Mon 28 February 2022 | 20:29

Top Facts about Adolfo Baloncieri, One of the Best Italian Players ever

Arguably regarded as one of the best football players of all time, Gianni Brera considered him one of the best Italian players ever, along with the likes of Giuseppe Meazza and Valentino Mazzola. In this article, we are going to take a look at top facts about Adolfo Baloncieri.

Adolfo Baloncieri was born on 27 July 1897 and passed away on 23 July 1986. He was an Italian football manager and former football player. According to some sources, he was a midfielder and other sources believe he played as a forward.

Adolfo Baloncieri began his club professional career with Alessandria, but most remarkably he played for Torino, where he won league trophies in 1927 and 1928 ( though the 1927 trophy was later revoked). After his retirement from football, he also coached several teams in Italy.

One of the

top facts about Adolfo Baloncieri

is that at international level, he took part at three editions of the Summer Olympic games with Italy national team, captaining the national team to a bronze medal at the 1928 Summer Olympics, and also won the 1927-30 Central European International Cup with his national team.

Scoring 25 goals, Baloncieri is the sixth highest all-time scorer of the Italy national team, alongside 

Filippo Inzaghi

 and Alessandro Altobelli, and he is also the highest scoring player in the history of the Italian national team.

Top Facts about Adolfo Baloncieri, One of the Best Italian Players ever

Regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all-time, Adolfo Baloncieri played as a midfielder and occasionally a forward and later began his profession as a manager.

After his retirement Adolfo Baloncieri was eager in the development of young sportsmen and coached many teams. From 1932 to 1962 he managed AC Milan, SS Napoli, US Alessandria, Sampdoria,

AS Roma

, and also Chiasso, Switzerland, which is a small city on the Italian border.

At the international level, Adolfo Baloncieri won the bronze medal at the 1928 Olympics Game and the 1930 Coppa Internazionale. He played in 47 matches for Italy from 1920 to 1930 and netted 25 goals.

Adolfo Baloncieri quick information  

  • Date of birth/Age:

     July 27, 1897

  • Place of birth:


  • Citizenship:


  • Date of death:

     23.07.1986 (88)

  • Position:

     Midfielder / Centre-Forward

  • Former International:


  • International appearance/Goals:


Adolfo Baloncieri early life

Adolfo Baloncieri was born in Castelceriolo in the province of Alessandria, to a family who were originally from Caselle Torinese. During his childhood he lived with his family in Rosario,


for 12 years in which he entered the world of football when he was nine years old. As he was eager to play sport, he did not finish his studies in the field of accountancy.

Adolfo Baloncieri’s older brother Mario was an unprofessional football player in Alessandria and then a reporter, while his cousin William Brezzi, who died when he was very young age, was his teammate at Alessandria club and the 


national team. Adolfo’s brother Carlo drowned in Finale Ligure in August 1933, while his son also passed away at a young age. He lived in Genoa in later years with his other daughter, Flora, a teacher, and a sister. Finally, the great footballer died in 1986, only a few days before he turned 89, from pneumonia.

Adolfo Baloncieri club career

After Adolfo Baloncieri spent much of his childhood in Argentina, he returned to Italy in 1913 and joined Alessandria; for which he made his debut in 1914 at the age of 17 before World War I postponed league matches.

During the war Baloncieri was at the front as a soldier. After football fixtures resumed he became well-known among the most renowned football players of the 1920s with Torino, with whom he lifted two national cups (one was revoked for the "Allemandi Case").

Alexandria (1914-1925)

After playing in an amateur Alexandrian team, he made his debut at the age of 17 in the first team of Alessandria. It was indicated as the day of his debut was on March 28, 1915. On that day the coach George Arthur Smith lined up him on the left wing, replacing the injured Bosio , against Milan. The game, decisive for the result of the semi-final round of the 1914-1915 championship, it ended 0-0. 

In 2010, the journalist Ugo Boccassi instead said that the date of his debut was on 6 December 1914, in Alessandria- Andrea Doria match (2-2). Adolfo Baloncieri played instead of Dellacasa who could not play.

During the war period Baloncieri, like other players from Alexandria, played some friendly matches with the Unione Sportiva Alessandrina, an amateur team created in that period to make up for the absence of football clubs in the city. He returned onto the pitch in the spring of 1919 to play in the Brezzi Cup, a competition organized by the same club and won by defeating Valenzana, Juventus and Casale.

In the following years, Alessandria played a good level of national championships, without ever winning the title, but touching the finals three times (1920, 1922 and 1923) and reaching them in 1921, when it was defeated by Pro Vercelli.

Adolfo Baloncieri, who was part of a famous trio of midfield along with Guglielmo Brezzi and Carlo Carcano, contributed continuously to the achievement of the good results and scoring. In different sources it has been reported that he between scored 72 and 75 goals. So, it places him at the fourth place among the most prolific players in the cinerina jersey.

In the summer of 1923 he was added to the Genoa squad for the South American tour that saw the rossoblu engaged, among other things, against the Uruguayan and Argentine national teams.

Although he was now considered the symbol of the Alexandrian team, according to various sources around 1925 his relationship with the club was close to cracking. Chiesa reports that "Alexandria", where he was "forced to be the lookout ", "was now too tight for him". Certainly negotiations were initiated secretly for its transfer to Torino for an amount of about 70,000 lire which was the highest fee for the time. The management of Alessandria accepted, and the president Ronza justified explained to the embittered fans by saying, "There is no need to despair; we have sold an old nag".

The relationship with the management and the supporters of Alexandria became better only in 1929, when in the friendly match for the inauguration of the new Hardturm stadium in Zurich against Grasshoppers Baloncieri agreed to wear the grey jersey again.

Torino (1925-1932) 

Adolfo Baloncieri’s move to Torino was one of the first sensational transfers in the history of the Italian transfer market, together with those of De Vecchi from Milan to Genoa and Rosetta from Pro Vercelli to



In Turin, Adolfo Baloncieri joined Julio Libonatti and Gino Rossetti and they formed the so-called "Trio delle Meraviglie". In this trio, the centre forward was Libonatti who was a brilliant striker in the box of the opponents.

According to Ossola, Torino, with the addition of Baloncieri, made "an exceptional leap in quality". The great Torino team won the 1926-1927 championship, defeating the most notable teams like Bologna and Juventus. But the title was revoked by the Football Federation for the "Allemandi case". 

Adolfo Baloncieri considered the removal of the title the worst regret of his professional career and personally denounced thedark sides of the investigation, declared that the dilemma was resolved quickly.

The following year Torino repeated their championship. On 5 February 1928 Adolfo Baloncieri scored seven goals in the 14-0 in the match in which Torino defeated Reggiana, a record no longer equalled or surpassed by any Torino player. Having scored a total of 100 goals with the Torino shirt, he is in ninth place in the all-time top scorer list. One of the top facts about Adolfo Baloncieri is that he wore the jersey of the Torino club until the end of his professional career in dated 1932.

In 1930 Adolfo Baloncieri was knighted by the Crown of Italy with the endorsement of the Italian Football Federation's Leandro Arpinati. Baloncieri retired in 1931; fascinated with training of young athletes, he was responsible for the improvement of the Torino youth system and later Baloncieri became a football manager.

Adolfo Baloncieri international career

At International level, Adolfo Baloncieri was the captain of the Italian national side that succeeded to win the bronze medal at the 1928

Olympic Games

, and he was the winner of the 1930 Coppa Internazionale, alongside the famous Giuseppe Meazza.

One of the top facts about Adolfo Baloncieri is that he played in 47 games for Azzurri from 1920 to 1930, and scored 25 goals. He is Italy's sixth all-time highest goal scorer and the best scoring midfielder in the history of the Italian national side.

Before 1928 Olympics, he also played in two more editions of the Olympics, in 1920 and 1924, making Baloncieri the footballer with the most all-time games and goals, eleven games and eight goals, at Olympic football tournaments for the Italian national side.

Casalbore emphasized that, when Adolfo Baloncieri joined Italy national team, it was a decisive "qualitative leap", passing from the previous era, defined as the "rout" that found its greatest exponent in the impetuous Giuseppe Milano, to a more orderly rational game and he was therefore defined as "a reformer".

He made his debut in 1920, in Genoa, against the 


 (1-1) on March 2, 1930, along with Umberto Caligaris. He surpassed the record holder of the time Renzo De Vecchi (43 matches in the national team) in terms of number of appearances. He reached 47 matches and held this record for less than a year, having been improved by Caligaris on 25 January 1931.

The record of Adolfo Baloncieri in wearing the captain's armband lasted longer. He wore the armband in 28 games, which was beaten by Giacinto Facchetti on 11 June 1970. His "duels" with the Spanish goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora were famous at the time. He was the first Azzurri player to score a goal against him on 29 May 1927 in the opening match of the Stadio Littoriale in Bologna.

The peak of his ten-year experience in the national team was at the Amsterdam Olympics Games in 1928. It was the third and last Olympics in which he participated. Until 1960 he was the only one to have scored in three consecutive Olympics, when this record was shared with the British Jim Lewis.

According to Ermanno Aebi, these facts "caused Baloncieri to be the best European striker of the tournament". Italy won the bronze medal in the 1928 Olympics, obtaining the first prestigious result at an international level. This success, however, came after a period in which the eligibility of Baloncieri in the national team had been questioned, in particular after a friendly match in which Italy lost in Bologna against Austria on year ago, on the anniversary of the end of the World War.

Adolfo Baloncieri as a coach

Having become a coach during the transition from method to system, but mindful of the pyramid, Adolfo Baloncieri had solved the problem of giving back the offensive function to the wings tactically to preserve the spectacular stylistic beauty of the game and prevent it from degenerating into a stammering language of technical dissolution ".

He coached his team in a match in 1938-1939 season on 1 January 1939 against Torino. The match was described by Vittorio Pozzo as a game in which keeping the ball as little as possible and exploiting the work of the wings as much as possible was apparent.

The first experiences

In an interview in 1932 Adolfo Baloncieri declared that he had experience as a trainer since the 1920s, coaching Alexandria in the 1924-1925 season (the year in which other sources say that the Hungarian Gonda was their coach), following the preparation of five teams from Macerata and its surroundings in the summer of 1927 and he was actively involved in the creation of the youth formation of Torino in 1928, named in his honour Balon Boys and coached by Karl Stürmer. 

Several players moved to the first team from the Torino youth teams of that period and played in Serie A. Some of the players were Bo, Lorini, Rosso, Borel).

Having grown up as a footballer at George Smith's Alexandrian school, he showed interest in particular for the growth of young players; in addition to those already mentioned, during his career he trained, among others, Luigi Cassano and Michele Borelli in Alessandria and Carlo Alberto Quario in Napoli.

He made his debut as a coach in 1932 at Comense in Serie B, ending in a good sixth place. Baloncieri played in three matches when the squad was reduced to by injuries and suspensions. In the following season, the Larian team finished fourth in its group and reached to the finals for promotion to Serie A.

At the end of the championship Baloncieri moved to A.C. Milan, in the top flight. The Rossoneri squad, due to financial requirements, entrusted Adolfo Baloncieri with a young and Italian squad (defined by Leone Boccali as "strapaesana"). Baloncieri led the team in two mid-ranking tournaments. 

During the third season the newly elected Rossoneri president Emilio Colombo, noting the lack of a qualitative leap in the growth of the team, he sacked him. Baloncieri therefore finished the Serie A 1936-1937 championship at Novara, which was relegated Serie B at the end of the season.

Arriving in Liguria in 1937, he achieved good results in the 1938-1939 season; the team, They were the architect of a championship at the top and duelled for the title with the brilliant Bologna. 

The merit of Baloncieri, wrote Eugenio Danese, was "having inoculated the offensive manoeuvre in his team, as he was an attacking player". The team then declined in the second round, according to Chiesa, due to the absence of a prolific striker, but finished at the fifth place, which was not predictable initially.

At the end of that season Baloncieri was considered "the best coach of the time" and the following year, however, he left the Genoese team due to open controversy with the management and due to a disagreement related to the sale of Cassano. His purchase (10,000 lire) had been financed primarily by the coach, and his sale to Napoli brought in 100,000 lire without Baloncieri having been awarded a privilege for the risk taken on his own. 

Napoli, which had already expressed its intention to hire him in 1932, hastened to hire him: he became the fourth Italian coach in Italian history after Terrile , Mattea and Iodice. The season was not brilliant, and Adolfo Baloncieri was sacked at two thirds of the championship, with the Neapolitan team in full relegation zone.

He therefore returned to Liguria, with which he obtained a promotion to the top flight and a salvation in the following year. In 1942 Baloncieri was brought back to Alessandria by the new president Pietro Mignone. 

He coached the team in the 1942-1943 Serie B championship and in the 1944 Alta Italia Championship. Two seasons made difficult by the events related to the war, which reduced the squad and greatly complicated holding the matches. On 23 April 1944, to prevent his team from going onto the pitch with ten players and being defeated at the table, he went onto the pitch at the age of 46 as a starter in Turin, against Torino in a game in which they were defeated 0-7.

The post war period, between Italy and Switzerland 

After the World War II, Adolfo Baloncieri returned to coach A.C. Milan during the National Division 1945-1946, in collaboration with the technical director Antonio Busini. He was not confirmed for the next of Serie A, in spite of a brilliant championship and moved to Chiasso in the third division of Swiss league, with which he obtained a promotion. 

In the next years he returned to coach the Swiss team Rossoblu, leading them to third place in National League A in 1951-1952 season, and to victory in National League B in 1961-1962.

One of the

top facts about Adolfo Baloncieri

is that he also became the coach of Sampdoria two times with the "atomic" attack Baldini - Bassetto. He is remembered for a fifth place with the team in 1948-1949 season which remained for over a decade the best result of Sampdoria in Serie A. He returned to the Sampdoria’s bench in 1958, taking over from William Dodgin and leading the team to acceptable results.

In 1950 he was hired by Rome; he found it difficult to interact with the three Swedish new signings Sune Andersson, Sundqvist and Knut Nordahl and remedied the exception after fifteen days of the championship; of his experience, the journalist Vittorio Finizio wrote that he was «soon ruined in favour of the more energetic Pietro Serantoni. The Giallorossi team at the end of the competition relegated to Serie B for the first time in its history.

In 1954 he was hired by Palermo, in Serie B; he was hastily sacked by the team management after just five days, due to a disappointing start at the championship, and replaced by Mario Sperone.

Adolfo Baloncieri style of play

In 2010, the famous Italian journalist Carlo Felice Chiesa wrote: "If it was possible to rank all-time great "registas" of world football, Adolfo Baloncieri, an athlete from a period so faraway from our own, would end up among the first ones, if not first.

Adolfo Baloncieri was typically deployed as an offensive playmaker. He was a quick, gifted, stylish, and creative midfielder, who had brilliant technical talents, vision, passing capability, and a distinguished eye for goal from midfield.

Adolfo Baloncieri was a goal scorer of very clear style. He was praised by Gianni Brera for his elegance, geniu» and goal scoring instinct. Brera himself called it "the most classic product of Italian football in the 1920s and one of the most classic ever".

Franco Ossola wrote about him, "he really knew how to do everything dictating the timing of the action, shooting, dribbling, andsometimes wonderfully scoring goals". "As he was able to give strength not only to himself, but also to the action of others" he is considered by many critics "the first true, true director of our football".  Antonio Ghirelli said he had "the sense of manoeuvre, the perception of movement, the intuition of the position, the speed of the shot".

Renato Casalbore emphasized that, thanks to his experience of life in Argentina, he exported stylistic elements typical of South American players in the Italian game to our football, such as the elegant touch, virtuosity, the art of manoeuvring. "With his characteristic gait - wrote Vittorio Pozzo - he jumped from the back position that he usually assumes, slipped away from the opponent, and his touch of the ball generated an attack, staged an advance".

Critics are essentially unanimous in placing him among the greatest footballers of all times. Gianni Brera considered him the best player of all time along with 

Giuseppe Meazza


Valentino Mazzola

, and Carlo Felice Chiesa wrote in 2010: "If it were possible an absolute ranking of the great players of world football of all times, probably Adolfo Baloncieri, an athlete of such a distant time compared to the footballers of our time, would finish among the first ones, if not the first ever ". He was the last survivor of the Italy side at the 1920 Olympics.

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