Throwback Thursday: Gullit and the Birth of the Milan-Napoli Feud

If the Roma-Juventus feud characterized the first half of the ‘80s in Italian football, there is no doubt about the battle between the Milan degli Olandesi (“Milan of the Dutchies”) and Diego Maradona’s Napoli being the most exciting duel towards the end of the decade. The match that set the beginning of this feud 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.

Still, coach Ottavio Bianchi’s club had been the one to take the lead after 10 minutes with a masterpiece goal by Careca: The Brazilian stopped the ball with his chest, catching a perfect cross by Maradona, and scored with a volley-chip. Milan didn’t lose their temper however, fully relying on his tall number 10, who proved to be literally unstoppable for the Azzurri defense.

The Rossoneri’s equalizer came out of an invention by Gullit, who ventured into Napoli’s area to offer Angelo Colombo an easy chance for finish. Then, after goalkeeper Claudio Garella had miracolously parried back a header by Alberigo Evani, Milan completed their comeback thanks to Pietro Paolo Virdis. A few minutes later, Gullit again went close to make it three with another header that hit Garella’s post.
A patchwork of moments from the Milan-Napoli match that saw the birth of Arrigo Sacchi’s invincible Milan (source:

The match continued on the same pattern after the break, with Napoli unable to pose any threat to the opponent keeper Giovanni Galli, and Milan continuing to push to score again. In the 73rd minute, the Black Tulip finally managed to put his name on the scorecard, dribbling Garella to deposit the ball into Napoli’s untended goal.

Then, just five minutes later, a long-range shot by Roberto Donadoni set the score at 4-1. Gullit once again put his stamp on it, first stationing in front of Garella to cover his vision, and then suddenly bending his head down to mislead Napoli’s goalie.

With eight minutes to go, the whole San Siro Stadium – La Scala del Calcio – stood up when Daniele Massaro substituted Gullit. The Rossoneri fans tributed a well-deserved standing ovation to their Tulipano Nero. Milan’s chase to the defending Serie A champions Napoli – which will eventually turn out to be successful – could officially start.


January 3, 1988 – Serie A 1987-88 Round 13

SCORERS: 10’ Careca (N), 19’ Colombo (M), 24’ Virdis (M), 73’ Gullit (M), 78’ Donadoni (M)

Logo_Milan_1981 MILAN: Galli G., Tassotti, Maldini, Colombo, Galli F., Baresi, Donadoni, Ancelotti, Virdis, Gullit (82’ Massaro), Evani (85’ Bortolazzi) (Nuciari, Costacurta, Mussi) Coach: Sacchi
Logo_Napoli_1980 NAPOLI: Garella, Ferrara, Francini, Bagni, Ferrario (75’ Bigliardi), Renica, Careca, De Napoli, Giordano, Maradona, Filardi (75’ Sola) (Di Fusco, Miano, Carnevale) Coach: Bianchi

REFEREE: Mr. Agnolin from Bassano del Grappa


…Where Are They Now?

Gullit1 Gullit2 Ruud Gullit, part of the famed Dutch trio that made Milan great in the last part of the ‘80s, joined the Rossoneri in 1987. Easily recognizable for his distinctive dreadlocks, a mostly unseen trait in Italy back in the days, he collected 117 caps with the Milan side, scoring 35 goals. Under the direction of Arrigo Sacchi and then Fabio Capello, he conquered three Scudetto and two Champions Cups. After a short stint with Sampdoria, he moved to Chelsea to serve as player-manager until 1998, quite a unique case in modern football. He has had mixed experiences as a coach from then on.
Garella1 Garella2 Goalkeeper Claudio Garella had an almost 20-year long career between Serie A and Serie B, whose highlights were the 1986-87 Scudetto won in Napoli, and an even more incredible Italian title conquered with Verona in the 1984-85 season – the only one in the history of the Scaligeri. After retiring in 1991, he has been coaching and acting as director for a few minor clubs, but he is currently out of the world of professional football. As a player, Garella was known for his unconventional yet effective goalkeeping style, which translated into using every single part of his body to frustrate the opponent strikers’ hopes…

Translated by Matteo Carnevale



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