Torino looking for crumbs of success heading into the Derby Della Mole

They crossed Piazza Vittorio, concealed in the shadows of the evening, already talking about football. Emilio, of course, was for Juventus, the team of gentlemen, the industrial pioneers, Jesuits, the self-righteous, the educated: the wealthy bourgeois. Giraudo, of course, was for Toro, the team of the working class, migrant workers or from the provinces of Cuneo and Alessandria, who had technical schooling: the middle-class and the poor.

Mario Soldati, Le due città, 1964

Benoit Cauet managed just one goal for Torino. It came in February 2002, with the Granata attempting to survive in Serie A after winning promotion the previous year. Riccardo Maspero, Torino’s mercurial trequartista, collected the ball midway inside the opposition half and slid a perfectly weighted pass to striker Cristiano Lucarelli, who had peeled off the back of his marker.

Lucarelli showed great awareness to slide the ball back across the box while running in the opposite direction, and Cauet, having made a lung-busting run to arrive at the back post, made no mistake from four yards out.

After leaving Torino, the Frenchman went onto play for Como, Bastia, CSKA Sofia and FC Sion before retiring in 2006. Shortly after hanging up his boots, Cauet completed his coaching badges and is now in charge of former club Inter’s under-15s, as well as commentating on Italian football for French television. He has lived in Bulgaria, Switzerland, France and Italy since netting that goal and, while he was 32 on that freezing day in Turin, he will turn 46 in six months’ time.

Nevertheless, Cauet remains the last man to score for Torino against their bitter city rivals Juventus.

 

At the Juventus Stadium on Sunday, the current Granata squad will be hoping to end their side’s protracted draught. The Derby della Mole, named after Turin’s famous landmark, the Mole Antonelliana, may be fiercely contested on the terraces, but on the pitch, it has become a formality. Cauet’s goal was now twelve and a half years ago, and it did not even secure a Torino victory: 1995 was the last time the Granata defeated their bigger, richer adversaries, and in the 39 derbies of the last three decades, Torino have won on just five occasions.

Juventus are, by some distance, Italy’s most successful club. They have won thirty scudetti – Milan and Inter are their closest challengers, with eighteen apiece – and finished as runners-up 21 times. They are one of only two clubs to own their stadium, a wonderfully modern arena on the outskirts of the city, and have a history filled with world-class players, from Platini to Zidane, Zoff to Buffon, Scirea to Ferrara.

The Bianconeri are also the best-supported side on the peninsula, with club president Andrea Agnelli estimating 14 million fans in Italy and a further 180 million overseas. In a land where many citizens feel loyalty to their region first and their country second, Juventus are a truly national club, perhaps helped by the fact that they do not bear the name of a town or city.

Indeed, much of their support comes from the South and Sicily, partly because of the historic lack of footballing success in those parts, but also due to Juventus’ link with FIAT, the car manufacturers whose owners have also controlled Juventus since 1923.

FIAT employed huge numbers of southerners in their factories throughout the 1900s, and workers would spend their weekends watching the company’s affiliated team before returning home to spread the word of Juventus to their friends and family. As John Foot details in Calcio, FIAT signified power, influence and Italian capitalism, and Juventus soon came to be looked upon in a similar way.

Torino’s history is far more modest, and tends to be centred on a single event. In the 1940s, the Granata were Serie A’s preeminent team; nicknamed Il Grande Torino, the club won five league titles and a Coppa Italia that decade, and are justifiably considered to be the greatest side Italian football had ever seen.

In May 1949, however, tragedy struck. The plane carrying the Torino squad back from a friendly in Portugal crashed into the Basicilia of Superga, a large church perched on a hill in the east of Turin. There were no survivors.

Ever since then, Torino have never come close to producing a team as talented, making the Derby della Mole one of the most imbalanced rivalries in European football. Juventus fans are never shy to lord their superiority over their neighbours, who have largely resorted to irony, fatalism and self-deprecation after years of playing second fiddle in Turin.

Rather than boasting of championship wins and European adventures, Torino fans instead affirm that they are the city’s true representatives: unlike Juventus’ national following, Torino’s fanbase is mostly limited to Turin itself.

Moreover, in contrast to the Bianconeri’s commercial association with FIAT and image as the wealthy team of the establishment, Torino’s supporters are considered to represent the city’s urban, working-class communities.

For all their celebration of Juventus’ setbacks and frustration at the regular derby defeats, there is a sense that many Torino followers would not swap places with their illustrious rivals. Success in the short-term would certainly be welcome, but fans of the Granata seem happy to embrace their locality, loyalty and identity as the ‘real’ team of Turin.

It goes without saying, though, that Torino are desperate to end their lengthy streak without a goal or win in this Sunday’s Derby Della Mole.

 

The club’s impressive seventh-place finish last term was, in large part, down to the attacking exploits of Alessio Cerci and Ciro Immobile. The pair has now departed, joining Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund respectively, and Torino have struggled to cope with their absence: the Granata have failed to score in five of their first twelve league games, netting just seven times overall.

Doubts remain about how well-equipped the squad is to concurrently balance both Serie A and Europa League demands, but Torino should have enough to secure an end-of-season spot in the safety of mid-table.

Juventus, as is now customary, currently look down on Italy’s other nineteen teams from the summit of the table. The transition from Antonio Conte to Max Allegri has been smoother than many expected and, if anything, Juve look better equipped this year to make progress in Europe while also remaining competitive at home.

Carlos Tevez has been in fantastic form in 2014-15 and is arguably the league’s best player, while former Torino centre-back Angelo Ogbonna has been much-improved and Paul Pogba seems to get better with every passing week.

Earlier this season, Juventus defeated Roma 3-2 and set a new record for consecutive home wins, breaking Il Grande Torino’s tally of 21. Victories over Palermo and Parma have since extended that run to 24, and it is now over eighteen months since the Bianconeri dropped points in a league game at the Juventus Stadium, a 1-1 draw with Cagliari in May 2013 the last time they failed to register a victory at home.

Torino, with little hope of even coming close to such consistent excellence any time soon, would dearly love to end Juventus’ magnificent run on Sunday. In all honesty, though, they’d probably take a goal.

The Author

Greg Lea

Italian football writer currently living in Catania, Sicily. Can also be found on When Saturday Comes, Football Italia, In Bed With Maradona and These Football Times. Crystal Palace fan, Andrea Pirlo idoliser.

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