Footballers are often defined by one moment. Even in careers of storied success and multiple acts of significance, there is usually one which stands alone. For David Trezeguet, a sweet left-footed strike thrashed past Francesco Toldo to win the 2000 European Championship, was that moment.
The noughties could hardly have began better for Trezeguet, with his figurative, and literal, Golden Goal against Italy having cemented France as the leading nation in the sport.
Trezeguet’s shirtless celebration is an indelible image in French football history, but it could have been different for the forward. As the son of Argentine parents, raised in Buenos Aires, Trezeguet could have adorned the colours of La Albiceleste over Les Bleus .
His father, Jorge, had been a professional footballer whose time at FC Rouen in France had coincided with the birth of his first son. The Trezeguets returned to South America while David was still a child, where his education in the sport he would later shine in began in Argentina’s bustling cosmopolitan capital.
He made his debut in Argentina’s Primera División aged just 16, but after only five appearances for Club Atlético Platense was crossing the Atlantic on a plane back to Europe.
AS Monaco agreed a deal to sign the teenager, who wasted little time in making his mark. After a handful of appearances in the senior side, the gangly goal-poacher announced his arrival as one of Europe’s most exciting talents, scoring 24 goals in all competitions during the 1997/98 season.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) March 18, 2020
Trezeguet’s goal record saw him named as Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year, succeeding teammate Thierry Henry, and earn selection for the 1998 World Cup squad.
As the youngest member of Les Bleus’ squad at the finals, Trezeguet’s role was limited, though he scored in the 4-0 win over Saudi Arabia in the group stage.
As the tournament reached its conclusion Trezeguet was celebrating a World Cup win, as France were crowned world champions for the first time after beating Brazil at the Stade de France.
Goals continued to come easily for Trezeguet, who netted 52 in 93 league games for Monaco, where he twice won Ligue 1. Despite that domestic record, he struggled to cement a regular role with France amid competition for a place from Christophe Dugarry, Nicolas Anelka and Thierry Henry.
France began the 2000 European Championship as favourites, but for Trezeguet he spent much of the tournament watching on. A start and goal in the dead-rubber group game against the Netherlands and a substitute showing against Portugal in the last four was his only involvement before the final.
Dugarry earned the nod to start the final against the Italians, but with France trailing to a Marco Delvecchio goal, Trezeguet was summoned from the substitutes’ bench. In an hour of need, Roger Lemerre looked to Trezeguet, arguably the least naturally gifted of France’s forward options, but the most instinctive when chances arrived.
France forced extra-time with a late equaliser, as Sylvain Wiltord latched onto Trezeguet’s flick on to drill home in stoppage time from an acute angle. The latter’s leap had helped change the course of the final, but more was to come.
Italy had been seconds from success, but now faced 30 minutes of added time in which the ecstasy and anguish of the Golden Goal rule gripped the contest. After 103 minutes of action in Rotterdam’s De Kuip, came the moment. Trezeguet’s moment.
Robert Pires jinked past a pair of Italian challenges to the byline, before cutting a ball back into the area. There, waiting, was France’s centre-forward, who loaded back his left boot and lashed a finish into the top corner. France, champions. Trezeguet, immortal.
🇫🇷 France won EURO 2000 #OTD 🏆
— UEFA EURO 2024 (@EURO2024) July 2, 2020
The Golden Goal age was short-lived, a ‘next goal wins’ rule that brought angst, drama, and delight. For Trezeguet, it was the highest of highs, a micro-moment that changed his career.
His name firmly in lights, Juventus agreed a deal to bring Trezeguet to Serie A. His first season saw a modest return of 15 league goals, as he competed for a place with established frontmen Alessandro Del Piero and Filippo Inzaghi.
The deterioration of the relationship between that pair saw the latter move to Milan, a sale that saw Trezeguet take a central role and the union of a devastating duo at The Stadio Delle Alpi.
Del Piero was the golden boy of the Old Lady, a footballing Fantasista who both created and converted chances. Del Piero’s delicacy outside of the area allowed Trezeguet to use his own strengths, confined more to the 18-yard box. He was excellent in the air, able to battle brutish defenders despite a wiry frame, and an intuitive finisher of either foot.
His second season saw Trezeguet score 24 league goals as Juventus were crowned champions, ending the campaign as Serie A’s leading scorer alongside Brescia’s Dario Hübner to win the Capocannoniere. So good were his performances, he was named as Serie A Footballer of the Year.
The following campaign proved less fruitful as the Frenchman battled injury problems, though he returned to feature in the Champions League final. AC Milan were the opponents at Old Trafford in the first-ever all Italian decider, but it was an evening to forget for both Trezeguet and Juve. The forward missed from the spot in a penalty shootout defeat to the Rossoneri, following a goalless draw in Manchester.
Juventus, however, were the dominant force in Italy during the early noughties. The terrific tandem of Del Piero and Trezeguet, added to with the capture of Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Ajax, proved potent as the Bianconeri won four league titles in six seasons. The final two of those championships would be removed however, in a scandal that rocked Italian football. Juventus were implicated in the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal, and relegated to Serie B.
European football’s biggest clubs hovered over Turin like vultures on a carcass, as a fire sale ensued of the club’s chief talent. Ibrahimovic and Patrick Vieira signed for Inter Milan, Fabio Cannavaro and Emerson moved to Real Madrid, and Gianluca Zambrotta and Lilian Thuram swapped Serie B for Spain after joining Barcelona.
For Trezeguet, leaving was never an option.
The Frenchman chose to turn down advances from Europe and remain at Juventus where, alongside Del Piero, Pavel Nedved, Mauro Camoranesi and Gianluigi Buffon, he fired the Old Lady back into the top division at the first time of asking.
His season in the second tier came after a summer in which he had played in a World Cup final. Les Bleus impressed to reach the decider against Italy, but unlike his previous major tournament appearance against Azzurri, it ended in heartbreak. On as a substitute in extra-time, Trezeguet missed the crucial kick as France were beaten on penalties in Berlin.
His show of loyalty at club level endeared Trezeguet further to a fanbase which already idolised him, while the old connection with Del Piero continued upon their Serie A return, as the duo combined for 41 goals to fire Juventus to a third-place finish and Champions League qualification.
That campaign was the last truly top-level season for Trezeguet in Turin. After two seasons where fitness issues reduced his impact, he signed for Heracles in Spain. He departed Juventus having scored 171 goals in all competitions, a record for an overseas player and the fourth highest return in the club’s history.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) January 13, 2022
One season in Spanish football ended in relegation and was followed with a short stint in the UAE Pro League, before Trezeguet made a romantic return to Argentina.
He signed for River Plate, who were aiming to recover from the first relegation in the history of the Buenos Aires behemoth. As he had done at Juventus, Trezeguet relished the challenge of restoring a fallen giant. He scored 13 goals in 19 league games to fire River to promotion from the Primera Nacional.
— River Plate (@RiverPlate) October 15, 2020
Short spells at Newell’s Old Boys and India’s Pune City followed his exit from Los Millonarios, before the boots that had dispatched goals with prolific predictability were hung up for the final time.
As he rode off into the sunset, he did so with an almost one-in-two goal record for club and country, the gold standard for centre-forwards of his era. Trezeguet was a classic number nine when classic number nines were still a thing, a pure poacher first and foremost, and master of the one-touch finish.