When looking at Italian football (or even football as a whole), one of the best chapters will focus on a certain number of Serie A striker shirts who captivated their audiences worldwide.
The Best Serie A Striker Shirts Ever
Over the years, Italy has been the football epicentre of glamour and opulence.
Much like the wider worlds of fashion and commerce, the wealth and beauty of the game flocked to Italy in the ’70s and ’80s, while the rest of the world were looking to follow suit. Particularly in the ’80s, where England (the home of football) were banned for unruly behaviour in Europe.
By the time the ’90s came around, the English Premier League threatened to (and eventually did) overrule their dominance, but they weren’t going to leave without a fight.
In this list for the Hobby FC shirts collection, we are going to remember five incredible Serie A strikers from this period and the shirts every collector wants to have in their collection. Or should!
Filippo Inzaghi at Juventus (1997-01)
You either love or you hate Filippo Inzaghi. There is no in-between.
The mercurial attacker’s rise to prominence in Italy culminated with this big-money move to Turin in 1997 following a developmental journey at ‘lesser’ clubs within the country.
But he picked his time well to kick on and prove his worth at Juve – working with some of the best managers around and working with the likes of Del Piero and Zidane in the process.
He would go on to spend four successful seasons in the famous black and white of Juventus (supposedly taken from the mighty Notts County in English), with arguably his most aesthetic shirt coming from his maiden season in 1997/98.
Manufactured by Kappa (which will become a theme in later articles of this nature) and powered by Sony as a front-of-shirt sponsor, it’s a beautiful jersey. Especially the long-sleeve, oversized edition regularly worn by Inzaghi, who spearheaded his side to their 25th national title that season.
To manage expectations, it is a rare shirt which will be difficult to find and will require deep pockets to obtain once found. But just look at it. Mastery in the art of simplicity and finer details.
And one of the most iconic and instantly recognisable Serie A striker shirts ever produced.
Gianfranco Zola at Parma (1993-96)
In this world of instant gratification and statistics ruining our eyes, it’s easy to forget just how much of a revolutionary figure Gianfranco Zola was in the 1990’s for European football.
His star began to shine (annoyingly) in the shadows of another, as he came through as the heralded ‘replacement’ for the long-revered Diego Maradona as the new ‘No.10‘ of Napoli in ’89.
As expected, he couldn’t do the impossible, but other clubs took notice.
Namely, a well-backed and aspirational Parma side aiming to upset the Serie A status quo. Which complimentary signings like Faustino Asprilla and Thomas Brolin would help them do.
During the course of three seasons, Zola found his identity in the centre-forward / ‘false 9’ role with the same number ten on the back of his shirt which poured too much weight onto his shoulders in Naples.
Much like Parma as a whole, Zola’s would shine at the club but not for very long. Only his departure had nothing to do with financial issues surrounding their sponsorships, but instead an inability to fit into the rigid system of then-manager Carlo Ancelotti – something I mention a lot of in my book ‘The Conquerors’ – available for worldwide shipping from Pitch Publishing.
Those 3 years have gone down in Parma history as the ultimate ‘what if’ story of Italian football. But Zola’s jersey – the famous white and boy livery with yellow accents, the Umbro makers’ mark and the now-insolvent Parmalat sponsor can never be forgotten.
Hernan Crespo at Parma (1996-00)
Oh, and speaking of Parma – let’s get onto one of the most conventional Serie A strikers of this era.
And one of the most emphatic ones in Argentinean marksman, Hernan Crespo.
Kicking off a trifecta of South American imports into the Italian leagues, unlike Gianfranco Zola, Hernan Crespo actually has Carlo Ancelotti to thank for his journey to the prominence of calcio.
Having initially arrived from River Plate off the back of some explosive form in his final two seasons, he initially struggled to adapt to the rigmarole, attention and relentless scrutiny of Serie A.
Enter: a young, budding Carlo Ancelotti who admired the tenacity and application of the young forward, and slowly began to shape him into the mould of his ideal No.9 at Parma.
Had this article been about iconic Serie A striker shirts from the 2000’s, we would be talking about Hernan Crespo in a Lazio shirt, which would easily stake a claim in that list, despite their own fall from grace in a strangely similar way to the fate which befell Parma some years earlier.
But sticking with the ’90s as promised, again we have the Parmalat sponsor, but this time, the yellow and blue striped kit is what best encapsulates the striker’s position at the club. It was also during the time where they added a bit of sauce to their numbering with a funky font that hasn’t really been seen since. I can imagine social media would have a field day with something like this, but I like it!
Gabriel Batistuta at Fiorentina (1991-00)
Ah, the famous ‘Batigol‘ – the man who didn’t like football, but was amazing at it.
At least it wasn’t the other way round, am I right!
My dad and I have this theory – that a player is sometimes destined to be a footballer via their name. And when you hear one like ‘Gabriel Batistuta’, you can’t help but believe it.
Similar to Hernan Crespo, Batigol also developed at River Plate, but is among a distinct few who also played for hated rivals Boca Juniors – and this was all before his star shone brightest when he moved abroad, with another ambitious Italian club looking to employ him.
This time, it was the violet colours of Fiorentina which would allure the precocious centre-forward to Florence in 1991, where he would stay for the entire decade until 2001.
Now, I could talk all day about his ferocious right foot and the well-documented story of his bridesmaid’s tale of never having won a top league trophy for Il Viola, before having to move to Roma in the early 2000’s in order to get it, but I’d rather talk about the kit.
In terms of Serie A striker shirts, they don’t get much better than this. Produced by Fila and sponsored by Nintendo, just looking at it invokes the image of seeing a flawy-haired Batigol on a computer game providing joy for young fans, much like he did for the elders on a real football pitch.
Due to its increasing popularity in today’s culture, replicas are very common and originals are rare, but worth a bundle if they can be secured. In truth, he would have easily topped this list of the best Serie A striker shirts from the 1990’s, if it wasn’t for the man who we’re ending with.
Ronaldo at Inter Milan (1997-02)
There’s not much that I can say about the great Ronaldo which hasn’t already been said.
In our previous article here where we charted through the great Il Phenomeno‘s career via the shirts that we remember most, I argued that if it wasn’t for injury and latter application, we would consider him to easily be the greatest football player of all time. And I stand by that.
If anything, his world-record move to Inter Milan in 1997 proves what I’ve been saying all along – that the Serie A really was the place to be in the 1990’s.
With the weight of disappointment on his shoulders, Ronaldo didn’t disappoint. Quickly forming a deadly partnership with incumbent Italian striker Christian Vieri, who could have easily staked a claim for his inclusion on this list of Serie A striker shirts if we added a couple more in!
But before they could really set the world ablaze, disaster struck for Ronaldo – tearing his patella tendon irreparably and slowing down what should have been an astronomical career.
For a man who’s played for Barcelona, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, it seems strange that the words ‘what if’ continue to hang over Ronaldo’s name, but that’s just how good he was and how good he should have been. So, that Inter shirt – with the home colours, Pirelli sponsor and gold accents remind us of how great Ronaldo really was. The greatest striker ever, destroyed in his prime.
I’ve been wanting to do an article surrounding Serie A striker shirts for ages. Because whenever I go into the Classic Football Shirts London store – it’s all I ever seem to look at!
I’m annoyingly too young to remember what it was like to see these guys in their prime, but with the wonders of modern technology, it feels like I’m already there.
And with shirts still available to buy, I can still have my own little batch of that history!
Which of these Serie A striker shirts do you own already?