The 1990s. A decade of unknown overseas signings, terrible haircuts and Jason McAteer on the cover of Fifa ‘96. Pre-smartphone, pre-VAR and the first days of the Premier League. Many fans will hark back to the ‘90s as a golden-era of Football, where the players of yesteryear are now either long-forgotten or have attained a cult-like status by fans and pundits alike. Today we take a look at some of the best forwards of the 90s.
Best forwards of the 90s
In a decade dominated by shocking hairdos, why not kick off proceedings with the maestro himself. Il Divin Codino or ‘The Divine Ponytail,’ Roberto Baggio was as infamous for what was on his head as he was for what he could do with his feet.
Even from his early days as a youth player, the bar was set high. 110 goals in 120 games lead to his professional debut at just 15 years old. From Vicenza to a fan-favourite five years at Napoli in ‘85 saw Baggio propelled into the limelight. In 1990, he was transferred to Juventus for a world record fee of £8 million (for context, Napoli signed Maradona for £5million) where he really came into his own and took Serie A by storm.
A set-piece mastermind with vision, accuracy and control, and an ability to pick out either a pass or a curling finish at will. With Juventus, Baggio went on to win the UEFA Cup in ‘92, Coppa Italia and Serie A title in ‘94, and the league title again the year after, except this time with Milan. Baggio was also the Ballon d’Or runner up in 1992 before finally taking it home in 1993. One of the best forwards of the 90s and one of the most iconic players in football history.
Marco Van Basten
Although we’ll have to take a slight detour into the latter half of the 1980s, Marco Van Basten is a must-have for any serious ‘90s nostalgia list.
Composed, agile and with a clinical touch, Basten led both Ajax and Milan to innumerable heights from ‘81 – ‘95, with consistent trophies year after year. The Dutchman scored a whopping 300+ goals in his career, clinching 230 in just 280 games at club level – and arguably one of the greatest volleys ever in the ‘88 UEFA Euros against the Soviet Union.
Three-time Ballon d’Or winner (back-to-back ‘88 and ‘89 and the third coming in ‘92), four-time Serie A titleholder and Fifa World Player of the Year ‘92 are just some of Basten’s trophies before his injury-induced early retirement at age 28.
Alessandro Del Pierro
“He is different to Zinedine Zidane. He likes to play; he feels it in his soul. Between him and the Frenchman, I choose him.” – Diego Maradona
A symbol of everything that is Juventus, Del Pierro’s quality as a footballer extends out further than just his technical abilities. Loyal to the Turin side even during their 2006 scandal and relegation, and whilst many others jumped ship, Del Pierro stayed and retained the captain’s armband to see Juve back up to Serie A.
One of Italy’s most decorated and revered forwards, he also holds the number two spot as their highest ever goalscorer with over 340 goals in all competitions, only beaten out by Silvio Piola who holds the top spot with a comfortable 390.
Four Ballon d’Or nominations from ‘95 – ‘98, six Serie A titles, Coppa Italia, Champions League and many other titles that came in the 2000s, including an unforgettable 2006 World Cup are just some of the reasons why Del Pierro is one of the greats.
Could you ever write a ‘90s football list without Ronaldo? I think not.
Youngest ever is a common theme when discussing Ronaldo and the huge amount of trophies, titles and accolades he won in the 1990s. Youngest ever winner of Fifa’s World Player of the Year Award in ‘96, the youngest ever winner of the Ballon d’Or in ‘97 at age 21, and the youngest member of Brazil’s 1994 World Cup-winning squad.
An incredible two-season stretch at PSV saw him score 54 goals in 57 games, followed by an equally impressive period at Barcelona, securing 47 in 49. His move to Inter Milan in ‘97 was the second time the young Brazilian had broken the world record transfer fee, and despite an injury-laden stint in Italy, still managed to come away with an impressive goal tally.
O Fenômeno aka The Phenomenon is credited as having reinvented what it meant to be a centre-forward, with explosiveness, control and dribbling prowess. Albeit with a slightly questionable haircut of his own. One of the best forwards of all time, let alone the 90s, and the suspicion is that had his lifestyle been better, he could have accomplished even more.
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