Cristiano Ronaldo’s landing in Italy suddenly brought Serie A back to its glory days, when the top football players in the world used to regularly hang out at the Italian elite division. But considering the lack of talents seen in the most recent years, Italian fans were mostly resigned to the idea of those days being long gone.
And still, with an ambitious and daring market operation, Juventus managed to put their hands on the Champion of Madeira – facilitated by the economic power of Fiat Chrysler, as well as by CR7’s little problems with the Spanish Internal Revenue.
The purchase of Ronaldo expectedly sparked uproar in the Italian mediasphere, to an extent previously seen in only two occasions since the Belpaese reopened its frontiers to foreign players in 1980. Once, when another Ronaldo – Luis Nazario da Lima, the Fenomeno – joined Massimo Moratti’s Inter in the Summer of 1997; and previously, with even more clamor, when Diego Armando Maradona found home at the foot of Mount Vesuvius in 1984.
Indeed, there is something that Cristiano Ronaldo shares with El Pibe de Oro, when it comes to his Serie A debut. Just like for the Argentinian legend, CR7’s first match in Italy also took place at the Marc’Antonio Bentegodi Stadium in Verona. Juventus faced Chievo in their Serie A 2018-19 opening match, whereas for the first game of their 1984-85 season, Rino Marchesi’s Napoli traveled to Verona to face Hellas. The Scaligeri were coming from a lost Coppa Italia Final, but had reinforced themselves in the summer market signing players like Preben Elkjaer-Larsen and Hans-Peter Briegel.
On that September 16 of 36 years ago, German defender Briegel was the hero of the day as coach Osvaldo Bagnoli placed him to mark the debutant Maradona. Non only did he succeed in keeping the Argentinian fantasista at bay, but in the 25th minute he also scored the opening goal with a powerful header from a corner by Pietro Fanna.
Napoli were stunned, and conceded the second one only seven minutes later. Goalkeeper Luciano Castellini failed to block an everything-but-irresistible shot by Antonio Di Gennaro, and for Giuseppe Nanu Galderisi it was easy to tap the ball in.
After the break, the Partenopei’s reaction resulted in Daniel Bertoni reducing the gap in the 58th minute, making the best out of a service by Salvatore Bagni with a beautiful left-foot volley. Then, Maradona went close to make it even, but his conclusion ended a few inches short of the goal. An additional header, this time by Di Gennaro from another free kick by Fanna, eventually set the score to 3-1 for the home side.
That was the beginning of an incredible journey to glory for Verona, which ended with the Gialloblu conquering their first, and so far only Italian title. Napoli and Maradona supporters, on the other hand, had to wait a couple more years to see their darling opening their well-known winning cycle.
September 16, 1984 – Serie A 1984-85 Round 1
SCORERS: 25’ Briegel (V), 32’ Galderisi (V), 58’ Bertoni (N), 75’ Di Gennaro (V)
|VERONA: Garella, Volpati, L. Marangon, Tricella, Ferroni, Briegel, Fanna, Bruni (89’ Donà), Galderisi (83’ Turchetta), Di Gennaro, Elkjaer (Spuri, F. Marangon, Fontolan) Coach: Bagnoli|
|NAPOLI: Castellini, Bruscolotti, Boldini (72’ Caffarelli), Celestini, Ferrari, De Vecchi, Bertoni, Bagni, Penzo, Maradona, Dal Fiume (Di Fusco, De Rosa, Carannante, Ferrara) Coach: Marchesi|
REFEREE: Mr. Mattei from Macerata
NOTES: Attendance: 42000; Yellow Cards: Galderisi (V), Celestini, Maradona (N); Red Card: Bruscolotti (N)
Translated by Matteo Carnevale