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WHEN JUVENTUS RULED THE WORLD - A BRIEF HISTORY OF ITALIAN FOOTBALL GREATNESS AND DISGRACE

Published on 15 September 2020 at 09:20

Italia 90' is one of the best remembered and reminisced world cups not least for its setting in Italy amid a football home nation, culturally significant to Europe and the BBC theme song by Luciano Pavarotti "Nessun Dorma". It would romanticise the tournament like no other, from Gazza's tears, Cameroon's stunning performance, Jacks Army marching to the quarterfinals only to be seen out by Schillaci, a summer wonder, the scrappy semi-final and finals between Germany & The Netherlands then Germany & Argentina. Cruel defeats would mark the romantic memory of this world cup.

 

Apart from hosting the world cup, Italian football was dominant all the way through with half of the world cup winning West Germany squad playing their club football in Italy and Diego Maradona playing for Napoli at the time of the tournament. From the years of 1983 to 1998 Italian club football ruled the world. They had all the best players, all European Championship winning nations had their star players play in Italy. Italian club football was so dominant that of the 32 finalists in European cup and Champions league tournaments 12 would be won by Italian sides. Between the same dates, the Ballon d' or (an award for the best footballer of the year) was awarded 17 times and won 13 times by players who played in Italy. Up until the late 90s the world’s greatest called Italy home from Zidane to Ronaldo.

 

Eventually, the money-making machine of the English Premier League and La Liga sides Barcelona and Real Madrid would become more attractive than Italian teams. Italian football began to disappear from competitive European football during the mid-2000s with Inter last winning in 2010.

 

A myriad of problems would trouble the Serie A, from club stadiums being owned by the councils and not the teams. Meaning it was local councils who paid for alterations, restorations, and improvements. Making Italian stadiums old, depressing, and dangerous. Juventus would be one of the first to build their own stadium known as the Allianz Stadium with Inter Milan and AC Milan to follow by building the Milan stadium. A shared home for the clubs that will be made on the demolished grounds of the San Siro with Italy's heritage authority giving the green light for the arena from 1926 to be replaced.

 

Italian football also neglected a global audience during the turn of the century and lost out of lucrative business, with Cristiano Ronaldo moving to Juventus in 2018 to add some star power to the Serie A, which draws less attendance than the MLS and just more than the EFL.

 

During the mid to late 2000s, Italy's economy would be rocked by the great recession. One of the worst-hit nations in Europe, Italy would be embroiled in corruption and poor leadership by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who also served as Chairman of AC Milan on two occasions (86-04, 06-08). His politics may be sometimes divisive and incendiary, but his contribution and management of AC Milan guided the club to unprecedented success. 29 trophies with 5 European cups and Champions league titles.

 

The Calciopoli affair was a scandal around match-fixing in Serie A involving Juventus, AC Milan, Florentina, Lazio and others to a lesser extent. The most dramatic outcome of the investigation by prosecutors was the demotion of Juventus to Serie B and being stripped of the coveted Scudettos from (04/05), being stripped of all the title winnings for the year and stricken from the record. It was a scandal that cast Italian club football into the shadows and most insulting of all, de-legitimised Italian football. To this day the Calciopoli scandal is something Italian football fans would like to forget but reports from the investigation are still being released. In April of 2019, The Italian Supreme Court ruled that Juventus management was supplying tickets to Ultras with connections to the Calabrian mafia, known as the ‘Ndrangheta. Former Juve player and 2006 world cup winner Vincenzo Iaquinta was sentenced to two years in prison in 2018 for firearm offences with his father being served 19 years for mafia related offenses.

 

Ireland has had its brush with Italian greatness with managerial legend Giovanni Trapattoni who coached the boys in green from 2008 to 2013. But he will always be known as the only one to win all seasonal UEFA titles with Juventus.

 

From 1983 to 1998 seven teams claimed the Scudetto, and few could retain it for a season, it was the height of competitive football in Europe. Today, Juventus wear the Scudetto as they have done for the past 9 seasons. A dominant era for the team or more accurately a lack of competition than has hurt the Serie A's reputation.

 

There is no football memory without Italian sides whether it was AC Milan, Inter Milan, Napoli, Nazionale di calcio dell'Italia, or Juventus.

 

 


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