Throwback Thursday: When Le Roi Platini Replied to Uncle Bergomi

A shocking first-minute opener by Inter’s beloved “Uncle” Giuseppe Bergomi, a penalty tap-in by Le Roi Michel Platini, after Walter Zenga had saved his first shot. The Derby d’Italia between Inter and Juventus played at the San Siro Stadium on November 24, 1985, was a showcase of talent and players who would go on to make history in their respective clubs.

Juventus, coached by Giovanni Trapattoni, had already taken a solitary lead in the third round, and wouldn’t let it go until the end of the campionato. Inter had shown great pre-season ambitions, but would rather end up sucked down in the table to finish a disappointing sixth.

When the two sides met in Serie A Round 11, the Bianconeri already had a five-point lead over the Nerazzurri, which were third in the standing. To make things worse for the home side, Inter were just out of a troubled week during which they had sacked trainer Ilario Castagner. Rumors had it that Castagner was overthrown by an internal conspiracy led by some of his key players, including Irishman Liam Brady.

For the most important match of all, President Ernesto Pellegrini had thus hastily put Nerazzurri legend Mario Corso in charge. As a player, Mariolino Corso had been a pillar and the offensive terminal of the Grande Inter, an almost invincible squad from the ‘60s coached by Helenio Herrera, whose lineup every true Nerazzurro knows by heart like a sweet nursery rhyme (Sarti-Facchetti-Burgnich-Bedin-Guarneri-Picchi-Jair-Mazzola-Domenghini-Suarez-Corso).

Corso was the inventor of the so-called punizione a foglia morta (“Dead leaf free-kick”), a peculiar way of taking a free kick consisting in hitting the ball on the inside of the foot to bend it past the wall and make it swerve downward abruptly.

The presence of such an amulet on Inter’s bench was supposedly enough to intimidate the visitors Juventini, together with the frightful memories of the previous season, when Juve’s trip to San Siro had resulted in an appalling 0-4 defeat.

But Juventus, whose seasonal curriculum boasted nine wins and one loss only in the initial 10 games, were not easy to scare – if only for the fact that their number 10 was a 30-year-old Frenchman with wavy hair and three Ballon d’Or in his living room’s showcase: Michel Platini,  unpretentiously known as Le Roi.

On the Bianconeri’s front line, young striker Aldo Serena was the Christian Vieri or Roberto Baggio of the ‘80s decade – not necessarily for his skills, rather for the fact that in his career he would end up playing with all the top three traditional Italian clubs Juventus, Inter, and Milan.

Among the Nerazzurri lines, good seeds had been planted in the previous years, and were silently growing into a generation of players which would ultimately explode into the shimmering, short-lived domination of the Inter dei Record: Goalkeeper Walter Zenga, defenders Giuseppe Bergomi, Giuseppe Baresi (the lesser-known, older brother of Milan’s Franco), and Riccardo Ferri. The most representative character in Mario Corso’s roster, however, was still Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

The German stürmer was ruled out by an injury, but his absence would not be missed, as Inter’s offensive weaponry found a quite unexpected support in the person of Giuseppe Bergomi – a life spent wearing the black-and-blue jersey.

Bergomi was a rock-solid defender who would become so familiar to the Nerazzurri fans with his low-profile, reassuring personality, that they would eventually and affectionately dub him Lo Zio (“The Uncle”). Just like somebody you would expect to meet every Sunday at a family reunion lunch, knowing that he was always going to be there.

On top of being one of the top defenders of his generation, Bergomi – already a World Champion in 1982 at 19 – did also know a thing or two about scoring, as he would extensively prove in the 1985-86 season where he hit the target an impressive, career-best five times.

When referee Pietro D’Elia blew the initial whistle of the Derby d’Italia, it took less than 60 seconds for Lo Zio to pounce like a predator on a cross from the left by Liam Brady, and put the ball past dazed keeper Stefano Tacconi with a no-nonsense header.

A couple of good saves on the part of both Walter Zenga and Stefano Tacconi – the two goalies offering an interesting preview of their battle for the Nazionale starting goalkeeper position which would animate the last years of the ‘80s decade – maintained the score unchanged until half time.

Then, after the break, a relentless run by Antonio Cabrini on the left flank propitiated Juve’s equalizer. Cabrini served Aldo Serena in the box and the striker’s heel kick was parried back by Walter Zenga with his foot. Zenga couldn’t have done anything on the subsequent header tap-in, but Giuseppe Baresi providentially took his place and waved the ball away with an effective – yet illegal – handball.

With today’s rules, that would have been a direct red card for the older of the Baresi Brothers. Referee Pietro D’Elia limited himself to point at the penalty spot. Walter Zenga saved Le Roi Michel Platini’s shot, but the Frenchman was quick to drive the ball back with his head, setting the score at 1-1. Zenga lashed out at his teammates, as nobody had come to contrast Platini.

As Inter’s goalkeeper continued to frustrate Juventus’ offensive chances and scream at his colleagues, later in the game striker-for-a-day Giuseppe Bergomi hit the crossbar with a violent shot on the opposite side. The ball bounced on the goal line and Lo Zio asked for the goal to be allowed, but VAR was still far to come. The score didn’t change anymore.

The draw in the Derby d’Italia didn’t alter the course of a season whose destiny soon became clear: Juventus would go on to collect their Scudetto number 22, the last before a long drought that would last until 1995. The Nerazzurri, on the other hand, would have two wait two more seasons to become the Inter dei Record and catch their 13th Italian title.

Who would be their coach? The fomer Juventino Giovanni Trapattoni, of course!


November 24, 1985 – Serie A 1985-86 Round 11

SCORERS: 1′ Bergomi (I), 52′ Platini (J)

INTER: Zenga, Bergomi, Marangon, Baresi, Collovati, Ferri, Fanna (12′ Selvaggi, 63′ Pellegrini), Mandorlini, Altobelli, Brady, Cucchi (Lorieri, Rivolta, Minaudo) Coach: Corso
JUVENTUS: Tacconi, Favero, Cabrini, Bonini, Brio, Scirea, Mauro, Manfredonia, Serena, Platini (88′ Pioli), Laudrup (86′ Pacione) (Bodini, Caricola, Bonetti) Coach: Trapattoni

REFEREE: Mr. D’Elia from Salerno
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Bergomi (I), Mauro, Serena (J)