The 1986/87 season started in the aftermath of the 1986 World Cup that Diego Maradona had dominated single handedly.
In doing so he had signaled a power shift. He was now the undisputed number one player on the planet, replacing the ageing Michel Platini.
The previous season’s Scudetto triumph could not hide the fact that Juventus was clearly fading after dominating for most of the 1970s and 80s.
Legendary manager Giovanni Trappatoni left Juventus that summer after a decade filled with triumphs to take over at Internazionale Milano.
Juventus appointed former Como Manager Rino Marchesi who many felt had done a good job by keeping up a small team like Como in the elite.
Juventus had actually achieved a major coup that summer by acquiring the highly coveted Welsh striker Ian Rush of Liverpool. Due to a foreign players transfer embargo on all teams (except newly promoted ones), he was loaned back to Liverpool that season, in line to replace the following season Platini, who many already expected to depart.
Otherwise the squad remained intact with Platini, Michael Laudrup as foreigners and with a backbone of veterans such as Scirea, Cabrini, Brio, Manfredonia and Bonini. Inter property Aldo Serena was loaned for another season at Juventus. Their main acquisitions were Beniamino Vignola (returning after a season at Verona) and Roberto Solda from Atalanta.
After the World Cup triumph, many expected Maradona to lift Napoli even higher. The previous season’s third place had opened the door to European Football and just like the previous season, they made some efficient purchases.
The side managed by Ottavio Bianchi signed the young Italian International midfielder, the appropriately named, Fernando De Napoli from Avellino, along with future Italian International striker Andrea Carnevalle from Udinese. Their other key arrivals included Francesco Romano from Triestina and Giuseppe Volpecina from Pisa.
Photo From: Guerin Sportivo, September 24-30, 1986(Napoli new signing Andrea Carnevalle)
These additions made a squad that already contained current and former Italian Internationals such as Salvatore Bagni and Bruno Giordano even stronger.
Internazionale Milano also reinforced itself for the coming campaign. In addition to handing over the reins to Trappatoni, talented midfielder Gianfranco Mateolli arrived from Sampdoria (He would earn his only caps for Italy that season), Adriano Piraccini joined from Bari and Oliviero Garlini from Lazio.
The side was already high on quality and contained Walter Zenga, Riccardo Ferri, Giuseppe Bergomi, Giuseppe Baresi, Marco Tardelli, Alessandro Altobelli, Pietro Fanna and West Germany’s Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
They had made a change as far as their second foreigner, gone was Republic of Ireland veteran Liam Brady, who was offloaded to Ascoli. In his place came Argentina’s former Captain Daniel Passarella from Fiorentina.
Other veterans such as Evaristo Beccalossi and Fulvio Collovatti were offloaded to Brescia and Udinese respectively, while Giampiero Marini retired.
This was Silvio Berlusconi’s first full season as owner of AC Milan. He made some team additions while still retaining Nils Liedholm (for the time being) in control of the team. An ageing Paolo Rossi was offloaded to Verona and in his place came Giuseppe Galderisi from the opposite direction. AS Roma Defender Dario Bonetti, Atalanta Midfielder (and soon new International) Roberto Donadoni arrived along with Fiorentina pair of goalkeeper Giovanni Galli and Daniele Massaro. The English pair of Ray Wilkins and Mark Hateley were still retained, however, as the season progressed it became apparent that both would soon be replaced with the Dutch pair of Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten.
Photo From: Guerin Sportivo, September 24-30, 1986
(AC Milan’s Roberto Donadoni)
Photo From: Guerin Sportivo, December 10-16, 1986(Paolo Rossi at Verona)
Argentinean talent Claudio Borghi had also been signed to be integrated once the embargo was lifted.
Sampdoria appointed the Yugoslav Vujadin Boskov as Manager and registered the arrivals of foreign pair of West German Hans-Peter Briegel from Verona and AS Roma’s Brazilian midfielder Toninho Cerezo.
AS Roma, still under the Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson (although Angelo Sormani actually possessed the license to manage), held on to the Pole Zbigniew Boniek and other ageing stars like Bruno Conti and Roberto Pruzzo. Their main acquisition was Denmark’s Klaus Berggreen from Pisa.
The rest of their arrivals were relative young unknowns such as Marco Baroni, Paolo Baldieri and Massimo Agostini.
Other notable transfers included the arrival of Swedish striker Johnny Ekstroem at newly promoted Empoli (in November), Argentinean striker Ramon Diaz moving from Avellino to Fiorentina, Dutch striker Wim Kieft joining Torino from Pisa and the double transfer of veteran strikers Francesco Graziani (from AS Roma) and Argentinean striker Daniel Bertoni (from Napoli) to Udinese.
Before the season had even started Udinese seemed destined to be one of the relegated teams, since the League had imposed them a nine-point handicap due to a match fixing scandal (Totonero 1986).
As for myself, at the end of previous season I had by chance discovered the magazine ‘Soccer America’ and had subscribed to it. This weekly magazine kept me up to date with all the scores and the news.
This was the only specialized Soccer magazine in the United States at the time (At least that’s what I believe, I never came across another). Their coverage of the European Soccer scene and International matches in general was very informative, specially given the lack of interest in the nation as a whole.
While there was still no television coverage to speak of, at least I could read about the events and the scores.
This was still a better alternative than the previous year, when I was completely in the dark for the entire season.
As far the events on the field, both Juventus and Napoli started the season in strong fashion. Until the eighth match of the season the teams were equal on points and undefeated.
They had both been eliminated on the European front at that stage. Napoli had been defeated by French Club Toulouse in the First Round of the UEFA Cup and Juventus had been eliminated by Real Madrid in the second round of the Champions Cup.
The turning point of the season was on Matchday 9 (November 9th), when Napoli visited Juventus in the table-topping clash of the season.
Juventus struck first early in the second half through Michael Laudrup, however, a more confident Napoli struck back with three goals through Ferrario, Giordano and Volpecina. This win signaled Napoli’s title winning potential in addition to Juventus’ decline and capitulation.
Photo From: Mondial, new series, issue 83, February 1987
(Diego Maradona between Massimo Bonini and Sergio Brio, November 9, 1986, Juventus 1-Napoli 3)
Juventus never really recovered from this loss and in the following weeks went further behind and suffered more heavy losses vs. AS Roma and Sampdoria.
Inter became Napoli’s closest challengers and narrowed the gap.
By Matchday 14, the two teams were level on points as Napoli suffered its first defeat of the season at the hands of Fiorentina (1-3).
However, by the following week Napoli was back on top after a win at Ascoli coupled with Inter’s loss at Verona.
Napoli started the second half of the season with five consecutive wins, but Inter still kept pace.
By March, AS Roma crept up the table and was runner-up, but quickly lost pace and Inter was back on.
Inter’s Daniel Passarella was involved in an ugly incident, when he kicked a ball boy in a match vs. Sampdoria on March 8th (1-3 loss), who was guilty in his eyes of delaying in giving him the ball. He was fined, suspended (6 matches) and apologized.
With seven matches left, Inter defeated Napoli (1-0) to close the gap somewhat.
By Matchday 26 (April 12th), there were some worries in the Napoli camp as they were defeated (0-3) at Verona. Inter won that same day to close the gap to 2 points.
This was as close Inter got and in the coming weeks they imploded and lost composure by losing two of their last four matches.
The title decider was on Matchday 29 (May 10th), Napoli hosted Fiorentina and the one-one tie gave them the point they needed to win their first ever Scudetto.
Diego Maradona even stated that Napoli’s title had made him even happier than winning the World Cup.
Photo From: Onze, Issue 138, June 1987
(May 10, 1987, Napoli 1-Fiorentina 1)
Diego Maradona endured an unforgettable season during which he also became a father for the first time and also had to deal with a paternity suit early in the season.
Napoli ended a memorable season a few weeks later by clinching the League and Cup double by defeating Atalanta.
Other noteworthy events at this end of the season included Silvio Berlusconi’s decision to remove Liedholm and appoint Fabio Capello to guarantee European qualification for AC Milan. He did so by winning a playoff vs. Sampdoria following the conclusion of the regular season.
AC Milan’s Pietro Paolo Virdis was the top goalscorer with 17 goals, with a young Gianluca Vialli behind with 12 goals.
Photo From: Guerin Sportivo, September 24-30, 1986
(AC Milan’s Pietro Paolo Virdis)
The already condemned Udinese was relegated with Atalanta and Brescia.
By the last match, Juventus surprisingly moved up to second position, having more or less been out of the title race for much of the season.
Juventus’ last match (May 17, Brescia 3-2 win) was significant as it was Frenchman Michel Platini’s last ever official match as he retired from the game. The triple European player of the year enjoyed great success in Italy, except this last season, where he was a shadow of his former self. Though still young enough (almost 32 years old), it was clear that the stress of the Italian Serie A had aged and jaded him.
Photo From: Onze, Issue 138, June 1987
(Platini at the conclusion of his last ever match, may 17, 1987, Juventus 3-Brescia 2)
His retirement coincided with the general decline of Juventus as they would not win another Scudetto for nearly a decade. In the coming years they would lose their position in the hierarchy, as the new power was Napoli and the two Milanese clubs. The Juventus/Roma axis that had dominated the League for most of the decade was now overtaken.
Photo From: Mondial, new series, Issue 85, April 1987
(the changing of the guard)
This end of the season also brought an end for many stars of the past. In addition to Platini, other foreigners such as Liam Brady (transferred at midseason to West Ham United), Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (eventually transferred to Servette) and Daniel Bertoni (retirement) left the Serie A.
AC Milan’s Ray Wilkins and Mark Hateley transferred to the French League and Wim Kieft joined the ambitious PSV Eindhoven.
In addition many of the stars of the 1982 Generation also ended their Serie A careers. Gabriele Oriali and Paolo Rossi retired after final seasons at Fiorentina and Verona respectively. Claudio Gentile left Fiorentina to play one last final season in the Serie B with Piacenza. Giancarlo Antognoni (Fiorentina) and Marco Tardelli (Inter) left the Serie A and started the process of pre-retirement by joining Rummenigge in the Swiss League.
With the transfer embargo on the foreign players now lifted the new season looked exciting with the impending arrivals of Careca (Napoli), Rush (Juventus), Gullit and van Basten (AC Milan), Voeller (AS Roma), Scifo (Inter) and Berthold (Verona).
However, historically, the most significant decision turned out to be a coaching appointment (1987/88 season, to be continued…..)