Ravanelli was born in Perugia. He has played with a dozen European teams, among them Perugia, Juventus, Lazio, Marseille, Middlesbrough, Derby County and Dundee F.C., as well as getting 22 caps with the Italian national team.
Known as the "White Feather" in recognition of his prematurely whitened hair, he was one of Europe's top goalscorers in the mid 1990s. Playing for Juventus, Ravanelli won one Serie A title (1994-95), one Coppa Italia (1994-95), one SuperCoppa Italiana (1995), one Champions League (1995-96), where he scored in the final against Ajax, and one UEFA Cup (1992-93). In September 27, 1994, he memorably scored all 5 goals for Juventus against CSKA Sofia in their 5-1 win. In the 1996 UEFA Champions League Final he put Juventus 1-0 up. Ajax subsequently equalised but Juventus still won the game in a penalty shootout.
He made an immediate positive impact on moving into the English Premier League with Bryan Robson's Middlesbrough though his success was not sustained. He scored a hat-trick on his debut against Liverpool on the opening day of the 1996-97 season. Despite being one of the league's top scorers, Middlesbrough were relegated in the year that he joined. He did however help them to the final of both domestic cup competitions that season. He started both finals as Middlesbrough went down to Chelsea in the FA Cup Final and Leicester City in the League Cup Final, he scored in the final of the latter only for Emile Heskey to equalise and send the game to a replay, which Leicester subsequently won. He alienated himself from teammates and fans with his constant complaints and criticisms of the club's training regime and facilities, as well as the town itself, despite being the highest paid footballer in the Premiership at the time. Whilst at the club he resided in the local small North Yorkshire village of Hutton Rudby where Middlesbrough football associates such as Paul Merson, Gordon McQueen and several other notable individuals have had residences. He was regarded as very supportive of the local community and specifically charity events.
He joined Derby County in 2001 because he was still hungry, but could not save the club from relegation in 2002. Due to Derby's financial problems they had to defer his wage payments which they paid for several years. He then joined Dundee following the end of his Derby contract but was sacked after the club released all of their top earners. The only game in which Ravanelli scored for Dundee was against Clyde in a League Cup match. He ended up scoring a hatrick. After the experience in Scotland he went back home to finish his career with Perugia, where he tried to help the club out of relegation trouble.
Ravanelli's signature celebration when scoring a goal was pulling his shirt over his head and running around the field. Ravanelli has been a big opposer to the new FIFA rule put in place where a player gets a yellow card for removing his shirt during a celebration. He now works as a football pundit for SKY Italia and Mediaset.