Decade Under the Crossbar – Volume 5

1 06 2010

Italy, my friends its all about ITALY!!!

The 80+ year old league had a crazy decade filled with amazing soccer, scandal and success.  There is a three-headed beast in Italy but it also has some famous teams always nipping away as well.  16 total teams have taken home the title.  5 teams won titles in this decade and those three beasts all were involved.  The most successful club is Juventus with 27 championships, followed by Internazionale (18), Milan (17), and Genoa (9).  Though Genoa hasn’t won it since the 1920s!!  The other two decade winners are from the capital city and two of the more famous clubs.  Roma and Lazio are the two capital teams and along with the duel Milan squads give Italy some of the best city derbies in the world.  The fueds and hatred of the “other” side rivals the most heated rivalries.  We’ll see how it effected this seasons title race.  First we’ll look at how the City of Rome ushered in the new century.

1999-00 – The Eagles Soaring above all the rest.


The Roman club share there stadium with cross-town rivals Roma.  The Stadio Olimpico is the main and largest sports facility of Rome.  The stadium has a current capacity of 72,698.

Società Podistica Lazio was founded on January 9, 1900 in the Prati district of Rome.  In 1927 Lazio was the only major Roman club which resisted the Fascist regime’s attempts to merge all the city’s teams into what would become A.S. Roma the same year.  Lazio were Serie A runners-up in 1995, third in 1996, and fourth in 1997, then losing the championship just by one point to Milan on the last championship’s match in 1999 before, with the likes of Siniša Mihajlović, Alessandro Nesta, Marcelo Salas and Pavel Nedvěd in the side, finally winning its second scudetto in 2000, as well as the Italian Cup in an impressive and rare (by Italian standards) “double” with Sven-Göran Eriksson (1997–2001) as manager.

The “Swede” started coaching in his homeland then jumped to Portugal then back and forth with Italy.  It wasn’t until Lazio that he finally started to gain world-wide notice.  During this time Eriksson achieved several national league, domestic cup and two notable UEFA competition wins. With his achievements in this period, Eriksson is so far the only manager who has achieved the league-and-cup double in three different countries (Sweden, Portugal and Italy).  Bankrolled by Sergio Cragnotti‘s investment in the team – some £274 million in over 4 seasons – Eriksson amassed trophies on a remarkable scale, and because of this many fans consider him to be Lazio’s most successful manager ever.

Lazio won the title on the final day of the season in controversial cirumstances. Juventus, the only other team left in contention on the day lost their match against Perugia in terrible conditions at a rain-sodden Stadio Renato Curi, many considering the pitch unplayable. Pierluigi Collina the referee temporarily halted the game at one point for 82 minutes but decided against calling it off. Juventus went on to lose the game 1-0 with a goal from Alessandro Calori while Lazio comfortably beat Reggina 3-0 at home in the sunshine in the Stadio Olimpico.  The club won the title without a top ten scorer and no major award winners.  Most of there stars and manager would depart for bigger and better in the next few years.

2000-01 – Rome celebrates back-to-back titles, but this time its the other-side of town.

AS Roma.png

Roma won its first Scudetto since the 1982/1983 season, its 3rd title overall.  Once again a Roman club would narrowly beat out Juventus on the final day of the season.  Roma would lead the league in goals scored (68 total).  Argentinian Gabriel Batistuta would lead the way with 20 goals, 4th place (first would be fellow Argentinian Hernan Crespo).

But one man has become the face behind the team.  Francesco Totti the heart of Roma.

“Er Pupone,” as he is commonly nicknamed, is considered one of the greatest players in his generation and also one of Roma’s greatest players ever.  He’s spent his entire career for the capital club and is the all-time leader in goals and games played.  Totti is currently the top active Serie A goalscorer, and sixth-all-time in league history with 192 goals.  Totti was named the Italian Footballer of the Year for 2000 and 2001.  During the title season the club was managed by Italian legend Fabio Capello (BUT DON’T let ROMA fans know you are a fan – they hate him for his move to Juventus later this decade – and he’ll be an interesting figure in the SCANDAL that shocked the soccer world!!!).

2001-02 – “The Old Lady” wins its 26th title and for the third year in a row the title came down to the last day.

Juventus crest

Inter Milan had the lead and the title wrapped up, but got blitzed 4-2 to Lazio.  Frenchman David Trezeguet would end up tied for 1st in goals, with Dario Hubner, scoring 24 total.

But like Roma – Juventus has its on long-standing Captain.  Alessandro Del Piero who joined the club in 1993.  Along the way the little attacking midfielder has 197 goals (all-time Juve leader) and 456 appearances (Juve leader).  With the Turin club, he won the Serie A championship seven times (1995, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006), the Champions League (1996), and the Intercontinental Cup (1996).

Along with the two top goal-scorers the team was anchored by three new-comers to the Turin club.  Midfield Maestro Pavel Nedved moved from Lazio for 41 euros.  He was replacing a god, Zinedine Zindane.  Join the new Czech were two Parma talents.  Young goalie Gianlugi Buffon and defender Lilian Thuram would anchor the unit for the rest of the decade.  But the man behind all the talent was also returning the team.  Manager Marcello Lippi left the team for Inter Milan for one year, but returned to Juve to regain the title.

After five highly successful seasons at Juve, Lippi moved to Inter in 1999, but was sacked after the first 2000-01 matchday after having faced a lot of criticism due to his poor results in his previous season with the Nerazzurri. He was then again appointed as coach of Juventus for the 01-02 season.  He’s beloved for bringing the Champions League in 96.  Also his three-head attack has become part of the Juventus legacy.  The “trident-attack” formation was put into play to help the talented Del Piero partner with another attacking mid and over lapping striker.  Veterans Gianluca Vialli and Fabrizio Ravanelli were the first to pair with ADP.  Then came the great Frenchman and Filippo Inzaghi.  Then finally Nedved and Trezeguet would give Lippi his talented trio.

2002-03 – Back-to-Back for the Black and White.

Happy fellas. Since I’ve gone over the usual suspects in the last year – i’m going to just talk about one of my top three favorite players of all-time.  Part of this happy fella group (though can’t see him) is Defensive Midfielder Edgar Davids.*jB5wR-puZ-fPCTZwfdkrx0S0aRMjPGlaf-kUigntqzsXe47QsWyxT82jcjeRH9dtEt7wjOz62Yh6w8rDncV*ejH/EdgarDavids.jpg

“The Pitbull”.  You won’t find a more powerful and well-respected “little” guy (its nice to say he’s 5’7).  He’s held up against the best.

Nice hair Baggio.

Yeah that’s a Nando’s sponsor (LOVE ME SOME NANDO’S!! – obviously late in the dutchman’s career).

Patrick Viera’s bitch ass!!

Hey Old Man Sheringham.

Look here Oliver Dacourt that’s my freaking ball.

F’ing Viera – STOP IT!

Even his famous-frenchman friends and former teammates!!

Hope you enjoyed that as much as me – mad respects to the  Dutchman.  A bit of trivia for ya – comment me the name of Edgar’s former manager that nicknamed him the “Pitbull”.  Hint he’s a fellow dutchman.  Hint II – WE’VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT HIM IN PREVIOUS POSTS!!!.  You won’t win anything but my respect and admiration.

2003-04 – Il Diavolo (The Devil) makes an appearance to the decade party.

A club owned by a President.  A club where some of the games greats of the last decade called home – Beckham, Maldini, Ronaldinho, and Shevchenko.  One Coach to rule them all though!  Carlo Ancelotti may have conquered England this season, but he owned Milan for damn near his whole live.  First as a player.

This is my freaking European Cup.  muhahahahahhahahahahah, I am Carletto!!! He played as a midfielder and had a successful career with Milan, with whom he won two Scudettos and two European Cups in a five-year period.  And also he’d have success as a manager.

He won the Scudetto in 2004, the Champions League in 2003 and 2007 and the Coppa Italia in 2003. They were also Serie A and Champions League runner-ups in 2005. He is one of six men to have won the European Cup as player and manager.  The scudetto was won mainly because of the amazing attacking elements.  Ukrainian Andriy Shevchenko led the league with 24 goals.

But this season saw the end of legendary Italian Roberto Baggio career as he retired.  In his career, he played for Fiorentina, Juventus, AC Milan and Internazionale. In 1993, Baggio won both the Ballon D’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year. He is the only Italian player ever to score in three World Cups. Baggio is known as Il Divin Codino (The Divine Ponytail), for the hairstyle he wore for most of his career and his Buddhist background.  By far one of the greats – and along with Edgar and Eric Cantona he completes my holy trinity of soccer love. Memory Lane time?

The Braided Look.

The aged curls.

The Hoop Stage.

The Peek-a-Boo look and hey also check out the cool ass trophy I won!

The Moving Legend.

The Legend.

A year later all hell would break loose.

Uncovered in May of 2006 the Calciopoli Scandal would take a look into the 2004-2006 titles.   Italian police, implicating league champions Juventus, and other major teams including, Internazionale Milan, Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, and Reggina when a number of telephone interceptions showed a thick network of relations between team managers and referee organizations. Juventus were the champions of Serie A at the time. The teams have been accused of rigging games by selecting favorable refs.   The name Calciopoli is a pun on Tangentopoli, [rough English translation:Bribesville], a corruption-based attitude starting in the early 80s and ending with the Mani Pulite investigation in the early 90s. Another very common name for Calciopoli is Moggiopoli after the name of Luciano Moggi. Also Calciogate, a pun on Watergate, is used. “Calcio” means football in Italian.

On 4 July 2006, the Italian Football Federation’s prosecutor, Stefano Palazzi, called for all four clubs at the centre of the match-fixing scandal to be thrown out of Serie A. Palazzi called for Juventus to drop to at least Serie C1 (his statement read that Juventus should be sent “lower than Serie B”, without a specific division stated) and for Fiorentina and Lazio to at least Serie B. He also asked for points penalties to be imposed (6 for Juventus, 3 for Milan, and 15 for both Fiorentina and Lazio). The prosecutor also called for Juventus to be stripped of its 2005 and 2006 titles.

On 17 August Reggina’s punishment was handed down: a 15-point penalty, but no relegation from Serie A.

If one man took the brunt of the beating it was this fella.

Luciano Moggi: life ban from football, with a further recommendation to the FIGC president that he be banned for life from membership of the FIGC at any level.

The 2004-05 and 2005-2006 titles were initially won by Juventus, but 2004-05 title was not assigned, while the 2005-06 title was subsequently assigned to Internazionale.

2006-07 – Inter win in the only season Juventus weren’t in the Serie A.

Inter logo

Internazionale became the Serie A champions after beating Siena, as Roma‘s loss to Atalanta left Inter with a 16-point advantage with five games to play.  ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE AGAIN!!

On February 2, 2007, police officer Filippo Raciti was killed outside the Stadio Angelo Massimino, Catania, in football-related violence during the Sicilian derby between rivals Catania and Palermo. The match, originally scheduled for February 4 at 3pm, was exceptionally advanced on Friday at 6pm under request of Catania Calcio because of the simultaneity with the St. Agatha local celebrations.

The dramatic Sicilian derby events, which followed the murder of Ermanno Licursi, an amateur club manager, beaten to death during a riot in a Terza Categoria league match, led Commissioner Luca Pancalli to call a stop to all football matches in Italy, including Serie A fixtures. Pancalli noted how the league fixtures would not start again till a solution to the violence issue in Italian football is found. The week after, a special law by the government enforced the measures to be taken against violence in football stadia and forbade the presence of supporters inside stadia which didn’t agree with mandatory security dispositions, thus enabling Italian football to go on with half of the matches played without audience.

Following the events, Catania was prohibited to play its home matches at Stadio Angelo Massimino for the remaining part of the season, and the club was also forced to play its home matches in neutral grounds without spectators (a porte chiuse, behind closed doors). Several other Italian stadia were closed too because of security reasons, and reopened only once they would have passed several safety requirements. All stadiums were successfully reopened for April, with Stadio Massimino’s exception. Catania’s home matches were successively allowed to be attended by spectators, yet on neutral ground, as from May 13.

Inter ended the season with 30 wins and only one loss for an incredible 97 points.

2007-08 – Inter keeps there streak going…barely.

Internazionale successfully defended the championship on the final day of the season, finishing first with 85 points, three ahead of Roma.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic finished the season with 17 goals in a three-way tie for fourth place.

In the final week, both Inter and Roma were scheduled to play away matches opposed to relegation-battling sides, respectively Parma and Catania. Both matches were successively forbidden to be attended by Inter and Roma fans. In the end, Inter secured the scudetto with a 2–0 win, with both goals being scored in the second half by Zlatan Ibrahimović, who recovered from a long-time injury right in time to play the game, whereas Roma only managed to achieve a 1–1 draw at Stadio Angelo Massimino against Walter Zenga‘s Catania, a result which allowed the Sicilian side to escape relegation at the expense of Empoli and Parma.

2008-09 – Zlatan tops the league and a Portuguese fella comes to Milan.

He led the league with 25 goals, but it all comes back to the “Special One”.

Roberto Mancini was sacked on May 29th of that season and 4 days later Jose would come to town.  This made Mourinho the only foreign coach in Italy in the 2008–09 season kick-off.  Mourinho made only three additions to the squad during the summer transfer window of 2008 in the form of Mancini, Sulley Muntari, and Ricardo Quaresma.  Under Mourinho’s first season as Inter head coach, the Nerazzurri won an Italian Super Cup and a fourth consecutive title, being, however, also eliminated from the Champions League in the first knockout round for a third consecutive time, losing to Manchester United. In winning the league title for the fourth consecutive time, Inter joined Torino and Juventus as the only teams to do this and the first to accomplish this feat in the last 60 years.

2009-2010 – Jose follows up history with MORE HISTORY.

By winning the all the Scudetto, Coppa Italia, and the prestigious Champions League in a single season, Internazionale have just completed The Treble.

Jose’s tenure – Two seasons of History!!

Under Mourinho, Inter have remained active in the transfer market. Adriano left Inter in April 2009, and the exit of the Brazilian striker was followed by the Argentine duo Julio Cruz and Hernán Crespo. Legendary Portuguese attacking midfielder and veteran Luís Figo retired. Figo was on the verge of leaving Inter under Mancini due to a lack of playing time but in his final season, Mourinho used him frequently. Mourinho signed Argentine striker Diego Milito, who fell just one goal short of winning the top scorer award with Genoa, and Thiago Motta to bolster the midfield. Perhaps his most notable signing of the summer of his second season was a swap deal of Zlatan Ibrahimović for FC Barcelona‘s Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto’o and a reported 35 million pound transfer fee also went to Inter. This transfer was the second most expensive in the history of the transfer market, after Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Real Madrid earlier in the summer. Eto’o got off to a promising start with Inter by scoring two goals in the first two matches of the season.

Ricardo Quaresma‘s signing from Mourinho’s old club Porto was viewed as a missing link in the Inter squad, but his play disappointed the club and led him to be loaned off to Chelsea midway through the season, ironically Mourinho’s other former club. Mancini also failed to dominate in the midfield and addressing these shortcomings in the transfer market became a priority for Inter. Inter’s lack of a creative playmaker, or trequartista, has been blamed for the Champions League failure. In their attempt to deal with this issue, Inter signed Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder from Real Madrid.

And end maybe to soon?

The day after having won the UEFA Champions League, Mourinho claimed that he was “sad, as almost for sure it’s my last game with Inter”. He then added that “if you don’t coach Real Madrid then you will always have a gap in your career”. After days of discussions between Real Madrid and Inter, a compensation package was successfully agreed on May 27, 2010, and Mourinho was consequently released by Inter.

A fitting way to end our Italian Volume is with a look to Spain.


GK – Gianluigi Buffon – The Best Keeper Ever?

Hey Adrien Brody…I mean Buffon congrats!!

Its simple – EVERYONE picked Buffon – its the easiest choice of all the league’s top goalies.  The guy has done it all and the fact that he stayed with Juve during there drop shows his loyalty to the Turin Side.

Defender – Paolo Maldini – The ageless wonder!!

Retired at 40 this season and his 20+ years in the top flight are unparalleled.  Anything you can name the guy has done it and he did it at Milan the whole times.    Icon doesn’t sum up his place in Italian Soccer or Soccer in general.

Defender – Lilian Thurman – The Fiery Frenchman.

He’d won a crap load long before his move from Parma to Juve with teammate Buffon.  The most intimidating Central Defender of the last two freaking decades.  He shut down every main striker of whatever team Juve played.

Defender – Cafu – Brazilian Wing-back did it all for Roma and Milan.

Part of Roma’s Scudetto winner in 01′ and then with Milan in 04.  Best offensive defender maybe ever!!??

Midfielder – Javier Zanetti – Versatile Argentinian anchored in Defense and Midfielder for Inter’s Historic Run.

The Captain and Anchor of the historic Inter Milan side of the last decade.  Over 700 games with the Blues of Milan and he’s always carried the team’s heart on his left sleeve.

Midfielder – Andrea Pirlo – Best Passer since Zidane owned Italy.

Fellow players on the Italian team gave him the nickname ‘l’architetto’ (the architect) because his long passes frequently set up goal-scoring opportunities for the Azzurri (Italian national team).  The controlling midfielder may have the best vision of any player in the league.  His spot kick ability is also highly touted.  I personally love this label he’s earned, “the metronome” for the way he sets the team’s rhythm.

Midfielder – Kaka – Brazilian Spark for Milan’s Successes.

Must rain a lot in Milan. While at Milan, Kaká won the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 2007.  Do believe that sums it all up.   Be came a star in the Red and Black of AC.

Midfielder – Pavel Nedved – Czech Maestro made Zidane replaceable!!

Widely regarded as one of the best midfielders in the modern era, he was the recipient of the prestigious Ballon d’Or, the first Czech player since the break up of Czechoslovakia, in 2003 while at Juventus. He is known for his energy and tireless runs, hence his nickname Furia Ceca (“The Czech Fury”) amongst Juve fans, as well as his goal scoring ability.

Midfielder – Danielle De Rossi – Anchor of Roma.

Totti might be the most talked about Roma talent, but one man holds it all together and he is De Rossi.  Brian McBride might not like De Rossi – but he’s incredible.

Made the team the season after the scudetto, but has been runner-up 5 times.  2 Coppa cups and 1 Supercoppa cups.  He was Italy’s young footballer of the year in 2006 and Italy Player of the Year in 2009.  On a happy note – De Rossi later apologized to McBride (who subsequently praised De Rossi as “classy” for approaching him after the match).

Striker – Francesco Totti – The man who saved Rom(e)a.

Serie A player of the year 2 times, Italian Player of the Year 5 times, and Roma’s leader in goals and appearances.  The guy is the face behind Italian Soccer.  His thumb-sucking celebration is freaking famous on it own merit.

Striker – Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Swede Sensation.

The guy scored 80 goals in a 5 year span with Juve and Inter.  I’ll let the “Special One” explain things.  José Mourinho, said in an interview to The Sun on 5 March 2009, “I think there are four outstanding players in the world – Ibrahimović, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Kaká. At the moment, I think I have the best in the four – the best player in the world [Zlatan Ibrahimović].”  Ironically he traded Zlatan to Barca for E’too.




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