Juventus were without a doubt Italy’s biggest club in the 1990s, but a match fixing scandal left them in Serie B having lost a lot of their star names. Michael Donnelly looks at the resurgence of the bianconeri.
Any football fan born in the 80s will have grown up watching probably as much Italian League football, if not more, than English Premier League. Back before the days of the Celtic Tiger, Sky Sports packages were the preserve of that little rich kid around the corner who it wasn’t really worth befriending to watch Norwich take on Wimbledon on a Tuesday night. Unless you were lucky enough to be taken to the pub after Mass by your father to accompany him on his Sunday drinking session live league football came courtesy of Italy, thanks to Channel Four and a young James Richardson. All the stars were there, the stadiums were packed and it just seemed more exciting than anything else on offer.
One of the more glamorous of these teams was Juventus. Led by a (relatively) young Marcello Lippi, Juve boasted Roberto Baggio, Gianluca Vialli and Alessandro Del Piero amongst their ranks and they set about dominating Serie A during the mid to late 90s, winning three titles during this period along with a Copa Italia. European triumph was achieved in 1996, with a shootout victory over Ajax and they were denied back to back Champions League victories by a Paul Lambert led Borussia Dortmund. They were cruelly dealt another final defeat in 1998, this time Real Madrid standing in their way.
They continued challenging at the top table of domestic and European football in the new millennium, winning back to back Championships in 2002 and 2003 before suffering another Champions League final defeat, this time at the hands of bitter Serie A rivals AC Milan. European heartache aside, Juventus had done a lot in the previous ten years to be considered one of the World’s top clubs and they could look to the future with much optimism. That optimism, however, would prove to be misguided.
The fall out from 2006 Italian match fixing scandal hit the Turin club harder than most. Banished to the wilderness of Serie B and stripped of league titles won in 2005 and 2006 many observers questioned whether they could ever recover from this humiliation. Stars such as Patrick Viera, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and World Cup winning captain Fabio Cannavaro quickly left the club akin to rats leaving a sinking ship and the future seemed far from bright for i bianconeri.
Even though they had to start with a nine point deficit, Juve made light work of Serie B and were promoted as champions after just one season. Their fight for redemption was no doubt helped by the unwavering loyalty of a band of players who decided to remain true to the Stadio delle Alpi side no matter what the circumstances, namely Pavel Nedved, Gianluigi Buffon and of course, the fan’s favourite, Del Piero.
By finishing 3rd in their return season to Serie A and qualifying for the Champions League in the process, Juventus have shown the football world that it won’t take long for them to return to their old formidable selves and they currently sit second in the Italian League behind Jose Mourinho’s Internazionale and in a great position to advance to the knock out stages of the Champions League.
Very few would have expected the Old Lady to bounce back from such adversity in this manner, but even fewer would begrudge them and their supporters a return to the upper echelons of world football, where they surely belong.