What are the 1980s famous for? Perhaps the rise of Madonna and Michael Jackson in pop, or MTV bringing a new era into music. Maybe the arrival of Michael Jordan on the NBA scene or Vince McMahon creating a wrestling revolution with the birth of WrestleMania. Some would say Pacman, IBM or Apple’s innovation of the Macintosh, or the rise of Nintendo, who would become a video gaming giant for years to come. Or possibly, in football terms, Juventus, and their dominance over Italy with some of the greatest names in football.
Long before players like Paulo Dybala, Zinedine Zidane and Alessandro Del Piero made their names with the Old Lady, there was the era in the 1980s under the direction of the shrewd Giovanni Trapattoni. This era for the Bianconeri is regarded as the most iconic in their history, trumping even their recent Scudetti spree. Trapattoni had been in charge of the Turin giants since 1976, but it wasn’t until 1980 that he really kicked on and made Juventus a force to be reckoned with.
Il Trap had been a colossal figure in calcio long before his managerial heydey. He had a successful career in the red and black of AC Milan, making over 250 appearances, winning two Scudetti and two European Cups amongst several other impressive honours. His early managerial career with AC Milan wasn’t as impressive. Initially with the youth team for two years, he was promoted to senior management in 1974, but failed to do anything noteworthy. He moved to Turin and Juventus in 1976, and built a team that ruled Italy with an iron fist.
Trapattoni’s revolution in Turin began in 1980 with the signing of Irishman Liam Brady from Arsenal for a reported fee of £500,000. Having already won two titles before the turn of the decade, Trapattoni felt the signing of Brady could bolster the side and take Juventus to the promised land of a European Cup success.
An offensive midfielder, Brady donned the number 10 in Turin and won the hearts of many with his intuitive style. Juventus were already possessing a host of talented players but were lacking the one man that would provide them with that additional spark – a trequartista. Brady gave them that.
The 1980/81 Serie A campaign was by no means a pushover. Juventus faced competition from capital side Roma as well as Inter and Napoli. All four had fought from the start for the title but were unable to perform consistently over the course of the season. The decisive moment for Juve occurred in the 22nd week of the season in a game against Perugia at home. Staring at the jaws of defeat by trailing to a Giovanni De Rosa strike, it was Brady who rescued the side by calmly converting a spot-kick under intense pressure. A last-minute winner from Domenico Marocchino was enough to seal the win and Juventus would pish on from there.
They would remain unbeaten for the final two months of the campaign, a phase which saw them move above their capital rivals and to the summit of the league. Despite crashing out of the UEFA Cup and the Coppa Italia at the semi-final stage, they refused to let their disappointments affect their league form. Juve won the league by finishing two points ahead of Roma, who endured a faltering end to the season. This would prove to be the start of one of the most dominant sides in Italian football history.
A key cog in this Juventus side was the presence of midfielder Marco Tardelli. Hard-hitting yet elegant, Tardelli exemplified the catenaccio system and made a name for himself in doing so. Often regarded as the best in the world in his role at the time, Tardelli was also well known for his powerful shot, tireless energy and work rate for his side. He joined in 1975 and was an important member of the team when they won Serie A honours in 1977 and 1978. If Juventus were to make further progress, Tardelli was going to be at the centre of things.
Juventus started the 1981/82 Serie A season with the hope of retaining their crown and winning their 20th title. Success would grant them a second yellow star above their logo and become the first Italian side to achieve the illustrious honour. Their nearest challengers were Fiorentina, who were looking forward with optimism after a change in ownership.
Flavio Pontello had purchased La Viola in 1980 and instantly stamped his authority in Tuscany. His changes included a new logo and anthem – which disappointed many – but that would be forgotten with his willingness to spend to improve Fiorentina on the pitch. Some of his high-profile purchases included Daniel Bertoni from Sevilla and Francesco Graziani from Torino, who would add a new dimension to the side.
They pushed Juventus all the way that year, fighting them for the title until the final day of the season. It wasn’t until a serious injury to star playmaker Giancarlo Antognoni that their challenge started crumbling. On the decisive final day of the season, Fiorentina were cruelly denied a goal against Cagliari, while Juventus and Brady converted a dubious penalty to win their game and the league. A rivalry was born there, with Fiorentina feeling they had a moral victory over the Bianconeri.
Brady’s goal proved to be his last for the club as he was replaced by Michel Platini. Italian league laws at the time indicated that clubs could only have two foreign players in their side, and Platini was preferred over the Irishman. The move would be a massive one for the club, one they would relish in the years to follow.
Paolo Rossi was a forward on the rise in Italy. Having started his career at Juventus, it was spells at lowly Vicenza and Perugia that earned him his name. Relatively short and not as technically gifted as other traditional Italian centre-forwards, it was Rossi’s never-say-die attitude that made him a fan favourite – not to mention his heroics for the Azzurri in the World Cup of 1982, when he helped Italy go all the way. He was tournament’s top scorer as well as the Ballon d’Or winner that year.
The 1982/83 season had different aspirations as compared to the previous years. Juventus had never won a European Cup before and they felt this was their best chance. They started their campaign off against Danish side Hvidovre in the first round, overcoming their test by seven goals to four on aggregate, with Platini and Rossi the stars of both legs. This was followed by a clash against Belgian champions Standard Liège, who they dispatched 3-1 on aggregate, with Rossi at the double in the second leg.
The quarter-finals bought a clash against defending champions Aston Villa, who were going through the best phase in their history. In the away game, Rossi scored within the first minute to deflate the Birmingham side’s hopes. However, Gordon Cowans’ equaliser just minutes after the break restored parity. Villa couldn’t take a draw to Turin, however, as Zbigniew Boniek’s strike just eight minutes settled matters.
The return leg saw complete command from the home side. Two goals from Platini and one from Tardelli meant that Juventus would head into the last four of the European Cup, where Polish side Widzew Łódź awaited. They were unchallenged in the home leg, winning 2-0 and were able to pull off a 2-2 draw in the away leg with Platini and Rossi on the scoresheet again. Juventus were in the European Cup final.
While their European ambition was on track, Juve’s league form was erratic. Roma, with the drive of star man Paulo Roberto Falcão, were finally playing to their full potential. Despite overcoming Roma’s challenge, Juventus were unable to get the better of lowly sides like Avellino and Pisa. It was their inconsistent form that resulted in them failing to retain their championship.
In the Coppa Italia, though, Juve were as good as they could be, defeating sides like Inter, AC Milan and Roma on the way to the final. Verona pulled off a shock 2-0 victory in the first leg of the final, but an inspired Juventus were able to turn the tie and win 3-0 at the Stadio Comunale with Rossi and Platini’s double doing the business.
They then turned their attention to the European Cup final against Hamburg in Athens. It wasn’t the best of starts to the game for the Bianconeri. The 75,000 present at the Athens Olympic Stadium witnessed Felix Magath curl the ball past a hapless Dino Zoff from outside the box. It was an unnerving start, one that Juventus would fail to recover from.
Despite the impressive talent and undisputed skill donning the black and white stripes, they were unable to break past a resolute Hamburg backline and were left clueless. The game finished as a Hamburg win, and Juve’s dream would still remain unsatisfied. There was some respite for Paolo Rossi, however, as his six goals over the tournament made him the top scorer.
Gaetano Scirea was becoming a keen name on fans’ lips in Turin. A stylish centre-half, often lauded for his sportsmanship and unwillingness to disturb play, he was an icon in Italian football, even with rival fans. The epitome of courage, skill and talent, he kept a legendary figure in the form of Franco Baresi out of the Italy side for the World Cup in 1982. Blessed with attacking prowess and an equally gifted defensive consciousness, Scirea was a vital figure for La Vecchia Signora.
The sorrow of losing out on the European Cup didn’t put the side down. In the 1983/84 season they were unstoppable in front of goal, with Platini and Rossi at the top of their game. The Frenchman finished as the top goalscorer in the league with 20 strikes, while Rossi struck 13 times. They faced little competition throughout and won the league two points clear of nearest challengers Roma.
It was the Cup Winners’ Cup that was the symbol of their season. Having failed to qualify for the European Cup after their second-place finish the previous season, the Cup Winners’ Cup was their main priority. Their campaign started off against Lechia Gdańsk, who were strolled over by the Old Lady. A 7-0 win at home followed by a 3-2 win away saw Juventus qualify and square off against Paris Saint-Germain in the last-16.
Unlike the previous round, PSG were no pushovers. It was the away goals rule that let Juventus breathe a sigh of relief as a 2-2 draw in Paris was enough to earn a spot in the quarter-finals, where Finland’s most illustrious at the time awaited. FC Haka were going through their best run in European competition and took Juventus all the way. A 1-0 win away from home earned in the last minute through Beniamino Vignola and a Tardelli goal in Turin sent Juventus 2 games away from the final.
Old Trafford was the destination for the semi-final clash, and Manchester United were historically Juve’s toughest opponents. Ron Atkinson’s United were going through an inconsistent patch domestically but had enough talent amongst their ranks with players like the non-stop Bryan Robson and flamboyant Norman Whiteside.
The Bianconeri got an early away goal after some shoddy defending. United defender Graeme Hogg had a scuffle at the back with Rossi, who eventually put the ball over the line and into the net to give Juventus the lead. However, Alan Davies’ equaliser 20 minutes later put the game up in the air again, and it remained that way with Juventus having the upper hand.
The second leg in Turin was a far more open affair. Boniek’s goal just before the quarter-hour mark was matched by Whiteside’s strike just after the hour. With the game set to enter an extra 30 minutes, it was Rossi who struck in stoppage time to settle things. Juventus were headed to Basel for a second consecutive continental final, where Porto were waiting.
Having entered the season as defending Coppa Italia champions, expectations were high on Juventus to retain their title. A relatively easy tie against lowly Bari was met with great complacency, and Giovanni Trapattoni’s troops crashed out of the competition in the last-16. The Cup Winners’ Cup would be their only salvation for a second trophy that season.
Juve were donning a golden strip ahead of the near 60,000 present in Basel that night to see them face an all-Portuguese Porto starting 11, and it was Beniamino Vignola, who had been a crucial figure to them that season, who opened the scoring.
The four-man defence featuring Claudio Gentile, Sergio Brio, Antonio Cabrini and captain Scirea stood firm that night despite Porto equalising by the 30-minute mark. Just before the break, Boniek’s goal gave Juventus the lead, and eventually the cup, their second European trophy in less than a decade as Scirea cemented his legacy as a club icon with a supreme performance at the back. This was arguably Trapattoni’s biggest achievement at the time, and could only be bettered by one.
Platini was at the top of his game while at Juventus. Despite a slow start, he worked to become the club’s poster boy over the next few years and was the best player on the planet. Consecutive Ballon d’Or accolades in 1983 and 1984 made him one of the most recognisable faces in football. Blessed with a deft touch and indubitable capabilities, he would be the driving force as Juventus sought after the holy grail in football – the European Cup.
Juve prioritised the European Cup over anything else. A poor domestic season in both the league and cup saw them finish fifth in Serie A, behind the likes of Sampdoria, Torino and champions Verona.
The European Cup was the only accolade which eluded them, and a win would put away the disappointment of losing to Hamburg two seasons prior. Their campaign began with an encounter against Finnish side Ilves, who were comfortably dispatched. Switzerland’s Grasshoppers were next to face this Juventus side, who were outstanding in front of goal. They were the second side to concede six over two games, with Platini starring again.
Czech Republic’s Sparta Prague were the first side to provide Juventus any real competition. Despite a 3-0 home win in the first leg for the Turin juggernaut, they battled their way in the hunt for a famous comeback, but were unable to do so. They departed the competition with their heads held high, as Juventus progressed to the last four, where Bordeaux would be waiting for them.
Juve were authoritative in the first leg of the tie again, winning 3-0, with Massimo Briaschi’s goal being sandwiched by one each from Boniek and Platini. If the first leg was a walk in the park, the second would be anything but. German Dietmar Müller and Frenchman Patrick Battiston would score once in either half as Bordeaux gave the Italians a major scare, but were unable to complete the comeback. Juventus were through to the European Cup final for the second time in three seasons.
Liverpool would be the final hurdle in front of the dream. The game was held in Brussels at Heysel Stadium, and it was the pre-match events that got all the attention. Thirty-nine supporters, with 32 of them from the Juventus contingent, wouldn’t go on to witness the final as crowd trouble would cause a stand collapse and leave hundreds more injured.
The game did carry on, however in the hope of avoiding even more problems, and it was Platini’s second-half penalty that sealed a bittersweet success. The game could very well have been different had it not been for the pre-match scenes, but nevertheless, it shouldn’t take the spark off a sensational European campaign that completed five years of dominance domestically and continently. The promised land had been found.
The 1980s could easily have been Roma’s years, but it was the mastermind of Giovanni Trapattoni and some intelligent football by greats such as Platini – who would go on to win a third consecutive Ballon d’Or in 1985 – Rossi, Tardelli, Scirea and Gentile amongst many others that set the ultimate benchmark.
The era set the tone for Juventus and wider Italian football, and their side is rightly regarded as one of the greatest in history, comparable to the brilliance of Liverpool at the same time, Manchester United and Milan in the 1990s and Barcelona in the 2000s.
By Karan Tejwani @karan_tejwani26