Great Calcio Sides: Juventus 1994-1999
In 1994, AC Milan, led by “Don” Fabio Capello have just won the European Cup, beating Johann Cruyff’s Barcelona 4-0 in the final, having already won the Scudetto that year, re-confirming their dominance of the Italian game.
Roberto Baggio, Italy’s great hope, leads his nation to the World Cup final, only to missed the penalty which then gifted Brazil victory, the image of Baggio standing on the spot, stony faced, cemented into Footballing History forever.
In other news, a man who looks an awful lot like Paul Newman has took over at Juventus. Hoping to return the Bianconeri to domestic success, Marcello Lippi focuses his new side around a talented crop of Italians, from the aforementioned Roberto Baggio to Ciro Ferrara, Gianluca Vialli and a young prospect called Alex Del Piero.
It takes a good team to win a championship. It takes a great team to build a cycle, and win several championships. And no one builds cycles of success like Juventus, the Turin Giants matched only by Manchester United in terms of consistent domestic domination, the period from 1994-99 not only representing this, but standing as one of the most successful periods in the Old Lady’s glittering history.
In five years, came three Scudetti and a Champions League title, as well as two appearances in the final. Juve were dominant domestically and in Europe, only faltering at the very last hurdle. It was a time of great prosperity, where Juve attracted the huge names of world football and sold them at will, rather than being coerced by bigger names.
The cycle began in the 1994-5 season, where Lippi won the Championship at the first time of asking in impressive style, finishing the season 10 points in front of second placed Lazio. Gianluca Vialli was the club’s top scorer, netting 17. Milan, the Italian and European Champions, lay in fourth.
The following year, Juventus let go of the talented Roberto Baggio to rivals Milan, seemingly a suicidal move, the ponytailed wonder still one of the best players in the world, but Lippi silenced critics by giving a more central berth to Del Piero, who returned his managers faith with some sumptuous form, followers of the Turin giants will remember his beautiful volley against Fiorentina during this period.
The following season wasn’t quite as spectacular in Serie A for Lippi’s side, coming runners up behind Milan, but topped the achievement of their Milanese rivals by winning the Champions League, beating Ajax on penalties, with Fabrizio Ravanelli scoring for Juve. It was a momentous occasion, Juventus rarely involved in European Glory, winning their first since the ill fated final at Heysel in 1985.
After the celebrations, Juve focused on the task at hand, and unlike many sides who win the European Cup, Juventus spent, and spent big. Filippo Inzaghi, Edgar Davids and the French magician Zinedine Zidane all arrived in the next summers as Juve looked to reassert their dominance.
During this period, Juve were a joy to watch going forward, Zidane pulling the stings behind first Alen Boksic and Christian Vieri, and then creating for one of the greatest Calcio partnerships of all time; Alex Del Piero, the artist, the visionary, playing behind Pippo Inzaghi, the master poacher, sharp eyed finisher.
Between them, the two netted 39 goals in the 1997-8 season as Juve retained their Scudetto title. The Scudetto race that year will always be remembered for that foul from Mark Iuliano on Ronaldo, but it’s often forgotten for how good Juve actually were at that point.
Continentally, Juve fans will always look at this period with regret at what could have been, as Lippi led his troops to consecutive finals, but lost on both occassions, to Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid respectively. However, misery aside, Juve threw up some gripping European encounters, not least their clashes with Manchester United, which captured the world thanks to the compelling drama that unfolded.
It’s a shame that this period in Juve’s history maybe remembered only as a collection of nearly moments, when the iron grip that the Old Lady held over Italian football must always be emphasized. At home, Juve were unstoppable during this period. If only Lippi had jumped that final hurdle, then this period would be remembered as five years of near unshakeable dominance from Italy’s most famous side, rather than the dark underbelly of controversy and disappointment.
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