If you are an Inter supporter, no matter your age, you must have heard about the Inter dei Record, Giovanni Trapattoni’s invincible lineup that dominated the Serie A 1988/89 season.
It was a team that stayed on top for one season only, delivering the Nerazzurri their 13thScudetto – the first in nine years and the last before an endless 17-years drought. The Inter dei Record was an abnormal exception rather than the rule, an impressive roster whose grip on the Serie A vanished as fast and as abruptly as it had appeared.
But no matter how short it lasted, the “Inter of Records” left an indelible mark in the history of the Serie A. Featuring, among others, Walter Zenga between the sticks, German international duo Lothar Matthaus and Andreas Brehme, and journeyman striker Aldo Serena – who would shockingly clinch the top scorer title ahead of the likes of Diego Maradona and Marco Van Basten – the Nerazzurri dominated the domestic campaign from the start to the end, breaking one record after another.
Inter won the title by tallying 26 wins out of 34 games, drawing six and losing only two. They collected 58 points out of a maximum of 68 available (those were still the days of the two points for a win system). Only two teams were able to beat them across the campaign. One was Torino, although their 2-0 win in the penultimate league round came when Inter had already secured the title.
The other club, the only one capable of temporarily halting a march that seemed unstoppable, was a Fiorentina side coached by Sven Goran Eriksson (a future Scudetto winner at Lazio) and powered by a young Roberto Baggio, future Brazilian World Champion Dunga, and some unlucky players, Enrico Cucchi and Stefano Borgonovo, who would both leave us too soon. It was February 12, 1989, the last campionato round before the seasonal turning point, and Fiorentina beat the Inter dei Record 4-3.
The Nerazzurri, who already had a three-point lead over second-placed Napoli, seemed off to a good start as on 13 minutes Swedish defender Glenn Hysen pushed down Lothar Matthaus in the box, prompting referee Luigi Agnolin to point at the penalty spot with no hesitation. The German number 10 made no mistake, firing the ball to goalkeeper Davide Landucci’s right.
But then Enrico Cucchi, a 24-year-old midfielder who had played with Inter for five seasons before moving to the Viola, showed his former club what he was still capable off, with a spectacular volley from outside the box that crashed into Zenga’s crossbar.
Fiorentina had their equalizer on 33 minutes as Roberto Baggio pounced on the ball in the middle of the box and put it past the Nerazzurri goalkeeper, besting no less than granitic defender Giuseppe Bergomi in the process. Then, forward Alberto Di Chiara threatened Inter with a close-range header, but Zenga lived up to his Uomo Ragno (“Spider Man”) nickname.
The two sides went for the break on a 1-1 score, but with the home side unexpectedly having command of the operations. Seven minutes after the restart, the Viola turned their predominance into a one-goal lead as Cucchi gave a brilliant sample of his running and dribbling skills, concluding his effort with a clinical diagonal shot to which the Uomo Ragno had no answer.
But since it was not by chance that Inter were dominating the league, the Nerazzurri turned the tables in the space of three minutes, with capocannoniere Aldo Serena heading the ball home in the 55th and in the 57th minute – first from a corner kick, and then from a left-side cross.
Enter Stefano Borgonovo.
The then 25-year-old striker was at his first season with Fiorentina on loan from Milan. In the 1988-89 campaign, he would score 14 goals out of 30 games, forming with Baggio a stunning offensive partnership known as the “B2.” Two of these goals came on that Sunday afternoon, and were the goals that enabled the Viola to wrap the upset of the week in a game that would remain set in the Fiorentina fans’ collective memory forever.
On 73 minutes, Borgonovo deflected past Zenga another Cucchi shot to bring the score at 3-3. But it was not over. Borgonovo’s final goal was not what would you call a spectacular one, yet it surely showed his true killer instinct.
The Viola forward took advantage of a very rare Bergomi mistake, as Inter’s defender tried a reckless back pass to his goalkeeper, perhaps not noticing that Borgonovo was lurking in Zenga’s surroundings. The striker pounced on the ball and dribbled past Inter’s shot-stopper before depositing it into the untended goal to wrap Fiorentina’s spectacular win.
What a football day that was. It was a time when an invincible team seemed vincible for once, and when the class and cleverness of some brilliant players made the giants stagger.
However, this story has a sad ending as both the main protagonists of that epic 4-3 win passed away a few years later. Enrico Cucchi came back to Inter the following season, then moved to Bari and Ravenna. In 1996, an aggressive form of skin cancer took him away at just 30, amidst whispered speculations that he was not supported enough by his clubs during his illness.
In the same year, Stefano Borgonovo retired from football after a remarkable career that never reached again the heights of his Fiorentina days. In 2008, he announced he was diagnosed with ALS. He never lost his hope and embarked on a courageous journey to raise awareness on a terrible disease that seemed to be hitting many former Serie A players with a concerning frequency. He passed away at 49, in June 2013.
Cucchi and Borgonovo left this world too soon, leaving many doubts and open questions that the world of calcio has not managed to answer.
And so, we just prefer to remember them as they run towards the stands of the Stadio Comunale in Florence (the Artemio Franchi was undergoing renovations in view of World Cup 1990) and hug each other after scoring a goal that helped Fiorentina put together one of the most stunning upsets in their history.
February 12, 1989 – Serie A 1988-89 Round 17
FIORENTINA – INTER 4-3
SCORERS: 13′ Matthaus (I, pen.); 33′ Baggio (F), 52′ Cucchi (F), 55′ Serena (I), 57′ Serena (I), 73′ Borgonovo (F), 85′ Borgonovo (F)
|FIORENTINA: Landucci, Bosco, Battistini, Hysen, Dunga, Mattei, Salvatori, Di Chiara, Cucchi, Borgonovo (86′ D. Pellegrini), Baggio (89′ Perugi) (Pellicanò, Pin, Pruzzo) Coach: Eriksson
INTER: Zenga, Ferri, Bergomi, Brehme, Matthaus, Matteoli, Bianchi, Mandorlini, Berti (30′ G. Baresi), Ramon Diaz (72′ Verdelli), Serena (Malgioglio, Rivolta, Fanna) Coach: Trapattoni
REFEREE: Mr. Agnolin from Bassano del Grappa
NOTES: Yellow card: Ferri (I)