Celebrating Del Piero, Pirlo, Baggio and the Most Flamboyant Italian Footballers

Dan Colasimone@@ArgentinaFWContributor IJuly 26, 2013

Celebrating Del Piero, Pirlo, Baggio and the Most Flamboyant Italian Footballers

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    For a country mostly associated with defensive football, Italy has always produced a steady stream of outrageously talented attacking players.

    Every generation has at least one Italian footballer who captures the imagination of fans all over the world thanks to his audacious skills and charismatic personality.

    Using a patented "flamboyancy formula," we will now rank the most memorable of these players by rating both their on-field genius and the overall uniqueness of their character.

8. Alessandro Del Piero

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    Genius factor: B+
    Oddball rating: 4/10

    Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero overcame serious injury early in his career to become the Bianconeri's greatest ever goal scorer.

    Off the pitch, the Sydney FC player is such an exceptionally behaved chap they you would almost call him boring, if he weren't so damn charming.

    He gets a few flair points for having one of the coolest nicknames in Italian football, "Pinturicchio," in reference to the Renaissance painter known for his fine touches.

7. Andrea Pirlo

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    Genius factor: A 
    Oddball rating: 7/10

    The prototype for deep-lying playmakers in modern times, few would argue that World Cup winner Andrea Pirlo is one of the classiest footballers on the planet. 

    Though you would not call his persona oddball, he certainly is unique in the way he carries himself on and off the pitch; part surly gunslinger, part Albert Camus.

    And he earns two style points just for growing that epic beard.

6. Luigi Riva

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    Genius factor: A
    Oddball rating: 6/10

    Did somebody say "Italian Love God?" 

    Despite suffering numerous serious injuries, including two broken legs, "Gigi" Riva still managed to become the Azzurri's all-time top goal scorer over the course of a sparkling career.

    Riva earned the cracking nickname "Rumbo di Tuorno" (Thunder Clap) for his tremendously powerful left-footed shots, one of which allegedly broke the arm of a spectator, and won the eternal love of Cagliari fans by remaining loyal to the club until his retirement.

    He was also really, really, ridiculously good-looking, as you can tell from the photo above.

5. Antonio Cassano

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    Genius factor: B 
    Oddball rating: 9/10

    The child prodigy from the mean streets of Bari became a grown-up who was capable of moments of sublime inspiration, but could not quite produce them consistently enough at the top level.

    His infamous "Cassanata" blow-ups, though, have kept the masses entertained for years. Among his highlights/lowlights are the time he threw his jersey at a referee, when he claimed in his book to have slept with between 600 and 700 women and the huge bust-ups he has had with just about every manager he's ever worked with.

4. Mario Balotelli

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    Genius factor: B 
    Oddball rating: 10/10

    You get the impression we have so far only seem glimpses of "Super Mario's" on-field majesty, and one hopes there is plenty more to come. 

    In terms of acting like a loveable lunatic, however, the 22-year-old has already delivered a lifetime's worth of golden moments.

    To list them all here would take weeks, but some favorites include the baffling bib incident, the setting his house ablaze with fireworks incident, the throwing darts at youth players incident and "Why Always Me?"

3. Roberto Baggio

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    Genius factor: A+
    Oddball rating: 7/10

    When it comes to flair players, they don't come much more flair-ey than the "Divine Ponytail." Baggio floated like a feather on the football pitch and was also quite the elusive character off it.

    The Padawan ponytail-sporting No. 10 gets eccentricity points for being a Nicheren Buddhist (there can't be more than a dozen of those on the Italian peninsula, can there?) who loves hunting and a brilliant penalty taker whose career-defining moment was missing a spot kick.

2. Francesco Totti

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    Genius factor: A
    Oddball rating: 8/10

    The strong contrary emotions "Er Pupone" invokes in different people indicates that he is not only a wonderful player, but a larger-than-life personality as well.

    In fact, since Pavarotti joined the big Chorus in the sky, Totti has arguably held the position as the highest-profile celebrity in all of Italyand he gives the impression that is just the way he likes it.

    His brilliance has been proven over many years for Roma and the Azzurri, while his hot temper and Sicily-sized ego have always managed to spice up his legend along the way.

    Highlights of his rap sheet include spitting at Dane Christian Poulsen at Euro 2004, hijacking a camera during a goal celebration in a Rome derby and pulling off the least-subtle double stamp in history on Carsten Ramelow in the Champions League.

    And being the flamboyant Italian football superstar that he is, the picture of Totti would not be complete without a stunning showgirl wife.

1. Giuseppe Meazza

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    Genius factor: A+
    Oddball rating: 9/10

    The outstanding talent of his era, Giuseppe Meazza let the Azzurri to their first two World Cups in 1934 and 1938 and became the original superstar of Italian football due to his goalscoring feats for Internazionale.

    The fleet-footed forward was also the greatest cad of the interwar period, known for his penchant for fine wines, fast cars and even faster women.

    His free-wheeling lifestyle (he was also the only member of the national team allowed to smoke) set an impossibly high bar for future generations of wannabe Italian playboy footballers who could never match "il Balilla's" ability to party like Errol Flynn while consistently dazzling on the pitch.