During the nineties you’d be forgiven for thinking Italian football had just witnessed its golden era.
An era of football that is looked back on with such nostalgia, an era that was littered with players from all over the world that were at the top of their game.
This was a period which show cased players and characters within a league that you would struggle to replicate today, names like Ronaldo, Gabriel Batistuta, Giuseppe Signori, Zvonimir Boban, Rui Costa, George Weah, Dejan Savicevic, Roberto Baggio, you could go on and on.
It wasn’t just Serie A itself that sparked so much interest and discussion it was the wholeof Italian football.
The much loved Gazzetta Football Italia on Channel 4 helped start many football fan's love affair with Italian football.
Stick James Richardson in the middle of Rome, sit him in a café with an espresso and let him wade through the back pages of the Gazzetta dello Sport. It was quite a novelty back then to have a foreign football league broadcasting on British TV which may be why it’s looked back at with such fondness.
Whether it be the first piece of transfer gossip, or the guarantee of a tall italian brunette walking past before he’d even turned the back page.
Even the theme tune had us hooked.
In the late 80s early 90s it was Arrigo Sacchi’s Dutch contingent at AC Milan that were lighting up Serie A with the likes of Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard all donning the red and black of the Rossoneri.
In 1987 saw the arrival of Silvio Berlusconi at the Milan club taking charge of what would be one of the greatest spells of the clubs history.
Sacchi with the backing of Berlusconi steered the Milanese club to their first Scudetto in nine years pipping a Napoli side which contained a certain Diego Maradona.
With three games left of the 87/88 season Milan went to the San Paolo and beat Napoli 3-2 in a game that all but clinched the title for the Rossoneri.
This success continued as Milan recorded back to back European Cup wins in 89 and 1990, the second of which was a 1-0 win against Benfica, then managed by Sven Goran Eriksson.
Marco van Basten played a crucial part in the winning European Cup campaign netting 10 times. This would contribute towards Van Basten picking up the Ballon D’or that year.
Milan’s side was certainly one of the best to come out of Italy, laced with the talents of Baresi, Maldini, Costacurta and Ancelotti to name but a few.
Sacchi would eventually be replaced by Fabio Capello after the former fell out with star striker Marco van Basten and Berlusconi decided Sacchi would be the one to depart.
Berlusconi's decision proved to be a master stroke as Capello would lead Milan to their 12th Scudetto that season and at the centre of it all was van Basten who hit an incredible 25 goals finishing top scorer. The quality of that side was outlined by the fact they managed to go the entire season without being beaten domestically which certainly reaffirmed them as one of Italy’s major footballing powerhouses.
There were no shortages of memorable games during this period either.
A certain Ronaldo making his debut against Brescia in 1997 shown live on Gazzetta Football Italia, a packed San Siro watched the 19.5 million pound signing line up after securing his transfer from Barcelona during the summer after scoring 47 goals in 49 games for the Catalans in the previous season.
But it wasn’t Ronaldo making the headlines after the season’s curtain raiser, Dario Hubner shocked the San Siro by giving Brescia the lead early in the second half which sparked movement on the Internazionale bench and saw the introduction of a certain Alvaro Recoba brought on for Maurizio Ganz.
Recoba in an absolute dream of a debut proceeded to score two of the best goals of the season within just half an hour of his debut, the bucktooth Uruguayan let fly with his left foot from around 35 yards which whistled into the top right hand corner, the San Siro was in absolute raptures but he wasn’t finished there. Inter then won a free kick about 30 yards out and with his hammer of a left foot found the top left hand corner.
What an introduction to Italian football.
Italian football was certainly where it was at, there would always be something that could draw a smile to your face, whether it be Fabrizio Ravanelli whipping his shirt over his head with his arms aloft or the googly eyed Pierluigi Collina stamping his authority, even the refs were characters.
The crowds were electric, banners, firecrackers, every fan adorned with their clubs colours. It was a magic time and it’s no surprise that italian clubs were a popular destination for players to go to during this period. Clubs had the money to attract the players and every club seemed to have a star.
The influx of these players only helped the league, and the level of football that was maintained over this period certainly showed as Juventus, Milan, Parma and Inter claimed 10 european titles between them.
Roma, Napoli, Torino, Sampdoria, Fiorentina and Lazio were also involved in european finals only to finish runners up.
This will always be looked back on as one of the best periods in Italian football and with the current investment that is finding its way back into the league who knows if the glory times could once again return to the old boot.