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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Baggio Carries Burden of Fallen Star

ROME -- Roberto Baggio has seen nothing but trouble since his errant penalty kick ended Italy's bid for another World Cup title.


In Italy, where a player can go from hero to goat in the time it takes a ball to fly over the crossbar, Baggio, who was oneof the bright stars of the Italian World Cup team, has seen his stock fall precipitously.


Gianni Agnelli, who owns Juventus of Turin, Baggio's professional squad, downplayed the striker's contribution to the team in comments published Monday in several Italian papers.


Assessing Juve's leading scorer of the past four seasons, Agnelli said: "He has given Juventus moderate achievements, but (Michel) Platini was something else. He offered more as a team player."


It was the latest off-the-field blow for the striker who netted five goals in the three games to carry Italy to the World Cup final on July 17.


It was in that match -- the first World Cup title game to go to shootouts -- that Baggio sent his attempt from the spot high, handing the trophy to Brazil.


After the Cup, Baggio, or "Buddha" as he is known because he has converted to Buddhism, traveled to South America for a hunting trip.


But his rifles were stolen during his stay in Argentina.


While he was away, the Italian journal Civilta Cattolica published an article calling for the excommunication of Catholics who convert to Buddhism.


Some commentators speculated the piece was aimed at Baggio.


"Such an assertion is very dangerous, because one should respect all religions," the striker said at the time.


In mid-August, Baggio was forced to sneak away from his home in Versilia in northern Italy to evade hordes of reporters, photographers and fans who followed him for two days.


Baggio joined his teammates for training last week. He is expected to take the field for the first time since the World Cup on Saturday when Juventus plays an exhibition match against second-division Verona.