Born in Milan, Italy, Giuseppe “Peppino” Meazza, was an Italian footballer. He helped Italy win 2 consecutive world cups: in 1934 and in 1938. He also won the Golden Ball Award in 1934. He is easily recognized as one of the best players to ever live and among the best of his generation while some might regard him as the greatest player Italy produced. Due to his inventive style and original abilities he was given the nickname “il genio” (the genius). He has had the honor to be ranked fourth best in the World Cup history. Meazza, with 33 goals, is also the second highest scorer in the Italian national team. After scoring 216 goals he is the fourth all time highest goal scorer in Serie A and with 338 goals, he is the third highest Italian scorer in all competitions.
Starting off his career as a striker he showed exceptional skills on field and also became a successful midfielder. He played the inside forward position for more than half of his entire career and was known for his leadership, dribbling skills and pin point accuracy in passing despite his 5ft 6 ½ inch height. In 1927, when Peppino joined the Inter Milan senior team, his team mate Leopoldo Conti gave him the nickname “il Balilla” because he thought Pepping was too young to be in the senior team. Peppino left Conti surprised after he scored 2 goals in his debut match against Milanese Unione Sportiva and helped the team win 6-2. The day after the match Peppino was praised in a sports gazette, calling his game “intelligent, fresh quick.” After his father’s death in World War 1, Peppino grew up with his mother, Ersilia, in Milan. He used to help his mother sell fruits in the market and his mother used to hide his shoes so that he doesn’t waste time playing football but young Peppino had true passion and learnt to play barefoot. He used to play with balls of rag and it wasn’t until the age of 12 that he got permission from his mother to play football and pursue his dream. He joined Gloria F.C and a fan bought him his first pair of football boots. Meazza had a very energetic character on and off field. He was the first Italian footballer to be famous and had personal sponsor. Meazza attracted women and champagne. He would often sleep until his team mates were done practicing. He was still very dangerous on field as opposing defenders and goal keepers feared his techniques. His renowned goals are those where he would perform extreme dribbling from the mid field to the goalkeeper and then after inviting the goalkeeper to snatch the ball he would dribble past him and score a goal.
Meazza was inspired by Milan but he was rejected because he was too skinny but an inter scout from Inter Milan noticed him playing on the streets with a rag ball was accepted by the team with ease. The team fed him steaks at dinner so that he’d gain weight and become stronger. He was placed at a defense position on field at the start but the coach later placed him forward and he was able to display his skills. He scored 2 goals in his debut later. Before the existence of Serie A, Meazza scored 38 goals in 29 matches at the Italian Championship. Meazza helped Inter win 3 national championships in 1930, 1938, 1940 and also helped the team win their first Coppa Italia in 1939. With Meazza the team won a championship after a decade in 1930. In 1930, 1936 and 1938 he was the top scorer of Serie A and top scorer of Mitropa Cup in 1930, 1935, 1936. Gianpiero Combi, goalkeeper of Juventus and captain of the Italian national team, made a bet with Meazza that he could score a goal against him. Meazza scored 2 goals in an official game against Juventus, on May 25th 1933, against Combi. Combi shook his hand in appreciation. Due to his sluggish behavior off field he used to stir up trouble but after he scored goals no one would be mad at him. Meazza devoted his glory days to Inter. He was transferred to A.C Milan on 28th November 1940. He also later made his debut with Juventus in 1942 against Torino but lost 5-2. Meazza was not in playing form. Meazza helped the Italian national team win 2 consecutive World Cup (1934, 1938). Meazza made his debut with the Italian national team in 1930 against Switzerland. Young Meazza scored twice and helped Italy win the game. In the Dr. Gero Cup, in 1935, he again helped the team to win the tournament by 2-1. He captained the 1938 world cup hosted by Italy. They faced Hungary at the finals and won by 3-1. Meazza played for the national team for 9 years. He died in 1979 in Rapallo, Italy.
Serie A (3)
Winner: 1929–30, 1937–38, 1939–40
Runner-Up: 1932–33, 1933–34, 1934–35
Coppa Italia (1)
FIFA World Cup (2)
Winner: 1934, 1938
Dr. Gero Cup (2)
Winner: 1927–30, 1933–35
Serie A Top Goal-scorer: 1929–30, 1935–36, 1937–38
Mitropa Cup Top Goal-scorer: 1930, 1933, 1936
FIFA World Cup Golden Ball: 1934
FIFA World Cup Team of the Tournament: 1934
Inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame (posthumous honor, 2011)
Italy’s Sports Walk of Fame: 2015.