's image. He continues to hold that position today and has seen his grandson follow in his footsteps by joining the club's youth teams.
References (all accessed 3 April 2012):
http://www.rsssf.com/tablese/eng-intres50.html (accessed 7 April 2012)
- Published on Tuesday, 03 April 2012 21:15