Two names – Uefa Cup then Europa League – and a story. That of a competition that – in happy years for our movement – he often smiled at Italian clubs. Since it was invented (1971-72) we took home 9 editions (we are second with England, first is Spain with 11) winning with four different teams: Juventus and Inter (3 each), Parma (2) and Napoli (1) but bringing the good bourgeoisie of Serie A to the final, ie Fiorentina, Rome, Turin and Lazio. Clarification: the last victory dates back to 1999, when Malesani’s Parma in Moscow outclassed Marseille (3-0). At the time it was still the Uefa Cup, ergo: Italy is still missing the Europa League, Inter are trying who already won in 1998 (dry final, 3-0 to Lazio), in 1994 (home and away, twice 1-0 with Salzburg) and finally in 1991 (home and back with Roma, 2-0 and 0 -1).
THE ALL ITALIAN JUVE – In retracing the history of the Uefa Cup with an Italian perspective, the starting point is definitely 1977. First Italian team in the final, first triumph after losing four finals (two in the Fairs Cup, one in the Champions Cup and one in the Intercontinental) for Juventus. It is Trapattoni’s Juve made in Italy, Benetti’s team as director and the best Bettega ever, by Tardelli and Furino, Scirea and Cuccureddu. It is Juve – one of the most loved by the fans – that in the double final against the Basques of Athletic Bilbao wins the first in Turin (1-0, Tardelli cheering at the Tardelli. General Practice of the Scream, who will repeat against England at the 1980 European Championships and will make immortal two years later on the night of the Bernabeu) and loses holding the bar straight at the return (2-1 to Sant Mames, goal by Bettega); in a challenge that immediately takes on epic implications, for how the bianconeri (but that evening Juve wear a blue uniform of sensational beauty) are able to withstand the assaults of the opponents. Boniperti said he left twenty minutes before the final whistle – it was his habit, he often went away at half-time – because “he was afraid that his heart would short-circuit.” Eye: four days after the final, Juventus goes to Genoa, beats Sampdoria 2-0 and wins the championship, just one point ahead of Turin.
THE GOLDEN DECADE: MARADONA, MATTHAUS AND BUFFON – From the 1988-89 edition to 1998-99 Italy is experiencing its golden momentor. It is a fabulous decade, which rewards the quality of a championship where – for real – the top six to seven teams can dictate the law in the second living room of Europe (in the Champions Cup those are the winning years of Sacchi’s Milan and then Capello). Anyway: we only win. Eight Uefa cups on the bulletin board, but the sensational figure – and that perfectly photographs an era – is another. Three times in those years the Uefa Cup final is all Italian. Juventus-Fiorentina in 1990, on the eve of the summer of Magic Nights and broken dreams (but we still don’t know), Inter-Roma the following year and Parma-Juventus in 1995. We dominate because – trivially – we have the most popular champions. They are cups scored by champions who have made football history: Maradona, Careca, Baggio, Vialli, Matthaus, Bergkamp, Ronaldo the Phenomenon, Cannavaro, Thuram, Buffon, all people who embellish our Serie A and contribute to making the Italian movement the most successful of those years.
THE SUPREMACY OF OUR COACHES – It is also – this must be said – the confirmation of the tactical supremacy of our best coaches, who in that decade of the 90s really travel at a different pace than their colleagues. Just scroll through the list of winners to realize the quality of the men who then sat on the benches of Italian clubs: from 1989 to 1999 they lifted the cup Bianchi, Zoff, Trapattoni twice (once with Inter and the other with Juventus), Scala, Simoni, Malesani. It is a school of great professors, serious and solid coaches, with a credible career path and never banal football ideas. For the record: Gianpiero Marini also wins a cup with Inter (1994, he took over from Bagnoli in the current championship).