Thursday, 23 August 2007

Serie A 2007-08: The new boys

This season's trio of promoted clubs from Serie B need no introduction. Juventus, Napoli and Genoa are three of the biggest clubs in Italian football and have a total of 38 Serie A championships amongst them...

The Old Lady - La Vecchia Signora - of Italian football were founded in 1897 and originally wore pink shirts. The club became the Bianconeri after adopting Notts County’s black and white colours in 1903, winning their first championship two years later. The Turin club notched up five consecutive titles between 1930-35 and dominated Italian World Cup squads in 1934, ’38, ’78 and ’82.

Before the Calciopoli scandal struck in the summer of 2006, Juventus had never been relegated from Serie A and were the most successful side in Italy with 29 championships, nine Italian Cups, two European Cups, three UEFA Cups, two Intercontinental Cups, two European Super Cups, four Italian Super Cups and a Cup-Winners Cup. Two of those Serie A titles were stripped and humiliating demotion ordered.

The last year has been tumultuous with the so-called Triade of directors dismissed, a new Board of Directors in place and a revamped squad. Some big names remained throughout the ordeal, others moved on, but Coach Claudio Ranieri insists Juve aren’t back in Serie A simply to take part – they want to win.

It has been a long hard trek, but the Napoli fans remain as passionate as ever for their first Serie A campaign since 2001. The city that elected Diego Armando Maradona as a deity with murals on every house has been starved of top flight football, but even after their bankruptcy and restart in Serie C in 2004, there were on average 50,000 supporters packing into the San Paolo. Now they’re back and intend to stay there.

The glory days of Napoli are the late 1980s and early 90s, when Maradona reigned supreme with Antonio Careca, Ciro Ferrara, Andrea Carnevale and Salvatore Bagni. The first Scudetto arrived on May 10, 1987, when El Pibe de Oro was fresh from Argentina’s 1986 World Cup triumph. That year they also became the first team since Il Grande Torino and Juventus to do the Double with the Coppa Italia.

In 1989-90 Luciano Moggi took control and brought in more talents like Alemao and a young Gianfranco Zola for their second title snatched from the grasp of Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan and the UEFA Cup, followed by a crushing 5-1 Italian Super Cup victory over Juventus.

Maradona’s decline and departure coincided with some disastrous financial mismanagement and Napoli slowly crumbled until their relegation to Serie B and later bankruptcy in 2004. Movie mogul Aurelio De Laurentiis constructed an all-new club that within three years had climbed back into Serie A with the practical Edy Reja ensuring the strongest defensive record in the 2006-07 campaign.

After 12 long years in the wilderness, Genoa have returned to Serie A. It is where the oldest club in Italy belong, after all. Founded in 1893 as the Genoa Cricket and Athletic Club by a group of British ex-pats, it started out as a haven for those wishing to practice these ‘new’ sports.

In 1899 James Richardson Spensley prompted the change to Genoa Cricket and Football Club, considering their team had already won two titles. They dominated the Italian game with all nine Scudetti won before 1924, but recent years have been considerably leaner.

Their worst moments came with relegation to Serie C in 1969-70, but Coach Arturo Silvestri sparked a double promotion leap back to the top flight. They bounced between the two Divisions for several years and had a revival in the mid-1990s that included a fourth place finish and UEFA Cup semi-final spot. But it all went wrong in 1995 with a play-off defeat to Padova followed by years of financial problems and heartache for the fans.

Patron Enrico Preziosi thought he had taken the Grifone back to Serie A in 2005, but instead they were sent down to Serie C for match-fixing. Just as the first time they touched this Division, Genoa notched up two straight promotions. Coach Gian Piero Gasperini gets his Serie A debut after leading the celebrations during the summer.

Source: C4 Football Italia

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