There is something that Cristiano Ronaldo shares with Diego Maradona, when it comes to his Serie A debut. Just like for the Argentinian legend, CR7’s first match in Italy will take place at the Bentegodi Stadium in Verona. Juventus will play Chievo in their Serie A 2018-19 opening match, whereas Napoli traveled to Verona to face Hellas in the 1984-85 season.
If the Roma-Juventus feud characterized the first half of the ‘80s in Italian football, there is no doubt about Milan-Napoli being the most exciting duel towards the end of the decade. The match that set the beginning of this rivalry took place on January 3, 1988, when Ruud Gullit – who had just been awarded the Ballon d’Or for the year 1987 – drove the Partenopei nuts, and inflicted them their first seasonal defeat.
Genoa and Napoli supporters have a long-lasting twinning, whose fascinating history is deep-rooted in events where football merges with historical circumstances. This friendship spans from the events following the 1973 tragic breakout of cholera in Napoli, and was cemented during a 1982 match at San Paolo Stadium, where Genoa managed to remain in Serie A thanks to a last-minute 2-2 tie against the Partenopei.
Between coach Giovanni Trapattoni’s unstoppable Inter of the 1988-89 season, and their 13th Scudetto, there is just one obstacle left: The home match against direct rivals Napoli, scheduled for May 28, 1989. With just five rounds to go, the only side that can still reach the leading Nerazzurri are Diego Maradona’s Napoli, who are seven points behind. A free kick by Lothar Matthäus will solve the problem for the “Inter of Records.”
Scoring a decisive goal in a Serie A derby can earn you a place in your supporters’ dearest collective memory. But if that goal enables your team to break a six-year non-winning streak in the Milano stracittadina, then your place in the History of Italian football is set in stone forever. That is what happened to British striker Mark Hateley, who played with Milan for three seasons between 1984 and 1987, in his first derby wearing the Rossoneri colors.
Far from being the sparkling squad that lead Serie A today, on June 10, 2001 Napoli are in the middle of a desperate fight to avoid relegation. Coached by Emiliano Mondonico, who substituted Zdenek Zeman after just six games, the Partenopei are third from last with 32 points – one less than Lecce, Reggina, and Vicenza. In the last two games, they need to face Roma at home, and then Fiorentina away.
There is a thin line that separates great players from true outliers: It’s a fleeting border, not an easy one to cross. But beyond that border, you may sometimes happen to witness pure Genius manifesting itself. That is exactly what happened with Vincenzo Montella, when Fabio Capello’s Roma met Milan in Round 32 of Season 2000-2001 – the Giallorossi being very close to conquer the third Scudetto of their history.
If you ask any Milan supporter which was the key moment in their victorious 1998-99 season, they will probably mention that goal propitiated by Maurizio Ganz in the 95th minute of a home match against Sampdoria. On May 2, 1999, Milan received the Blucerchiati on the path of their desperate chase to Serie A leader Lazio – which had a one-point margin over the Rossoneri, with four matches left to play.
Milan come back to Paolo Mazza Stadium for the first time in 37 years tomorrow to face SPAL. It was April 12, 1981, when the Rossoneri last visited what was then known as Stadio Comunale of Ferrara. That match went down to history as it featured one of the most traumatic events for the home Biancazzurri: The injury occurred to Franco Ogliari, consequence of a horrific tackle by Franco Baresi.
Serie A 1994-95. Fiorentina, then coached by Claudio Ranieri, sit third in the standing with two points less than Parma, and one less than Juventus. Led by Gabriel Batistuta, who has been scoring consecutively in all the first eleven matches of the season (an unbroken record as of today), the Viola pay visit to the Bianconeri for the 12th Round on December 4. Their hope is to leave the Delle Alpi Stadium unbeaten.
Since the early ‘80s, the rivalry between Roma and Juventus has become the fieriest in Italian football. The games between the Giallorossi and the Bianconeri were often decisive to assign the Scudetto, and have always been vibrant and hard-fought, with controversies both inside and outside the pitch. Juventus-Roma matches, with their champions and debates, never fail to deliver emotions to Serie A fans.
May 20, 1973: Final round of Serie A. Milan, coached by Nereo Rocco, are leading the standing with one point over Juventus and surprising newly-promoted Lazio. Only four days earlier, the Rossoneri have won the Cup Winners Cup, but the final with Leeds United took a heavy toll on their forces. The team is so battered that coach Rocco vainly asks for the last match against Hellas Verona to be postponed.