First Division – Serie A. Italian club football may have been the best at this time and Milan and Napoli the most talked about internationally, but the season was dominated by another team and that with such superiority the actual strength of Milan and Napoli could be immediately questioned. However, bellow a cluster of 4-5 clubs (and Juventus was among them almost by default, for it was shaky, if not in decline) the league was quite ordinary – tough for sure, but not exciting and inferior to the leading clubs. By now 3 foreign players were permitted, but even if Italy was preferred destination to foreign players, not every club employed three imports and practically there were foreigners bellow Serie A. Under the shiny group of few leading teams reality was pretty much as always – plenty of ties, defensive tactics, low scoring. So far 2 points were given for a win and there was no better argument for change to 3-point-for-a-win system than the final table – the number of ties is the first noticed: only one team ended with less than 10 ties. And since 3 ties gave more points than 1 win and 2 losses, why taking a risk?
Como finished at the bottom with 22 points and was relegated. Perhaps will be amusing to point the foreigners at hand this season. Dan Corneliusson (Sweden) was going down along with Brazilian striker Milton. And very young Marco Simone too.
Pisa – 17th with 23 points and relegated. English Paul Elliott, Belgian Francis Severeyns, and Dutch Mario Been here.
Pescara – 16th with 27 points and relegated. ThreeBrazilians – aging Junior, Edmar and Tita.
Torino – 15th with 27 points and relegated. Muller and Edu (Brazil) plus Haris Skoro (Yugoslavia).
Bologna – 14th with 29 points. The recognizable name was Stephane Demol (Belgium). Also Hugo Rubio (Chile) and Mika Aaltonen (Finland) and two former Juventus players – Massimo Bonini and Ivano Bonetti.
Cesena – 13th with 29 points. Hans Holmqvist (Sweden) and Davor Jozic (Yugoslavia).
Ascoli – 12th with 29 points. Walter Casagrande (Brazil), Mustafa Arslanovic and Borislav Cvetkovic (Yugoslavia), plus veteran Bruno Giordano.
Verona (may be better start writing it Hellas Verona) – 11th with 29 points. Impressive trio here: Thomas Berthold (West Germany) plus two Argentinians: Pedro Troglio and one Claudio Caniggia. Add Giuseppe Galderisi.
Lazio – 10th with 29 points. Nelson Gutierrez and Ruben Sosa (Uruguay) plus Gustavo Dezotti (Argentina).
Lecce – 9th with 31 points. Pedro Pasculli and Juan Barbas (Argentina) and Istvan Vincze (Hungary).
Roma – 8th with 34 points. This squad – on paper – looked capable of much more than 8th place… Rudi Voller (West Germany) and Andrade (Brazil) were not all: there were Franco Tancredi (and very young Angelo Peruzzi as back-up), Stefano Desideri, Sebastiano Nela, Giuseppe Giannini, Lionello Manfredonia, Daniele Massaro, Ruggiero Rizzitelli, and beloved famous veteran Bruno Conti.
Fiorentina – 7th with 34 points. Like Roma, they looked capable of more: Dunga (Brazil), Glenn Hysen (Sweden), but also veteran Roberto Pruzzo and exciting youngster named Roberto Baggio. They had to try getting a UEFA Cup spot in a play-off against Roma and succeeded – 1-0, thanks to Pruzzo.
Atalanta – 6th with 36 points. One may say they were overachievers, but to see them mixed with the best and actually finishing higher than seemingly stronger squads was lovely. Glenn Stromberg and Robert Prytz (Sweden) plus Evair (Brazil). Add Claudio Prandelli, if you like.
Sampdoria – 5th with 39 points. Now, this was a team rapidly climbing up in recent years. Aging Toninho Cerezo (Barzil) and Spanish Victor Munoz (formerly of Barcelona, no less!) were the foreign players, but around them… Gianluca Pagliuca, Moreno Mannini, Pietro Vierchowod, Gianluca Vialli, Giuseppe Dossena, Roberto Mancini, Luca Pellegrini.
Juventus – 4th with 43 points. They somewhat stumbled in the previous year, when they bought Soviet stars Zavarov and Aleynikov (who was a major disappointment) and were in process of rebuilding anyway – and it showed. Another club would be quite happy to be 4th, but for Juve it was a big slump – they were not a title contender. Aleynikov was gone, but Aleksandr Zavarov stayed. Michael Laudrup (Denmark) and Rui Barros (Portugal) certainly promised brighter future, but the team was not quite made yet – Cabrini, Altobelli, De Agostini, fine, but Roberto Tricella, Strefano Tacconi, Luciano Favero, Sergio Brio were not quite the best, not to mention their aging.
Milan – great coach, great squad, leading world-class players, the best in Europe, but… only 3rd in Italy. Not a title contender, fighting for second place with Maradona’s Napoli and losing the battle… 3rd with 46 points. True, they lost only twice this season, but so what? They ended 12 points behind their city rivals. As for the players – no need to list them, right?
Napoli, like Milan, found fighting on both Italian and European fronts too much, but unlike Milan, they had internal problems brewing, more or less stirred by Diego Maradona. They manage to previal over Milan in the championship, but that was all: very distant 2nd with 47 points. Along with Maradona played Careca and Alemao (Brazil), also Ciro Ferrara and Fernando De Napoli, but its was somewhat short squad, mostly dependent on Maradona’s form, will, and skill.
Inter dominated this championship with strength, which was actually surprising. Surprising, because the last time they won the title was in 1979-80 and since their last success before that was in 1970-71, some implausible tradition was established: Inter was capable the title very rarely, in 10-years gaps, and unable to stay on top for longer. Incidental titles, somewhat… and thus not exactly seen as a cutting-edge club. In view of the exciting Milan and Maradona-led Napoli, and up and coming Sampdoria, and alsways formidable Juventus, Inter was not exactly the expected winner. Even less by the crushing domination. Even less by winning games and scoring plenty of goals. But that was exactly what they did: 26 wins, 6 ties, only 2 losses, 67-19 goal-difference, 58 points – leaving Napoli 11 points behind! No other team in all 4 divisions won that many games. They were the only team in the top league with less than 10 ties. They scored most goals. They allowed the least goals in their net. Superior team in every aspect. The genius of Trapattoni was displayed in full force, for who would imagine at this time that a German-led squad will score so many goals and actually win not by ugly struggle, but by playing? Lothar Matthaus and Andreas Brehme provided the German steel of course, but the squad was not just them – Giuseppe Bergomi, Walter Zenga, Giuseppe Baresi, Aldo Serena, the Argentine Ramon Diaz, it was formidable squad. Not as flashy and inventive like Milan, but certainly better balanced than Napoli. Having a great coach at his prime did not hurt either. Inter won its 13th title in great manner and as if saying “How come you think Milan great if we leave them 12 points behind?” Wonderful season, bringing hopes for longer success at last. And also skepticism… let see the next year to find are they really great or just having incidental success like ten year ago and another ten before that. Future to the future, the present was wonderful.