Christian ‘Bobo’ Vieri was a goal machine in every sense. As one of just six Italians in football history to win a golden boot at a foreign club, Vieri is well aware of what it takes to succeed as a top-level striker.
The 46-year-old led the line for a staggering 14 clubs during his 18-year career and notched the 1,000th goal to be scored for the Italian national side. Vieri also is the joint-top Italian goalscorer at World Cups.
In an exclusive interview, Sportsmail’s Alvise Cagnazzo spoke with Vieri about his career, whether Romelu Lukaku can be the heir to his throne at Inter and who was the toughest English defender he came up against…
Christian Vieri has told Sportsmail his thoughts on Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku and Ronaldo
CHRISTIAN VIERI’S GLITTERING CAREER
Playing position: Striker
Clubs: Torino, Pisa, Ravenna, Venezia, Atalanta, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Lazio, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Monaco, Sampdoria, Fiorentina.
Honours: Serie A x1, Coppa Italia x2, UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup x1, UEFA Super Cup x1, Intercontinental Cup x1
Career games: 476
Career goals: 235
Q: How did it feel to score the 1,000th goal for Italy?
A: I am happy to have scored the 1,000th goal in the national team (against Moldova in March 1997) but I never thought much about the records. It was a unique evening: my debut and my first goal. I do not follow the statistics but it was extraordinary to score such a historic goal on my debut.
Q: You played in Serie A and spent a season in Spain with Atletico Madrid. What are the differences?
A: I was happy to have done well in Spain by scoring 24 goals in 24 games, a record that I carry with me in my heart. I’m sad to have left Spain because in my opinion LaLiga is an exceptional, unique and extraordinary league.
For me it is the most fun and technical. Twelve months in Spain were too few. When I played in Serie A it was a dream. In Italy there were Baggio, Totti, Del Piero, Vialli and many others, without forgetting Ronaldo the Brazilian.
I won the golden boot in both Italy and Spain. At Atletico you have to thank my partner Kiko and the whole team that supported me.
Vieri shared his delight at scoring the 1,000th goal for the national team against Moldova
Q: How does it feel to have the record of goals scored at the World Cup for Italy (9) together with Roberto Baggio and Paolo Rossi?
A: The World Cup is a unique event. When you see a blue shirt in a bar or in a pub, you immediately think of Italy. Scoring for your nation was a wonderful experience. I had three idols: Roberto Mancini, Roberto Baggio and Gianluca Vialli. At 14 years old I went to see Baggio in the Fiesole Curve (the home of Fiorentina’s Ultras), at 23 I had a World Cup next to Baggio. It was wonderful.
Q: Can Romelu Lukaku be your heir at Inter?
A: He is big, with plenty of strength and height as I had. He’s got a very strong left foot and gets lots of height when he jumps for headers. I wish him well and he has already scored 17 goals in his first few months in Italy: a truly extraordinary result especially for a foreigner used to the Premier League.
Vieri believes that Lukaku has everything to be a big success at his former club Inter Milan
Q: Can Antonio Conte get the best out of him?
A: Antonio is a well-trained coach and knows how to looks after his players. The impression I get from Conte is that he takes care of every detail, so I think he can really maximise Lukaku’s potential.
In Serie A if you have an exceptional physique and you train very well you can destroy any opposing defense. I have been following Lukaku for 10 years and have always supported his strength. In England at United he had scored shortly before leaving, but when he is 100% physically Romelu is a bull.
‘Bobo’ said that Inter boss Antonio Conte knows how to maximise Lukaku’s potential in Italy
Q: Harry Kane is a great English goalscorer. He has many suitors, including in LaLiga and Serie A – where would you like to see him play?
A: He is an exceptional player. I would have played well with him as a partnership. I had the Brazilian Ronaldo, Hernan Crespo, Alessandro Del Piero, Francesco Totti, Baggio. I loved playing with the technicians.
Kane is not the classic English striker: physically he does not have many muscles like Lukaku but he has dribbling, running, precise and powerful shots. In Italy, someone like him is said to have ‘soft feet’.
Vieri also shared his thoughts on Harry Kane, who he described as a ‘beautiful player’
I like Kane very much because he has an unusual technique and quality, he is beautiful to look at. LaLiga or Serie A will be excellent leagues for him if he decides to leave London and Tottenham.
He has no problem playing well in very technical leagues. Kane is not a No 9 like Alan Shearer, who was an idol for me, one of the strongest English strikers in history. But Kane is equally strong.
Q: Speaking of England, who were the most difficult English defenders you faced?
A: In World Cup qualifying in 1997, I will never forget Tony Adams and Sol Campbell: two very strong lions physically and mentally. Italy too had and has formidable defenders, but I have a great memory of those two. It was a pleasure to fight against them.
Vieri said that Tony Adams and Sol Campbell were the toughest English defenders he faced
Q: Is the Brazilian Ronaldo or the Portuguese Ronaldo better?
A: I am a friend of Ronnie and I was lucky enough to have him as a striker with me. He had it all. He was explosive, powerful and fast. He looked like a dancer, he seemed to dance with the ball.
I say that Brazilian Ronaldo is better than the Cristiano Ronaldo. CR7 is a war machine, he is admirable for everything he does and for all the things he continues to do. Cristiano can play up to 40 years with a cigarette between his lips, as they say in Italy. He has a sculptural physique.
Vieri revealed he believes Brazilian Ronaldo (left) was better than Cristiano Ronaldo at his peak
The Italian played alongside Ronaldo when the pair were together at Inter Milan
Q: What was the best goal of your career?
A: There are two. One was in Spain, against PAOK. It was technically very difficult. I jumped the goalkeeper and almost from the corner flag, on the goalline on the left, I scored. The other was for Inter against Parma. Gianluigi Buffon was in goal. I stopped the ball, using my heel to move the ball and I struck with my left to put it home.
Q: Who were the most important coaches in your career?
A: At Juventus I say Marcelo Lippi, he was like a second father. In Turin’s youth teams I was coached by the great Rampati, then by (Emiliano) Mondonico. I also have to say Cesare Maldini, he helped my break into the national team. He was a magnificent person who trusted young people.