Tuesday, November 21, 2017

When Calcio Ruled the Football World-A Personal Journey-Part 14 (1995/96)

At the onset of the 1995/96 season, there appeared to be indications of a power shift within Serie A. The Milan Era of Berlusconi seemed to be waning with the likes of Baresi and Tassoti showing signs of age.
Marcello Lippi’s new Juventus side appeared stronger than ever with the previous season’s long-awaited Scudetto heralding a new era of glory ahead. To further emphasize this new era, Juventus and the Agnellis were willing to dispense of Roberto Baggio, who left (for AC Milan) because he would not agree to the salary decrease demanded by the new austere Juventus Management. However, Juventus did not appear sad to be losing Baggio, as the Juventus hierarchy put their faith and trust on the young Alessandro Del Piero, one of the heroes of the previous season and hailed as the future of this new Juventus.
Juventus had their sights set on the Champions League and strengthened their side with that in mind.

Photo From:  Onze-Mondial, Issue 86, March 1996
(Alessandro Del Piero)

Photo From:  Goal, Issue 3, December 1995
(Roberto Baggio at AC Milan)

The Bianconeri signed three players from Sampdoria. Veteran defender Pietro Vierchowod, along with winger Attilio Lombardo and Yugoslavian midfielder Vladimir Jugovic joined the defending Champions.
Lombardo would unluckily miss most of the season as he broke his leg in pre-season on August 2nd.
Other new arrivals included defender Gianluca Pessotto (from cross-town rivals Torino), young Argentinean International Juan Pablo Sorin (from Argentinos Juniors) and Italian striker Michel Padovano (from Reggiana).

Photo From:  1995-96 Calciatori Panini
(Juventus’ Gianluca Pessotto and Pietro Vierchowod)

In addition to Baggio, veteran German defender Jurgen Kohler joined Borussia Dortmund’s growing former Serie A colony (and especially former Juventus) and the Croatian Robert Jarni joined Real Betis.
Juventus appeared a tight unit led with the resurgent Gianluca Vialli (the new official Captain) and the likes of Portuguese Paulo Sousa, Frenchman Didier Deschamps, Fabrizio Ravanelli, Del Piero, Antonio Conte, Angelo Di Livio, Moreno Torricelli, Ciro Ferrara and goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi forming a formidable backbone with Massimo Carrera, Sergio Porrini (in defense) and veteran Giancarlo Marocchi (in midfield) ready to support.

Photo From:  Onze-Mondial, Issue 82, November 1995
(Gianluca Vialli)

Photo From:  Onze-Mondial, Issue 87, April 1996
(Marcelo Lippi)

Photo From:  Onze-Mondial, Issue 88, May 1996
(Didier Deschamps)

Of course the rumors of Milan’s demise had been premature and the ambitious Mogul (and now Politician) Silvio Berlusconi and his right hand man Adriano Galliani were not ready to give up the fight, nor was Manager Fabio Capello.
The signing of Roberto Baggio was somewhat dismissed as it was perceived to have been made for commercial reasons.
In fact this was the first season where personalized jerseys in the League were instituted, as they would be the norm on the rest of the continent.
His presence also made many question how to tactically fit him in the squad and who would have to make way.
His arrival appeared to threaten the position of some of the established players such as Yugoslavia’s brilliant midfielder Dejan Savicevic, Croatian midfielder Zvonimir Boban, Frenchman Marcel Desailly and Italian striker Marco Simone who had finally earned a starting position during the previous season after so many years as a fringe player.
Milan could still count upon legendary Captain Franco Baresi along with Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta in defense.
The ageing Mauro Tassoti was now confined to a reserve role and Christian Panucci was the right back.
However, it was upfront that Milan made their most important signing. Dutch star Marco van Basten had been battling injuries and had been inactive for two full seasons. Despite his willingness to show up for pre-season training (on July 20th), the Milan hierarchy were under no illusions and Berlusconi effectively admitted as much by saying it would be a ‘miracle’ if he ever played again.
Midway through the previous season had planned and signed Paris St. Germain’s powerful striker, the Liberian George Weah. He was seen as the missing link as the consistent center forward that Milan had been missing since van Basten’s absence.

Photo From:  France Football, Issue 2565, June 6, 1995
(George Weah with Adriano Galliani upon his signature)

Milan made other signings such as the Portuguese Paulo Futre from Reggiana. Futre had at one point been the toast of Europe especially at Porto and Atletico Madrid. However, the serious injury he suffered while at Reggiana during the 1993/94 season took a serious toll on him and he was no longer the same player.
His transfer went under the radar, as he was no longer seen as the same player.
Other players to come abroad, in addition to Baggio/Weah/Futre were youngsters that were seen as hopes for the future. These included Tomas Locatelli (Atalanta) and Massimo Ambrosini (from Cesena).
Ambrosini would go on and serve the Rossoneri for over a decade, but at this stage the 20 year-old midfielder was there to make up the numbers.

Photo From:  Onze-Mondial, Issue 80, September 1995
(Silvio Berlusconi with AC Milan’s new signings: Paulo Futre, Roberto Baggio, George Weah and Tomas Locatelli)

Over the summer, veteran striker Daniele Massaro started his pre-retirement phase and left Milan to join the J-League’s Shimzu S-Pulse.
The former Fiorentina forward had been under-rated for much of his career but in his latter stages of his Milan career his importance and efforts were rewarded with more trophies and even a National Team recall.
Others to leave included Giovanni Stroppa, who left his second spell at Milan to join Udinese, and Massimo Orlando joining Fiorentina.
There was still some question marks over Gianluigi Lentini. The once World’s most expensive player, still had not found his old form (pre-automobile accident in the summer of 1993).
Marco van Basten had to face the inevitable and announced his official retirement on August 18th, 1995 (just a week before the start of the new season) before the annual ‘Trofeo Berlusconi’ match vs. Juventus.
It was a sad end for the triple Ballon d’Or winner, who was lost to Football not due to advancing age but unending injuries.

Photo From:  Onze-Mondial, Issue 80, September 1995
(Marco van Basten waving goodbye to the Milan crowd, August 18, 1995, Trofeo Luigi Berlusconi, AC Milan 0–Juventus 0)

A new era had begun for cross-town rivals Internazionale Milano in their first full season under new President Massimo Moratti (who had taken over midway through the previous season).
While much had been promised and expected, Inter spent in an effort to (re)build a declining side. They were still managed by Ottavio Bianchi (Napoli’s 1987 title-winning Manager), however, his place was far from secure as Moratti had grander ambitions.
The first order of business was to do away with the foreign contingent. While the departing Uruguayan veteran Ruben Sosa (to Borussia Dortmund) could be proud of his service to Inter, the same could not be said of the others. The Dutch duo of Dennis Bergkamp and Wim Jonk, are to this day considered one of the greatest foreign player flops (Bidoni) in Serie A history. Most particularly Bergkamp, who was a superstar of the game and was expected to pick up the Dutch mantle of Gullit/van Basten and Rijkaard.
Jonk was sent packing to Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven, while Bergkamp was transferred to Arsenal in the English Premier League (a move that saved his career and legacy as he became one of the greatest performers of the burgeoning Premier League).
The Russian midfielder Igor Shalimov had started brightly but had faded into his second season. He would be loaned to Swiss side Lugano.
The Macedonian striker Darko Pancev was finally transferred to Fortuna Dusseldorf, ending three nightmarish seasons that had made the once Europe’s most sought after forward into another one of Serie A’s greatest ‘Bidoni’ amid a string of loans.
Inter also cleared out some of their Italian players on board.
Defenders Giovanni Bia, Angelo Orlando and Antonio Paganin were transferred to Udinese, Cremonese and Atalanta respectively.
Inter’s old guard was still led by veteran defender Giuseppe ‘Zio’ Bergomi and the likes of Nicola Berti and Davide Fontolan.
The new foreign legion was led by English midfielder Paul Ince of Manchester United.
Moratti had also eyed Ince’s teammate at Manchester United, the Frenchman Eric Cantona, however he decided to remain in Manchester.

Photo From:  Onze-Mondial, Issue 80, September 1995
(Inter new signing, the Englishman Paul Ince)

A then unknown (unknown in the World Stage) Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos arrived from Palmeiras.
Two new Argentinean Internationals also came on board: Javier Zanetti (from Banfield) and Sebastian Rambert (son of Angel, from Independiente).
At the time it was inconceivable to imagine that Zanetti would serve Inter for nearly two decades.

Photo From:  1995-96 Calciatori Panini
(Inter’s Roberto Carlos, Salvatore Fresi and Javier Zanetti)

Photo From:  Onze-Mondial, Issue 80, September 1995
(Inter’s Sebastian Rambert)

The other arrivals included mostly promising young Italian players such as Salvatore Fresi (Salernitana), Benito Carbone (Napoli), Felice Centofanti (Ancona) and Atalanta’s consistent goalscorer Maurizio Ganz.
For the Nerazzuri, the Scudetto did not appear an immediate objective given the inexperience of most of the new arrivals.

Photo From:  Onze-Mondial, Issue 80, September 1995
(Paul Ince)

Photo From:  Onze-Mondial, Issue 80, September 1995 (5)
(Inter’s Salvatore Fresi)

Photo From:  Onze-Mondial, Issue 80, September 1995
(Inter’s new recruits)

Parma, backed by Parmalat, were still ambitious and willing to spend. They had been Juventus’ most consistent challengers the previous season and felt close to their objective.
Nevio Scala had built an attractive side led by Gianfranco Zola that included a host of Italian Internationals regularly selected by the Commissario Tecnico Arrigo Sacchi (Zola, Dino Baggio, Lorenzo Minotti, Luigi Apolloni, Antonio Benanrivo). They had retained their foreign players: Sweden’s Tomas Brolin, Colombia’s Faustino Asprilla, Argentina’s Roberto Sensini and Portugal’s Fernando Couto.

Photo From:  Onze-Mondial, Issue 85, February 1996
(Parma’s Gianfranco Zola)

While the positions of Sensini and Couto appeared safe, Asprilla would be at odds for his position with Scala, while Brolin never fully recovered from his horrific injury the previous season and would be soon on his way out.
Fueled by their ambition Parma signed Bulgarian Star (and then current Ballon d’Or) Hristo Stoichkov from Barcelona (his arrival was aided by his feud with his Manager at Barcelona Johann Cruyff).

Photo From:  World Soccer, September 1995
(The presentation of Hristo Stoichkov at Parma)

Photo From:  World Soccer, September 1995
(The presentation of Hristo Stoichkov at Parma)

Others arrivals included another then-unknown striker Fillipo Inzaghi (from Piacenza) and former golden boy Alessandro Melli returning to the fold (from Milan).
In addition, future Italy Captain and Legend Fabio Cannavaro arrived from Napoli to bolster Parma’s defense.

Photo From:  Italy 199596 Calcioflash 96 Euroflash
(Parma’s Fillipo Inzaghi)

Photo From:   1995-96 Calciatori Panini
(Parma’s Fabio Cannavaro)

Parma nearly achieved a sensational transfer coup after Lazio agreed to the sale of its striker Giuseppe Signori. However, massive protests in Rome forced Lazio and its furious President Sergio Cragnotti to cancel the deal.
Lazio for its part had built a strong side of its own and had maintained its backbone of the previous season. The attacking side, led by Walter Zeman, was true to its attacking philosophy of Zonal tactics and 4-3-3.
They had transferred out the often-injured English star Paul Gascoigne to Rangers Glasgow.

Photo From:  World Soccer, May 1996
(Lazio’s Giuseppe Signori)

The main novelty on the bench for this new season concerned the return of Giovanni Trappatoni as the Manager of Cagliari. He had returned to the Serie A after one season at Bayern Munich.
The Sardinians were hopeful of their chances with ‘Trap’ at the helm. Despite all the excitement, Trappatoni was in uncharted territory as this was the first time that he had been tasked with managing a mid-table side.
Cagliari also had to do without their Panamian goalscorer Julio Cesar Del Valdes (off to Paris St. Germain).

Photo From:  The Game, Issue 8, November 1995
(Giovani Trappatoni)

They had acquired the Uruguayan Dario Silva from Penarol Montevideo.
Claudio Ranieri’s Fiorentina, as always dependent on its Argentinean goaleader Gabriel Batistuta, seemed intent to build on their positive return to the Serie A, the previous season. The Portuguese Rui Costa had settled well, but the Brazilian defender Marcio Santos had been a disappointment and he was offloaded to Ajax Amsterdam. The ‘Viola’ brought in Swedish midfielder Stefan Schwarz from Arsenal and the Italian midfielder Emiliano Bigica from Bari.
Carlo Mazzone’s AS Roma brought in former Lazio (and future International) midfielder Luigi Di Biagio from Foggia. They were still dependent on their South American attacking duo of the Argentinean Abel Balbo and Uruguyan Daniel Fonseca.
Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Sampdoria rebuilt a much younger side. Dutchman Ruud Gullit had left after eight seasons in Italy to join the strengthening Premier League by joining Chelsea. His English teammate at ‘Samp’, David Platt also joined him in London by signing for Arsenal.
Sampdoria had registered the return of striker Stefano Chiesa, from his loan at Cremonese (more to come on that…….)
They also brought in two young up-and –coming foreign Internationals. 19 year-old-Dutch midfielder arrived from the new Champions League winners Ajax Amsterdam along with France and Nantes midfielder Christian Karembeu.

Photo From:  France Football, Issue 2573, August 1, 1995
(Sampdoria’s Clarence Seedorf and Christian Kaembeu)

Photo From:  France Football, Issue 2573, August 1, 1995
(Sampdoria’s Christian Karembeu)

Torino had acquired Galatasaray’s Turkish forward Hakan Sukur. In a then strange transfer (that would bode for the future), they sold their Italian striker Andrea Silenzi to the Premier League’s Nottingham Forest. He would be the first Italian to play in the Premier League.
Vujadin Boskov’s Napoli had sold Colombian forward Freddy Rincon to Real Madrid.
They brought in Argentinean defender Roberto Ayala from River Plate.
Bari brought in one of the top goalscorers of the 1994 World Cup, Swedish striker Kennet Andersson (from French side Caen).
A number of transfers also occurred that at the time seemed insignificant. Newly promoted Atalanta had acquired a young up and coming Italian striker named Christian Vieri from Venezia.

Photo From:  1995-96 Calciatori Panini
(Atalanta’s Christian Vieri)

Another newly promoted side acquired a German striker that had been lost in obscurity in the Serie B for three seasons with Ascoli. Oliver Bierhoff’s arrival at Udinese would have significant effect on the fortunes of Udinese back in the Serie A as well as his future International prospects. Internazionale Milano had originally signed him in 1991, however due to foreign player restrictions, he had been loaned initially at Ascoli (1991/92) season and never recalled by the Nerazzuri.

Photo From:  World Soccer, April 1996
(Oliver Bierhoff at Udinese)

Strangely Bierhoff was the only German player in the Serie A. A far cry from just a few seasons ago when the likes of Matthaus, Brehme, Klinsmann (at Inter), Voeller, Berthold (at Roma) and Riedle, Doll (at Lazio) were starring in the Serie A.
An equally more appointment at Udinese concerned the choice of the new Manager Alberto Zaccheroni (arriving from Serie B’s Cosenza). He would likewise benefit from this move in the coming years.
Another newly promoted side was Vicenza, Paolo Rossi’s former team from the 70s (then called Lanerossi Vicenza). They were back in the Top Division for the first time since being relegated in 1979.
Their new foreign signings included Swedish defender Joachim Bjorklund (from IFK Gothenburg) and Croatian defender Igor Stimac (from Hajduk Split).
The Season got underway on August 27th. The defending Champions Juventus started their campaign on a strong note by defeating Cremonese (4-1) at home. But it was Milan’s away performance at Padova that foretold the outcome of the season. George Weah scored early in his impressive debut for Milan on a way to a (2-1) away win with even Franco Baresi scoring a rare goal from open play.

Photo From:  The Game, Issue 8, November 1995
(George Weah, August 27, 1995, Padova 1-AC Milan 2)

Photo From:  France Football, Issue 2581, September 26, 1995
(George Weah, August 27, 1995, Padova 1-AC Milan 2)

Photo From:  The Game, Issue 8, November 1995
(Dejan Savicevic, August 27, 1995, Padova 1-AC Milan 2)

By Matchday 3 (September 17th), Milan and Juventus had already taken control of the League with perfect records. On this Matchday, Milan’s away victory was once again more significant as they defeated Roma (2-1) in the Stadio Olimpico with a double strike from the well-adapted George Weah.
AC Milan took sole control on the following week (Matchday 4, September 24th) after defeating Atalanta (3-0) at home, while Juventus could only manage a scoreless tie at Cagliari.
However, the most important event in this Matchday was Inter’s defeat at Napoli (1-2) that signaled the end of Ottavio Bianchi’s time at Inter.
The team had been struggling with Bianchi had been unable to mold a strong team with many newcomers.
As far as the Scudetto Inter would have to wait as this was clearly a young team in transition.
On September 25th, Bianchi was sacked and replaced on temporary basis by former Inter Great, the Spanish Luis Suarez, while Inter searched for a higher profile Manager.

Photo From:  World Soccer, November 1995
(Ottavio Bianchi)

On Matcday 5 (October 1st), AC Milan suffered its first defeat of the season (0-1) at Bari, but Juventus could not take advantage as they were held at home (1-1) by Napoli.
The first big Matchup of the season took place on Matchday 6 (October 15th), when Milan hosted Juventus.
The season was effectively decided on that day as Milan won (2-1) with yet another goal by Weah.
Juventus had been struggling after a strong start and would start to slide in the League, while Milan would grow stronger and more confident with Weah in impressive form. Juventus from then on would concentrate on the Champions League.

Photo From:  World Soccer, December 1995
(Didier Deschamps and George Weah, October 15, 1995, AC Milan 2-Juventus 1)

Juventus’ poor form reached its nadir on Matchday 8 (October 29th) in a heavy (0-4) loss to Lazio, followed by another loss at Udinese (0-1) on Matchday 9 (November 5th), not to mention elimination in the Coppa Italia at the hands of Atalanta.
Inter had meanwhile appointed, Switzerland’s National Team Manager, the Englishman Roy Hodgson as the new man in charge.
Despite qualifying the Swiss for the 1996 Euros, he jumped at the chance to join a team of Inter’s pedigree (not to mention that he multiplied his salary in doing so).
As part of the agreement, the Swiss still reserved the right to call upon Hodgson for consultation for the Euros (as Hodgson put, he belonged 95% to Inter and 5% to Switzerland).
His first match in charge would be the Milan derby on October 29th and his Inter played a strong game to earn a draw (1-1).
The November Transfer window allowed some of the teams to make modifications.
Juventus had offloaded the Argentine Juan Pablo Sorin, who was unable to adapt to River Plate. AC Milan enrolled the promising young French midfielder Patrick Vieira from Cannes (though his opportunities would be limited in this first season). Milan also loaned the under-used defender Stefano Nava to Padova.
Inter offloaded the Russian midfielder Igor Shalimov to Udinese (via Lugano) and the Argentinean striker Sebastian Rambert to Real Zaragoza (on loan).
They brought in young Brazilian striker Caio from Sao Paulo.
Inter also brought in Marco Branca from AS Roma with Marco Del Vecchio going in the opposite direction.
Parma sold Tomas Brolin to Leeds United, as the Swede failed to regain his old form following his injury the previous season.
The Turkish striker Hakan Sukur left Torino and returned back to Galatasaray. The struggling Torino signed the Croatian Veldin Karic (from Marsonia) and the 17 year-old Cameroon player Augustin Simo.
Lazio’s starting goalkeeper Luca Marchegiani had been injured, as a result they drafted Foggia’s Francesco Mancini as emergency cover.
Swedish midfielder Klas Ingensson joined his compatriot Kennnet Andersson at Bari (coming over from Sheffield Wednesday).
Australian forward John Aloisi joined Cremonese from Antwerp, while the Uruguayan Fabian O’Neill joined Cagliari (from Nacional Montevideo) and the Dutchman Leonard van Utrecht joined Padova (from Cambuur).
For the next few weeks Parma appeared to be Milan’s main challengers and pulled level with the Rossoneri at the top.
The two sides met on Matchday 10 (November19th) at Parma’s Ennio Tardini Stadium.
The scoreless result did not change anything at the top (though for Milan an away point at a rival’s home was good result).
This match would go down in the annals of Italian Football History for the debut of Parma’s 17 year-old-goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon, who was deputizing for the starter Luca Bucci.
Italy’s future number one for the next two decades kept a clean sheet for his baptism in the Serie A with a performance beyond his years.

Photo From:  1995-96 Calciatori Panini
(Parma’s Gianluigi Buffon)

On November 22nd, Fabio Capello announced that he might leave AC Milan at the end of the season. The reason was that there were some performance related clauses in his new contract (depending on the team’s position, European qualification, etc..). Some speculated that this was done to push him out. Others felt this was unfair given his results with the club in his five seasons. Capello’s future destination would be a topic o conversation for the rest of the season.

Photo From:  World Soccer, June 1996
(Fabio Capello)

Milan would regain sole leadership on the next Matchday (Round 11, November 26th) after defeating Piacenza (3-0) while Parma were held at home by Juventus (1-1).
They increased their lead their lead to four points on Matchday 12 (December 3rd) after another important away win at Lazio (1-0) (another one of their key rivals). Weah once again scored a brilliant solo goal. He was not only being touted as a worthy heir to van Basten but his performances in the Serie A had earned him key votes in the balloting for the Ballon d’Or. In the next few weeks, he would be elected as France Football’s Ballon d’Or, thus becoming the first African player to earn the award (….yes, Eusebio (1965) had been born in Mozambique but was a Portuguese citizen). This was the first year that the award head been made open to non-European players as well.
On January 8th, Weah would be further rewarded by being elected as FIFA’s World Player of the Year.

Photo From:  France Football, Issue 2594, December 26, 1995
(George Weah with the Ballon d’Or)

Two coaching changes were made after this 12th Round. Eugenio Fascetti replaced Giuseppe Materazzi at Bari on December 4th, while Francesco Scoglio replaced Nedo Sonetti at Torino on December 5th (after the latter was sacked following a 0-5 defeat at the hands of Juventus).
Matchay 13 (December 10th) signaled the entry of a new Italian star in the mix.  Sampdoria’s Enrico Chiesa with his two goals in a win over Juventus (2-0) entered the limelight. His fine form would carry throughout the season and would eventually earn a cap with the Azzuri and a place in the 1996 Euro Finals squad.

Photo From:  Goal, Issue 8, May 1996
(Christian Karembeu and Paulo Sousa, December 10, 1995, Sampdoria 2-Juventus 0)

Photo From:  World Soccer, May 1996
(Sampdoria’s Enrico Chiesa)

A significant event occurred on December 15th that no one could have envisioned which would have a profound effect on the History of Football. The Bosman Ruling was set in motion. This judgment mandated free transfers at the end of a contract as well as doing away with foreign player restrictions for European Community players.
As the months would pass and especially by the summertime its effects would shake the foundations and balance of power of European Football.
But as far as this season was concerned all teams across Europe decided to maintain the status quo until the end of the season.
On the following week (Matchday 14, December 17th), Fiorentina came within a point of Milan after a win at Atalanta (3-1) while Milan was being held at home by Torino (1-1). Juventus also started their slow recovery by defeating Inter (1-0) with a goal by Vialli.

Photo From:  World Soccer, April 1996
(Gabriel Batistuta at Fiorentina)

The table-topping clash took place on the following week (Matchday 15, December 23rd), as Fiorentina hosted AC Milan with the chance to hop over them in case of a win.
The match would end in a (2-2) tie to maintain Milan’s lead at the top.
After the Christmas break, the new Year (1996) kicked off on January 7th with Matchday 16th. AC Milan extended their lead at the top after another convincing win vs. Sampdoria (3-0) and extended its lead over Fiorentina to three points as they were held at Roma (2-2).

Photo From:  Onze-Mondial, Issue 83, December 1995
(George Weah)

The following week (Matchday 17, January 14th), the deficit was once again down to one point as Fiorentina defeated Piacenza (2-1) while Milan were held scoreless at Cremonese.
At this point George Weah’s absence upfront was being felt. Weah would be absent for three weeks as he was called to duty by his Nation Libera for the African Nations Cup in South Africa.
As the League reached its midpoint, Milan were just ahead, but it was clear that they were the team to beat and the most consistent. Many were doubtful that Fiorentina could last the pace, including their own Manager Ranieri.
Ranieri had repeatedly played down Fiorentina’s chances and would point out their lack of experience, financial power, etc.
At one point, Fiorentina defender Andrea Sottil had declared to the media that Fiorentina could win. Ranieri’s response was to drop him for the following match. Ranieri followed up by saying that he had to “bring them all down to earth”.
This suspicion was justified by Matchday 19 (January 28th), as Milan extended its lead to three points after defeating Udinese away (2-0) while Fiorentina were held at home by Vicenza.
The gulf was further widened (to 5 points) by the following week (Matchday 20, February 4th) as Milan defeated AS Roma (3-1) (with Weah back and scoring) as Fiorentina were held in a scoreless tie at Cagliari.
If there had been any remaining doubts, they must have disappeared as to where the Scudetto would end up at the end of the season.
At the end January, Parma’s Colombian star Faustino Asprilla would leave Parma to join Kevin Keegan’s free spending Newcastle United.
On February 13th, Giovanni Trapattoni resigned as Cagliari Manager, two days after a (1-4) loss to Juventus. This was after a run of three straight losses. This was the first time ever that he had failed to finish an entire season. Adriano Bardin would replace him in an interim basis before Bruno Giorgio took over on a permanent basis.
After two weeks, the League resumed on February 18th (Matchday 22), Milan extended its lead over Fiorentina to 7 points after defeating Bari (3-2), while Fiorentina were held scoreless at Cremonese.
Such was Milan’s dominance that their clash with Juventus on the following week (Matchday 23, February 25th) had no bearing on the title and the (1-1) result satisfied Milan.
Milan could even afford a rare defeat (at the hands of cross town rivals Inter (0-1) on Matchday 25 (March 10th), as Fiorentina were unable to take advantage and settled for another tie at Bari (1-1).

Photo From:  Goal, Issue 9, June 1996
(Roberto Baggio and Paul Ince exchanging jerseys)

By now Fiorentina were not looking ahead but behind as a resurgent Juventus were breathing down their neck for that runner-up spot.
The following week’s (March 17th) League Programme was cancelled as the players went on strike. This Matchday 26 would be postponed to April 10th.
Gianluca Vialli, the Players Union Officer, was at center stage for this event and was vocal on his support on behalf of the lower level players with lower salaries. The Players demands were as follows:
1-To have a say in running football.
2-To discuss about the £5 Million owed in pension funds.
3-The abolition of transfer fees consistent with the Bosman Ruling.
4-The Limitation of non EU foreigners.
The Italian Federation President Antonio Matarrese mocked the demands and referred to Vialli as ‘Robin Hood’., though a compromise was eventually reached.
The League resumed on March 24th (Matchday 27), with Juventus leapfrogging over Firoentina on the second spot after defeating Fiorentina away (1-0).
Milan won as usual by defeating a fading Parma (3-0) to open an eight-point lead at the top.
Parma’s loss was significant, as it not only ended any faint challenge they might have had, but it signaled the end of the Nevio Scala era. He himself admitted to it as much by stating “I suppose it’s right that we’ve come to the end of my cycle, it’s just that it has happened in the wrong manner”.
This loss was also right after elimination at the Cup Winners at the hands of Paris St. Germain to further compound on their decline.
On March 26th, Torino made its second Managerial change of the season as Francesco Scoglio was sacked and replaced with Lido Vieri.
For the rest of the season, Juventus would be Milan’s only (distant) challenger. The Bianconeri would be unable to break’s Milan’s hold, though would open a distance between themselves and the nearest challengers.
Milan’s title was secured on Matchday 32 (April 28th) after their victory over Fiorentina (3-1) while Juventus were held at Roma (2-2). This gave them a nine-point lead with two matches remaining. This was Milan and Capello’s fourth Scudetto in five seasons.
The last two rounds were only significant in terms of UEFA Cup spot and the relegation fight. In the end, after Milan and Juventus, Lazio would finish third ahead of Fiorentina, Roma, Parma and Inter to qualify for the UEFA Cup.
Fiorentina’s victory in the Coppa Italia vs. Atalanta (Their first trophy of any kind since 1975, when they last won the Coppa Italia) earned them a place in the following season’s Cup Winners Cup.

Photo From:  World Soccer, July 1996
(Gabriel Batistuta with the Coppa Italia)

Juventus achieved their ultimate objective by winning the Champions League after defeating Ajax Amsterdam (1-1, pks) to remain in the Champions League.
These opened extra places for the likes of Parma and Inter to just make it in the UEFA Cup.
Lazio’s Giuseppe Signori would the Capocannoniere for the third time in the last four seasons. This time he would be co-Capocannoniere with Bari’s Igor Protti, who himself would join Lazio the following season.

Photo From:  World soccer, March 1996
(Bari’s Igor Protti)

On the last Matchday (May 12th), Milan celebrated the title at home by defeating the already relegated Cremonese (7-1). The Portuguese Paulo Futre made his solitary appearance of the season for Milan in that match.
Cremonese were joined in the Serie B with Bari, Torino and Padova. This was Torino’s second relegation after 1989. The once great team would go through many seasons of struggle.
Bologna returned to the Serie A after a five-year absence, along with Reggianna, Perugia and Verona.
After Milan’s triumph, Fabio Capello announced his departure. He had been linked to Parma among others, but chose Real Madrid. Some would suspect that Berlusconi’s right-hand-man Adriano Galliani was opposed to him and was behind his departure.
Though it was reported that Berlusconi had made attempts to retain him.
Joining Capello at Real Madrid would be Inter’s Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos and Sampdoria’s Dutchman Clarence Seedorf who both left after one season.
No one could foresee the progress Roberto Carlos would make at Real Madrid and the loss this would be to the Serie A. AS for Seedorf , he would eventually make his way back to the Serie A by the Millenium and star for both Milan Clubs.

Photo From:  World Soccer, October 1995
(Inter’s Roberto Carlos)

The Bosman Ruling heralded a new age as player signings and departures would be frequent and with more ease. Before this Ruling, it was almost unheard of for Italian players to join other Leagues but this was a now possibility.
AC Milan took advantage of this new avenue by signing Ajax Amsterdam’s duo of Edgar Davids and Michael Reiziger on Bosman ‘Free’ transfers as both players contracts had expired. Roberto Donadoni left AC Milan after a decade of service to join the new American professional League (MLS) by signing for the New York/New Jersey Metrostars.
Milan also released Gianluigi Lentini to Atalanta to join his former Torino Manager Emiliano Mondonico. It was hoped that he could salvage his once promising career now in stagnation following the near life ending Automobile accident in the summer of 1993.
Juventus turned a new leaf as well with Gianluca Vialli joining Player-Manager Ruud Gullit’s Chelsea, who was eager to draft Serie A talent to England. Lazio’s Roberto Di Matteo would join Vialli at London.

Photo From:  World Soccer, May 1996
(Gianluca Vialli)

Juventus also sold Fabrizio Ravanelli to the emerging Premier League (to Middlesbrough) and also released Portuguese midfielder Paulo Sousa to Borussia Dortmund. After an excellent first season, Sousa had been unable to maintain the same standards.

Photo From:  World Soccer, September 1996
(Juventus’ Paulo Sousa)

Photo From:  Onze-Mondial, Issue 87, April 1996
(Juventus’ Fabrizio Ravanelli)

Nevio Scala left his post as Parma Manager to make way for the incoming Carlo Ancelotti. Hristo Stoichkov also left Parma after a solitary disappointing season to return back to Barcelona (now that Johann Cruyff had been fired).
Stefano Chiesa was rewarded with his magnificent season by earning a move to Parma.
AS Roma’s emblematic Captain Giuseppe Giannini left the Giallorossi after 15 years of loyal service by joining Austria’s Sturm Graz.
A flurry of signings was on the Horizon in Italy and across Europe as Bosman entered European Football in a new territory.
Despite the new signings,  Bosman had inversely started to weaken the Serie A as other clubs in Spain and England started to buy big as well and Serie A was beginning to lose its grip on the transfer market.
However, until proof to the contrary Serie A was the place to be and a new foreign generation was about to be unleashed in the Serie A to replace the departing stars.
The names of Veron, Crespo, Djorkaeff, Zidane, Thuram, Nedved and many others were about to be household names in the Serie A (1996 / 97 season, to be continued…..)

1-In September, Italy Manager Arrigo Sacchi had stated he was open and willing to re-integrate Juventus Captain Gianluca Vialli back in the National Team. In fact Sacchi claimed he had wanted to include him in the Spring but most of the National Team players had been opposed (assumed to be AC Milan Senators).
Upon hearing this, Vialli announced his retirement on September 8th, from the National Team and angrily stated that in all his years as a professional he never knew a selection to the National Team depended on other players.

2-In the new year (1996), Fiorentina honored fans their Argentinean striker Gabriel Batistuta by erecting a Bronze Statue of the striker.

Photo From:  World Soccer, February 1996
(The statue of Gabriel Batistuta)

3-Udinese’s German striker Oliver Bierhoff would earn his first cap for Germany in the new year (1996) and would famously score the Golden Goal at the Final of the 1996 Euros vs. the Czech Republic (June 30th, 2-1 win) to earn Germany the continental title.

4-The new Professional League in the United States, the MLS would debut in the spring of 1996.
In February, Padova’s own American player, Alexi Lalas along with teammate Giuseppe Galderisi would sign for New England Revolution.
Lalas was released by Padova on February 25th.

5-Inter’s match at Cremonese on April 6th (4-2 Inter win) was marred by the Cremonese fans’ racist abuse of Inter’s Englishman Paul Ince. Cremonese’s Mayor formally apologized to Ince for the behavior of the fans on April 9th.


Photo From:  1995-96 Calciatori Panini
(AC Milan squad 1995/96)


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