Italian goalkeeping legend, Dino Zoff turns 70 today. England fans may remember him most from one remarkable night in Wembley when he pulled off a string of excellent saves to keep the scores level before one Fabio Capello scored the visitor’s winner near the end.
He played over 100 games for both Mantova and Napoli, but it was at Juventus where he flourished. Ironically, Juve had rejected him on the grounds of a lack of height in his early teens, but a growth spurt saw him get his chance as a professional, a career than eventually saw him return to the club. He stayed with the Old Lady for 11 years, winning six Serie A titles, two Coppa Italias and one UEFA Cup.
His international career was bookended by two remarkable triumphs. It seems almost unthinkable these days, but he made his Italian debut at the quarter-final stage of Euro 68, a tournament they went on to win. In 1982, at the age of 40, he was captain as Italy emerged from a period of turmoil to claim the World Cup for the third time, his performances earning rave reviews in the process. Between 1972 and 1974, he also found time to set an international football record of going 1142 minutes without conceding a goal.
He wasn’t a goalkeeping pioneer in the same ilk of Lev Yashin. He didn’t break new ground with a new style or philosophy. What he was more simple – he raised the bar. He improved the standards all round, showed what a top class goalkeeper could do and gave us a taste of what was to come. It’s a standard that goalkeepers the world over have be aspiring towards ever since, sometimes with success, sometimes less so.
Happy birthday Dino. And many more too.
Here’s a mega-mix of some of his best saves.