Hoisted onto the shoulders of Brazilian defender Júlio César, Roberto Baggio, captain of Juventus, was the hero. Charging towards their adoring fans and arms aloft, Baggio’s teammates knew how important their captain was. For the previous month, he had put the team on his back and propelled them to a top-four finish and a European title.
Up until that night in Turin, the most dominant club in Europe had ceased to be a force. That honour belonged to Milan, as Arrigo Sacchi’s innovative approach to pressing and attacking play transformed the club’s fortunes.
After a decade of dominance that stretched from 1976 to 1986 under Giovanni Trapattoni, Juventus, by their standards, had struggled. The success of Dino Zoff in lifting a cup double was a welcome high point, but this had been quickly undone by Luigi Maifredi, whose short stay at the Delle Alpi resulted in a seventh-place finish; the club’s worst since 1961-62.
Drastic action was required when Maifredi was removed. Trapattoni was summoned back from Inter after transforming the Il Nerazzurri into a title-winning team with European success. Despite his performance in Milan, Trapattoni’s spiritual home was Turin.
His first season back in the dugout put Juventus resulted in a second-place finish. A lack of European football meant total focus on domestic competition. His side lost only two games, one in each half of the season. An incredible feat considering what had come before.
But one side embarked on a campaign that would go down in history; Milan. Fabio Capello’s debut season in the dugout at the San Siro ended with his side unbeaten. A true juggernaut powered by Silvio Berlusconi’s wealth, Milan was a dominant force at home and abroad.
At the start of Trapattoni’s second season in the summer of 1992 Juventus and the FIAT-owning Agnelli family decided to invest heavily in the team. Something they had done on a regular basis, even breaking the world transfer record to sign Roberto Baggio after his performances at Italia ‘90.
Due to the relaxing of rules around signing foreign players, clubs brought in more foreign talent than ever before. Italian teams hoovered up talent from around the globe and Serie A became the only destination for top talent.
Milan moved first, with Capello and Berlusconi splashing £10m on French forward Jean-Pierre Papin from Marseille, smashing the record set by Baggio. Berlusconi was desperate to further his club’s domination and continued to splash the cash throughout the summer.
Sensing the need to make a statement, Juventus outdid Milan and spent £12m on Gianluca Vialli from Sampdoria. Signing a player who had come off the back of a European Cup final was a blow to Sampdoria as they attempted to maintain their place near the top of Serie A. For Juventus, this was just the start of their business.
After a bidding war with Juventus, Milan announced the signing of Gianluigi Lentini from Torino for £13m. The move caused much consternation in Turin, with Torino fans protesting the streets not long after he signed. The reaction if he had signed for city rivals Juventus would surely have been much worse.
Undeterred, Juventus continued to spend. David Platt arrived from relegated Bari for £7m after impressing with his goal-scoring from midfield. As the third foreign player, it looked like Platt would play a prominent role in midfield. His knack for arriving in the box and linking play would complement what could be a formidable forward pairing of Vialli and Baggio.
The arrival of Andreas Möller from Frankfurt only served to muddy the waters, when the talented German signed for a fraction of Platt’s fee at £2.6m. Now with four foreign players signed up, Trapattoni would have a difficult choice each week. Especially as his two central defenders Jürgen Kohler and Júlio César were forming a formidable partnership.
Two players arrived under the radar. Both young players in Dino Baggio from Torino and Fabrizio Ravanelli from Reggiana. The lesser-known Baggio would emerge as one of the stars of the season and Ravanelli displayed glimpses of the elite goal scorer of years to come.
On paper, there were issues around balance in the squad, highlighted by the signings of Platt and Möller. Two foreign players, playing in similar positions and ultimately fulfilled a similar role.
A rocky start to the season immediately raised questions. Two wins in the first six games were not much of a return for huge investment. Trapattoni’s side found themselves in fourth place, unbeaten, alongside Milan, Torino and Sampdoria. Milan, on the other hand, roared out of the blocks with five wins in the same period.
An early-season loss came at the San Siro; a 3-1 defeat to Inter. The defeat came soon after Brazilian defender Júlio César broke his leg in a win against Napoli. Ruled out for four months. Trapattoni would have to constantly reshuffle his defence, which did not help with consistency.
In a welcome break from league action Europe’s second competition, the UEFA Cup, gave Juventus the chance to flex their muscles against weaker opposition. Easing past Anorthosis Famagusta was followed up with a close aggregate victory over Greek side Panathinaikos.
Before the first matchup against league leaders Milan, Juve travelled to Sigma Olomouc for a tough away tie.
Playing in a stadium which was a far cry from the caverns of Serie A, Juventus battled to a 2-1 victory with two fantastic goals from Dino Baggio and Andreas Möller. These two midfielders were becoming integral to Trapattoni’s side; Baggio providing crucial goals throughout the run.
After a positive run of three league victories, Juventus headed to the San Siro to face Milan without Roberto Baggio, who was ruled out until the new year. Capello’s side was still in fine form winning nine of their first twelve games.
Pierluigi Casiraghi replaced Baggio in the lineup. His partner Vialli was still struggling to adjust to his new surroundings with only three league goals so far. Similarly, fellow record breaker (albeit briefly) Papin, had a quiet start to life at the San Siro with two goals in the first few months of the season. He fell foul of Milan’s ‘turnover’ system, which was an early precursor for the rotation system so favoured by modern managers.
The game was tight. Both sides battled to create chances, with neither in the ascendency. Milan took the lead after a dreadful mix up at the back allowed Marco Simone to pounce.
The decisive moment in the game would come in the form of a penalty for Juventus. Vialli’s moment had arrived. A way to get his confidence back and keep the title race alive. Instead, it was another setback; Vialli missed, Milan victorious.
Things didn’t get better, with defeats at Fiorentina and Foggia piling on the pressure for Trapattoni and his expensively assembled squad. Milan, on the other hand, continued their unbeaten streak, winning two of their last three games before the winter break.
On the positive side, Juventus had reached the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup. There was a strong possibility that they would add to their bulging trophy cabinet.
After the winter break, the return of Roberto Baggio gave the club a huge boost. His form in the second half of the season was incredible. He was a true icon of the early ’90s; ponytail down his back and white number 10 against the black of his Kappa shirt.
January came and went with five goals in as many games for the captain. But in the face of his herculean efforts, Juventus drew too many games. The only wins were secured in home matches against Cagliari and relegation strugglers Pescara. Milan continued to steamroll their way to the title with four wins of their five games in January.
As January turned to February and then March, things didn’t improve and Juventus’ title dream was all but over. The hope of improving their second-place finish from the season became a distant memory; a top-four spot and European glory was the target now.
The opponents in the UEFA Cup quarter-final were Benfica, who were fighting hard for the Primeira Divisao, matching rivals Porto every step of the way. In fact, they were on an unbeaten streak that stretched all the way back to 8th November.
After going a goal down after some poor defending, Juve responded. Incisive play from Dino and Roberto Baggio opened up the Benfica defence. A threaded through ball, between two defenders, and behind Benfica’s defensive line, found Möller sprinting towards goal. He nicked the ball with his toe, perfectly timed, and nudged it past the onrushing ‘keeper Silvino. Penalty.
Despite Roberto Baggio’s return to the side, Vialli confidently took responsibility. In a far cry from his penalty in the San Siro, he took a long run-up and hammered the ball into the back of the net. 1-1 and a vital away goal.
The rest of the game went the host’s way and another mistake at the back allowed Vitor Paneira to pick up his second of the game. By no means a disaster, Trapattoni’s side would need to work hard to overturn the 2-1 deficit.
At this point in the season, Juventus’ title dream was over. They were an incredible 14 points behind Milan. Capello’s team were one of the greatest assembled and their league form proved it; still unbeaten with 51 goals scored and a meagre 17 conceded.
Milan’s ‘turnover’ system and expensive recruits excelled. The success of Juventus’ signings varied.
Of all the incomings, Möller looked the most accomplished. Initially seen as a competition to Platt, the Englishman’s injuries meant the German established himself as a regular starter. A fine goalscoring midfielder, Möller would outscore Vialli in all competitions. A bargain price for a dynamic, impactful player.
Vialli and Platt were the two biggest disappointments. Costing close to £20m combined, neither made a meaningful impression on the team. Vialli had not been able to find form in Trapattoni’s system and Platt’s time on the treatment table nullified a consistent role he would have. Coupled with this, Ravanelli regularly found the net on his limited appearances and probably deserved the extended run he had towards the end of the season.
This run of games started with the visit of Napoli when Trapattoni blooded his fringe players. Vialli found himself on the bench, replaced by Ravanelli with starts for Platt and Di Canio. They wouldn’t disappoint.
Di Canio latched onto Kohler’s through ball and opened the scoring. Platt showed exactly why he was worth £7m to make it 2-0 with a trademark header from a Möller corner. The peripheral figures showed their worth immediately.
As violence erupted in the crowd, Napoli found a way back into the game with two goals; one from their number 10 Gianfranco Zola. The second, from a man who would arrive in Turin two years later to shore up the leaky Juventus defence; Ciro Ferrara.
Ravanelli restored the lead until the diminutive Zola darted into the box and was felled by Massimo Carrera. Daniel Fonseca, Napoli’s Uruguayan striker, stepped up and hammered the ball home. The game looked like it was heading for a draw, but Juve had other ideas.
Riding challenges through the centre of the pitch, Di Canio handed the ball off to Möller. The German took the ball into the box and with a falling left-footed shot found the bottom corner. Cue delirium from the players and a roar from the Juve faithful. This inconsistent side could, and did, produce great moments when it mattered.
Turning over the aggregate deficit with ease, Juventus simply had too much for Benfica. A comfortable 4-2 aggregate secured a place in the next round against Paris Saint-Germain.
A rare bright spot on the pitch was clouded by the scandal engulfing Juventus’ owners off it.
Automotive giant FIAT and Juventus’ owners were embroiled in a bribery scandal that shook Italian politics. A recession in the car industry only compounded the Agnelli family’s misery. It was clear that another summer of spending was not on the cards.
Speaking to World Soccer, Trapattoni outlined that his side did not need more additions and was a building side and not a ‘palazzo.’ He felt he had the nucleus of a title-winning squad. The idea of transition at Juventus was rare, but Trapattoni knew his side was not far away.
Paris Saint-Germain were Juventus’ next opponents. Led by manager Artur Jorge and featuring stars including David Ginola, Paul Le Guen and George Weah, the Parisian side were living in the shadow of all-conquering Marseille.
The game against PSG would herald the start of a seven-game winning streak for Juve. This run would secure their status as a European title winner and top-four team in Serie A. It would also enhance the reputation of Roberto Baggio as one of the greatest players in the world.
Keeping to type for the season, George Weah proved too much to handle for the Juventus backline. Aided by fantastic wing play by PSG’s virtuoso Ginola, Weah opened the scoring after 23 minutes.
Ginola picked up the ball out wide, dribbled infield, and after he bamboozled the whole of the Juventus backline with a killer through ball, Weah moved into position. He picked up the ball and slid it past Angelo Peruzzi.
1-0 to the visitors and a crucial away goal. Ginola was proving tough to handle with his quick dribbling and turn of pace. Juve needed something.
Enter Roberto Baggio.
As part of a three-pronged attack with Ravanelli and Vialli, Baggio was able to drop deeper and exert his influence on the game. Without Möller in the side, Baggio became the creator for the two strikers ahead of him. It paid off with his equaliser.
Time ticked on and both sides pushed for a winner. The home side wanted a lead to take to Paris. Their opponents did not relent either, peppering the Juventus goal with shots and direct running wide areas.
It remained level until 88 minutes, when Juventus were awarded an indirect free-kick on the edge of the box. Players surrounded the ball, but only one player was needed; Baggio.
A quick shift of the ball and Juve’s number 10 strode forward and struck the ball. Hard and true. It flew into the top corner of Bernard Lama’s net. Cue delirium in the Stadio delle Alpi.
Baggio had won it. They were halfway to the final. PSG were shell shocked.
Back in the league, Trapattoni’s men defeated Torino in the derby before heading to the San Siro to face Milan. The famous ground was a fortress for the champions-elect but was the site of their first defeat in 58 games against Parma.
Milan’s title charge derailed by poor form due to an awful run of injuries. Their huge lead had been whittled down to give nearest challengers Inter a slim chance.
Juventus arrived full of confidence, and with the returning Möller, beat the champions-elect 3-1. After going down to a Marco Simone goal after just six minutes, Baggio laid on an equaliser for the German, who added an acrobatic second to put Juve 2-1 up.
Baggio’s goal, and Juventus’ third, was a thing of beauty.
After an interception in his own half, Möller played a slide-rule pass towards Baggio on the halfway line. As the ball reached him, Baggio dummied, spun, and hurtled towards goal, leaving defenders chasing behind him. Rounding Rossi in the Milan goal seemed the obvious thing to do, and with defenders swarming, he fired into the empty net.
Baggio and Moller were the two stand out performers for Juventus and they showed their class again. It looked like they could form the bedrock for an elite team in the years to come.
After such a high Juventus travelled to Paris for the second leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final in hope that a final was on the horizon. PSG played aggressive, attacking football and if not for an inspired performance by Michelangelo Rampulla the scoreline may have been very different.
The winning goal came late again, with Baggio nudging in Vialli’s shot after fantastic work by David Platt. It was all Juve would need to advance to the final.
Baggio’s stellar form continued in the league with a goal against former club, and fierce rivals, Fiorentina. The 3-0 win came before heading to Germany for the first leg of the UEFA Cup final. It would prove to be another defining moment in the Italian’s career.
Alongside namesake, and no relation, Dino, the two Baggios would dominate the final.
In the first leg, Dino brought Dortmund back to earth after their shock early lead. By half-time, Roberto had joined in the scoring with a predatory finish in the box; a skill that he was not renowned for, but excelled at all the same.
With the game stretched, and Dortmund pushing for an equaliser, Juve broke for a third goal. Effectively ending the tie, Baggio scored again, nudging the ball past Stefan Klos. Juve knew that they could survive just about anything from Dortmund and lift the trophy.
In the early ’90s, a two-legged final was commonplace for a UEFA Cup final and Baggio warmed up for the return leg with a hat-trick in a 4-2 win against Foggia and another goal in a 2-1 defeat to Parma. His return from the previous eight games stood at eleven goals. Lifting the trophy was the only thing needed now.
The return leg was a formality. Dino Baggio starred this time with two goals and Möller added to his tally taking his total to 14 for the season. But it would be Roberto Baggio who earned the plaudits and lifted the trophy. The European prize would wipe away the memory of a forgettable league campaign.
Indeed, the players seemed to wipe away any thoughts of actually competing in the remaining games after their final triumph. A draw with Sampdoria was followed up with a 5-1 defeat at bottom of the table Pescara, who had long been relegated. Fielding a full-strength side, Juventus were blown away by four second-half goals.
Going into the final game against Lazio, Juventus had to win to finish in the top four. Juventus had only ever finished outside the top four on three occasions since 1971. No manager wanted a finish outside the top four on their record, let alone Trapattoni.
Thankfully, the elite version of the team turned up and ran out 4-1 winners. Powered by a couple of Baggio penalties and goals from Vialli and Di Canio, Juventus sewed up fourth place.
Looking at the final league table, the gap between Juventus and Milan had increased from eight points at the end of the 1991/92 season to eleven points at the end of 1992/93. Despite the money spent on building a squad to compete with the best, Juventus had come up a long way short. In fact, it looked like second-placed Inter would be the biggest title challengers in the 1990s. The signatures of Ajax stars Dennis Bergkamp and Wim Jonk suggested they were the ones to watch.
Lifting a European trophy would be the pinnacle of a season or decade for most clubs. For Juventus, it was a return to normality. Even the memory of the UEFA Cup in of 1990 had been erased after spending a whole year playing only domestic football.
The return of Trapattoni was supposed to herald a return to the domination of the 70s and 80s. This was a different era, a different time, and Milan were the new superpower in Italy and Europe. Trying to compete with them was not going to be possible in the immediate future, so they would have to work smarter than their rivals.
For Roberto Baggio, Juventus’ captain and talisman, another season with Trapattoni beckoned, but his time at Juventus was soon to be affected by the arrival of an heir to a throne he was yet to vacate.
Amidst political and financial turmoil, Juventus’ transfer spending did not compare to that of the summer of 1992. In fact, high profile departures of Platt, Casiraghi and Di Canio drew more headlines than the only major signing; a young striker from Padova.
That young striker would be blooded into the first team in early 1993 and he would come to define the club for a generation of fans; his name was Alessandro Del Piero.
But for now, Juventus had Roberto Baggio, the UEFA Cup and their greatest manager of all time and a decade of domination was surely not too far away.