Franco Baresi, born in Travagliato, is one of very few players at top international level to have spent an entire career at one club. He made his debut for AC Milan in 1978 and won the Serie A already in his first full season the following year. Franco was one of these players that didn’t look very impressive physically compared to what you would expect from a central defender. He usually operated as a sweeper behind the defensive line, and controlled the pace of the game from there. He read the game impressively well, which was the main reason to why he was so outstanding.
It took some time for him to break into the national team because Enzo Bearzot, the coach at the time, preferred the Juventus trio Cabrini, Gentile and Scirea in defense. The latter occupied the sweeper’s position in the World Cup winning team of 1982. Baresi was included in that squad, but never played a minute in Spain which he didn’t like. He then rejected to play for Italy as long as Bearzot was in charge which made him miss the 1986 World Cup. Bearzot then retired and Baresi once again said yes to the Azzurri. Italy reached the semifinals at Euro 88, Franco’s first tournament with Italy, and another semifinal in their own World Cup in 1990. Italy lost to Argentina on penalties, but beat England in the bronze match.
Baresi was captain when Italy traveled to America for the World Cup in 1994. At 34, he knew this was his last chance to win the World Cup, but an injury in the first round against Norway made him miss several matches and he wasn’t ready until the final against Brazil, where he played the game of his life. Brazil eventually won on penalties and Franco missed one of the penalties for Italy. It was his 81st and final match for Italy.
He played three more years for Milan before retiring, having won six Serie A championships, three European Cups and two World Club Cups among his many titles. AC Milan paid tribute to him by making his number 6 jersey immortal. No player in the future will ever wear that jersey again for Milan.