Wednesday, December 2, 2015

When Calcio Ruled the Football World-A Personal Journey-Part 8 (1989/90)

The 1989/90 season was anticipated, as it would lead up to the World Cup that the Italians would be hosting on home soil the following summer. The Nation was mobilized to have all the Stadia and facilities ready in time for the main event in less than a year.
But as was the case like the previous off-season, it was Diego Maradona’s off the field drama that caught all the headlines.
Due to the Copa America Tournament over that summer, as well as, the CONMEBOLWorld Cup Qualifiers, most South America players were expected to arrive after the start of the season.

Photo From: Calcio 2000, Issue 22 Supplement, August-September 1999
(Diego Maradona with Napoli fans)

As defending World Cup Champions, Argentina had no such worries, however, it was Maradona himself who delayed his return. It would turn out that the ambitious French Club Olympique Marseille of Bernard Tapie had convinced Maradona to join them. The player himself was more than willing, as the pressure of the Serie A seemed to be getting to him after five years and the less pressured atmosphere of the French League appealed to him.
It was also believed he was threatened by Napoli’s crime syndicate, The Camorra.
Needless to say, Napoli and its President Corrado Ferlaino were unwilling to give up on their most prized asset. This soap opera continued for over a month, but getting back to the other teams.

Photo From: Calcio 2000, Issue 22 Supplement, August-September 1999
(Diego Maradona with Corrado Ferlaino)

The defending Champions Internazionale Milano of Giovanni Trapattoni, already more than satisfied with the West German duo of Lothar Matthaus and Andreas Brehme, added a third. Jurgen Klinnsman arrived from Stuttgart to replace the Argentinean veteran Ramon Diaz, who went to France’s AS Monaco.

Photo From: Fussball Magazin, December 1989
(Jurgen Klinsman)

The European Champions AC Milan of Arrigo Sacchi had maintained their Dutch trio. All three (Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard) missed the start of the season through various injuries. While van Basten and Rijkaard would shortly be back, Gullit would miss virtually the entire season. In fact Gullit’s physical state would be one of the ongoing sagas of the season, as he was originally expected to miss weeks, then it became months and months.
The veteran striker Pietro Paolo Virdis had left to join Lecce, but Daniele Massaro had returned from his one season loan at Roma. Young Como striker Marco Simone had been acquired and Stefano Borgonovo had come back from his loan at Fiorentina (where he had formed a lethal partnership with Roberto Baggio the previous season).
Future International midfielder Diego Fuser had arrived from relegated Torino.
Other new arrivals included goalkeeper Andrea Pazzagli (Ascoli), Stefano Carobbi and Stefano Salvatori (both Fiorentina) and Giovanni Stroppa (Monza).
The once mighty Juventus managed by Dino Zoff, it seemed were no longer the kings of the transfer market and it showed in their selections. Denmark’s Michael Laudrup had left to join Barcelona. Veteran defender Antonio Cabrini had been offloaded to Bologna. Other departures included Alessandro Altobelli, Luciano Favero, Marino Magrin, Massimo Mauro and Renato Buso.
They had wanted to offload the disappointing Soviet star Alexander Zavarov, but apparently there were no takers, so they chose to persevere him for one more season. They acquired another Soviet midfielder, Sergei Aleinikov of Dinamo Minsk (after it looked he was set to join Genoa) to perhaps help Zavarov as well. Portuguese midfielder Rui Barros remained as their third foreigner. The attempted triple signing from Sampdoria of Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Mancini and Pietro Vierchowod always seemed to be wishful thinking.

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 16, May 1990
(Juventus’ Sergei Aleinikov)

More telling was their failure to lure Denmark’s Fleming Povlsen (Koln) and the Brazilian pair of Carlos Dunga (Fiorentina) and Luis Muller (Torino) despite serious attempts.
Italian defender Dario Bonetti and midfielder Daniele Fortunato had arrived from Verona and Atalanta respectively. Angelo Alessio returned from his one season loan at Bologna. The surprise additions were two strikers from Serie B, Pierluigi Casiraghi (Monza) and Salvatore Schillaci (Messina).
Ottavio Bianchi had left his post as Napoli Manager at the end of the previous seasons, after many rows with players including Maradona. The new man in charge was the former Cesena Manager Albertino Bigon. The Brazilian pair Careca and Alemao had remained. The main arrivals were Massimo Mauro from Juventus, Marco Baroni from Lecce and a young unknown midfielder from Torres named Gianfranco Zola.

Photo From: Calcio 2000, Issue 22 Supplement, August-September 1999
(Napoli Manager Albertino Bigon)

Sampdoria of Gianluca Vialli welcomed Yugoslavia’s Srecko Katanec and Attilio Lombardo from Cremonese. Otherwise, Yugoslav Manager Vujadin Boskov had retained the same bloc of players.

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 16, May 1990
(Sampdoria’s new recruit Attilio Lombardo)

West German defender Thomas Berthold left Verona to join his compatriot Rudi Voeller at AS Roma (with new Coach Gigi Radice in charge).
Argentinean striker Claudio Caniggia left Verona to join Atalanta, who had offloaded Swedish midfielder Robert Prytz.
Newly promoted Udinese registered the Argentinean pair of Nestor Sensini and Abel Balbo who would go on and shine in Italy for more than a decade for various teams.
Spanish midfielder Ricardo Gallego also joined Udinese after over a decade of service at Real Madrid.
Veteran Italian striker Bruno Giordano joined Luigi Maifredi’s ambitious Bologna side, as did Bulgaria’s Nikolai Iliev and Brazil’s Geovani (one of Brazil’s flops at the Copa America).
Newly promoted Genoa under the well-respected Manager Francesco Scoglio acquired the Uruguayan trio of Carlos Aguilera, Ruben Paz and Jose Perdomo.
Though perhaps overlooked at the time, Marcello Lippi was given his first managerial position in the Serie A with Cesena.
Fiorentina acquired Czechoslovakia’s Lubos Kubik and Argentina’s Oscar Dertycia, as well Juventus’ Renato Buso. Due to ongoing construction on their home stadium for the upcoming World Cup, they would play all their home matches away in Pistoia and Perugia. This disadvantage would hamper their season, despite their progress in the UEFA Cup.
The season started on August 27th, as expected without Maradona. 
He had been expected to be back by August, but he delayed his return for a month. He finally returned and everything was seemingly back to normal. Nevertheless, Napoli had no choice but to open a Civil Lawsuit against him because of his unprofessional behavior.
The second matchday on September 3rd saw AC Milan unexpectedly lose at home to Lazio, with a bizarre own goal from Paolo Maldini. He lobbed his own goalkeeper from long range, while attempting a backpass. Napoli were already leaders, as they were the only team to have won its opening two matches. Salvatore Schillaci also displayed his potential with two goals in a (4-1) Juventus win over Verona. However, that day was tragic for Italian Football as a whole. Former Juventus Libero Gaetano Scirea was killed in an automobile accident near a Village called Babsk in Poland. Scirea, who was on Dino Zoff’s staff, was in a supervising mission for Juventus on their Polish opponents Gornik Zabrze for the upcoming First Round of the UEFA Cup.
In the following week (Matchday 3, September 10), Inter suffered its first loss of the season at Sampdoria (0-2), Juventus’ win over Ascoli, as well as Napoli’s away win at Verona, made the two joint leaders.
However, by the following week (Matchday 4, September 17), Juventus’ limitations would be exposed as they lost at Inter (1-2).
Napoli took over the sole lead with a (3-2) win over Fiorentina, after having fallen behind 0-2. Maradona made his first appearance of the season after coming on as a substitute.
Fiorentina’s Roberto Baggio scored one of his most famous goals, after he took the ball in his own half and dribbled past many defenders to score (very reminiscent of Maradona’s goal vs. England in 1986).
Three days later, ‘Baggiomania’ would take over Italy, with his two-goal performance for the National team vs. Bulgaria in a friendly.
On Matchday 6 (September 24), Maradona would score his first goal in an away tie with Cremonese that would help them to hold on as League leaders.
The following week (Matchday 7, October 1), would feature the league leaders Napoli of Maradona taking on the struggling AC Milan. The more in form Napoli side convincingly defeated Milan (3-0) to be favorites for the title.
One of the most enduring images of Maradona for years to come would be him wearing Franco Baresi’s exchanged jersey after the match.
On the same day, Inter recovered somewhat by defeating Roma (3-0) to move up to second place.
On the following week, AC Milan (with van Basten making his first appearance) continued its poor form by losing at Cremonese, while Juevntus also lost ground by losing at home to Atalanta.

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 16, May 1990
(Marco van Basten and Giancarlo Marocchi, March 11, 1990, Juventus 3-AC Milan 0)

On Matchday 9 (October 22), the next table-topping clash would pit Napoli at home vs. the German inspired defending Champions of Inter. Once again Napoli would come out winners with goals from Maradona and Careca to consolidate its lead. On the same day, Marco van Basten would score his first goal of the season as Milan defeated Roma (1-0).
Diego Maradona had an eventful few days prior to his wedding in November.
Napoli were scheduled to play Wettingen in the UEFA Cup in midweek, Maradona skipped training and rested at home for two days.   When he showed up on the third day, Corrado Ferlaino had had enough and sent him home.
Then on November 2nd, Maradona allegedly punched a fifteen year old after a training session, which led to a Police Complaint.
On Matchday 11 (November 5), van Basten would signal AC Milan’s recovery and once again Juventus’ shortcomings by scoring twice in a (3-2) win. The League leaders Napoli would hold onto the top position by defeating Lecce (3-2).
Following the match, Maradona would fly off to Buenos Aires to marry Claudia Villafane.
The following Round (Matchday 12, November 19), AC Milan would defeat its neighbors Inter (3-0) with van Basten once again amongst the goalscorers.
The important clash on the following week (Matchday 13, November 26) would see the leaders Napoli hold onto a tie at Juventus (1-1).
The still injured Ruud Gullit had yet another operation by famed Belgian Surgeon Marc Martens on November 29th and it was clear his layoff would be long term. In total he would have three operations in less than a year.
In the next round (Matchday 14, December 3), Napoli would defeat Atalanta (3-1) with the young playmaker Gianfranco Zola (wearing the number 10 jersey, as Maradona was rested and only came on as a substitute) scoring one of the goals with a beautiful curling shot.
In the meantime, the Draw for the upcoming World Cup finals was made, Maradona once again stirred controversy by declaring the draw had been fixed to favor Italy at the expense of Argentina. As a result, the Italian Federation demanded disciplinary action against Maradona. (He would be fined in January)
Napoli would suffer its first League defeat of the season in the last round of the first phase of the season (Matchday 17, December 30), when they lost at Lazio (0-3).  Inter’s win at Udinese placed them in second place just two points behind Napoli. (25 points vs. 23 points).
On that day, tragedy was averted after AS Roma’s Lionella Manfredonia collapsed in the 5th minute of their match at Bologna. He was revived and rushed to a hospital, but stayed in a coma for a couple of days.
The second half of the season would see the resurgence of AC Milan, with Marco van Basten in excellent form.  He was awarded his second Ballon d’Or in December ahead of clubmates Franco Baresi and Frank Rijkaard.
Milan also clinched the UEFA Super Cup (vs. Barcelona) and the Intercontinental Cup (vs. Atletico Nacional Medellin) in December.
The prolonged absence of Ruud Gullit was compensated with more than adequate response from the rest of the squad.
Milan were so impressive that at one point, AC Milan President Silvio Berlusconi suggested Azeglio Vicini, the National Team Manager, should select the entire AC Milan’s Italian contingent in place of the current struggling players.
National Team Manager Azeglio Vicini responded that a Manager should take decisions objectively and that Milan’s best players were in fact its Dutch duo (van Basten and Rijkaard).
On Matchday 19 (January 14), AC Milan won away at Lazio (3-1) and Napoli drew at Udinese (2-2). This tightened the race at the top. Napoli had 28 points, while Inter (27 points) and AC Milan (26 points) were right behind.
The next day Maradona was again at the center of another controversy. Giuseppe Pacileo of ‘Il Mattino’ had given Maradona a note of 3.5/10 for his performance vs. Udinese. The two men came face to face at a Naples studio where Maradona was doing his weekly TV show. He threatened Pacileo that he would make him eat his own newspaper.
AC Milan and Napoli continued winning for the next few rounds, with van Basten scoring in phenomenal fashion.

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 16, May 1990
(Juventus’ Roberto Galia and Fiorentina’s Roberto Baggio, January 17, 1990, Fiorentina 2-Juventus 2)

His excellent form was rewarded with a new improved contract until 1993 (with an option for an extra year) that was announced on January 23rd. Van Basten would sign it on February 9th.
Despite the revelation of Schillaci, Juventus had been declining for many years now. Gianni Agnelli felt a change of direction was needed. He announced that Dino Zoff would leave his post at the end of the season.
Around this time, former Juventus great Michel Platini accused long serving Administrator Giampiero Boniperti of having squandered Agnelli’s money on ineffective transfers. Boniperti announced his departure after these attacks.
In any case, it was believed that Boniperti and Agnelli had not seen eye to eye on many transfers. Boniperti had wanted Andreas Moeller, while Agnelli had been opposed. It was Agnelli who had insisted on Zavarov’s signature, while Boniperti had been doubtful.
On February 5th, Boniperti announced his resignation.
As for Zavarov, himself and his old Manager Valeri Lobanovsky placed the blame of his failure on Dino Zoff.  They both blamed Zoff for positioning him on the left side instead of his preferred central position.
On Matchday 24 (February 11), Napoli and Milan would meet in the most anticipated clash of the season. In contrast to the first encounter, AC Milan were now the more in form squad.  They completely dominated Napoli at home and won (3-0) with goals by Daniele Massaro, Paolo Maldini and van Basten. The teams were now level on points (36 each).
Just three days later, Milan once again showed its dominance over Napoli by defeating them at San Paolo, in the second Leg of the Coppa Italia Semifinals (3-1) to qualify for the Final after a goalless first Leg.
On Matchday 26 (February 25), AC Milan would break free and lead for the first time in the season. Napoli would lose again, this time vs. Inter (1-3), while Milan would defeat Roma away (4-0).  AC Milan now had 40 points and Napoli had 38.
At this point, Milan seemed odds on favorites to win the title. But it was precisely around this time, in the beginning of spring, that their implosion started.
On Matchday 28 (March 11), they were defeated at Juventus (0-3). Napoli could only draw at Lecce but nevertheless reduced the deficit to one point.

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 16, May 1990
(Luigi De Agostini and Angelo Colombo, March 11, 1990, Juventus 3-AC Milan 0)

The following week (Matchday 29, March 18), Milan were defeated once again, this time by neighbors Inter (1-3). Though Napoli themselves were also defeated at Sampdoria (1-2).
On Matchay 30 (March 25), both teams won, but Maradona’s two-goal display vs. Juventus signaled his return to form.
Physiotherapist Antonio Dal Monte was credited for placing Maradona on a special diet. He lost significant weight and was sharper and fitter in the final weeks of the season.
A few days later, Juventus’ Salvatore Schillaci’s fine form  (in addition, to the National Team’s struggles to score goals regularly) earned him his Azzurri debut in a friendly vs. Switzerland on March 31 (1-0 Italy win).

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 17, June 1990
(Salvatore Schillaci)

The following week (Matchday 31, April 8) would be significant in deciding the final outcome. AC Milan could only manage a scoreless draw at Bologna. Napoli managed the same at Atalanta. However, an object from the stands hit Napoli’s Alemao. As a result the score was overturned as (2-0 win for Napoli, ‘a tavolino’) by the League. This made the teams level on points with three matches to go.
Both teams won their next match and each had 47 points heading into the penultimate round (Matchday 33, April 22).
Both teams were away, AC Milan at Verona and Napoli were at Bologna.
AC Milan went ahead through Simone and seemed set to win. Arrigo Sacchi decided to send on Ruud Gullit for his very first appearance of the season. Unfortunately, for Milan, Verona fought back and tied up the score. The Milan players’ nerves gave way and Arrigo Sacchi, Rijkaard, van Basten and eventually Alessandro Costacurta were all sent off.  Milan were completely demoralized and Verona scored a winner through Davide Pellegrini, virtually handing over the title to Napoli, who were winning at Bologna (4-2). Napoli were now ahead by two points (49 vs. 47) going into the last match, and their victory seemed certain if not yet mathematical.
A few days later, Milan would also lose the Second Leg of the Coppa Italia Final to Juventus to miss out on domestic honors.
The last Round (Matchday 34, April 29) saw Napoli defeat Lazio with a Marco Baroni goal and Napoli were champions for the second time in four seasons.

Photo From: Calcio 2000, Issue 22 Supplement, August-September 1999
(Maradona and Alemao celebrating)

Marco van Basten was top goalscorer with 19 goals, with Baggio just behind with 17, Maradona with 16 and the revelation of the season Salvatore Schillaci with 15.
A few weeks later AC Milan triumphed in the Champions Cup (1-0 vs. Benfica) to salvage their end of the season.
In fact Italian teams all triumphed in Europe, Sampdoria won the Cup Winners Cup and Juventus won the UEFA Cup in an all-Italian affair vs. Fiorentina.
The Italian dominance in the European Cups allowed as much as eight Italian teams to be represented in Europe for the following season. (Napoli and AC Milan in C1, Sampdoria and Juventus in C2, Roma, Inter, Bologna and Atalanta in C3)
Verona who had been champions just five years earlier were relegated, along with Udinese, Cremonese and Ascoli.
The significant departures at the end of the season included the already mentioned Dino Zoff, who was appointed as the new Manager of Lazio, as well as, AC Milan goalkeeper Giovanni Galli joining Napoli, while Napoli forward Andrea Carnevalle would go on to join AS Roma after four successful seasons and two Scudetti.

Photo From: Calcio 2000, Issue 22 Supplement, August-September 1999
(Napoli’s Andrea Carnevalle)

Inter’s Alessandro Mateolli would join the newly promoted Cagliari of Claudio Ranieri.
The most significant transfer that was finalized just weeks after the end of the season and before the World Cup was that of Roberto Baggio. Juevntus paid a World Record fee of  £ 7.7 Million to acquire the excellent player.
This led to riots and unrest by the Fiorentina fans, which in turn led to the downfall of Count Flavio Pontello’s reign as Fiorentina owner.
Not to mention, the disruption of the National team’s World Cup preparation at nearby Coverciano.
The World Cup was a disappointment as Italy finished third, but Schillaci and Baggio had been the toast of Italy.

Of course the World Cup ended in tears (literally) for Maradona as well. Maradona was about the enter his last and most difficult season in Italy (1990/91 season, to be continued…..)

Photo From: (Magazine Source unknown) / Contribution From a blog viewer
(Napoli squad 1989/90, Top, left to right: Andrea Carnevalle, Ricardo Alemao, Raffaele Di Fusco, Giulliano Giuliani,  Giovanni Francini, Giancarlo CorradiniMiddle, left to right: Tebaldo Bigliardi, Massimo Tarantino, Massimo Mauro, Albertino Bigon, Diego Maradona, Massimo Crippa,  Ciro FerraraBottom, left to right:  Alessandro Renica, Fernando De Napoli, Antonio Careca, Maurizio Neri, Gianfranco Zola, Luca Fusi, Marco Baroni)

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