The 1985/86 season started with me once again living in a different country (USA).
The 1985 America was vastly different than the USA of today in Football coverage terms. While to this day, Soccer is still not a major sport in this country; there is some coverage of the sport, as minimal as it is.
In 1985, Football or Soccer, as it was called here, was virtually non-existent in the land of Grid-iron Football, Baseball and Basketball.
If you were lucky the Spanish Language Channel Univision (or SIN (Spanish International Network) as it was called then), would once a week show an International or European Club match on the weekends. That is if you were lucky enough to have Cable (which I didn’t at the time, initially).
The print coverage was even more invisible when we entered the country (I was still unaware of any US soccer magazines, but more about that later).
It was due to these reasons that the 1985/86 season is the lost season for me, as I did not get the experience it firsthand. I was only later able to go back and catch up with the events of this season, through older magazines/books and highlights.
However, before arriving in United States in August of 1985, most of the transfer activity had already been established and I was aware of most of the personnel changes of the teams.
This was the season that three of Brazil’s glorious 1982 stars departed home. Falcao’s injury the previous season forced him out of Roma. Zico and specially Socrates jumped at the chance to go back to Brazil after their difficulties at Udinese and Fiorentina.
West German midfielder Hansi Muller also left Italy and joined Austria’s Tirol Innsbruck.
Defending Champions Verona and Manager Osvaldo Bagnoli soon learned that winning a title is not enough to change one’s standing in the hierarchy. In fact during the previous winning season, while the League race was still going on, Internazionale Milano had approached two of their key players: Pietro Fanna and Luciano Marangon. The lure of Champions Cup was not enough to keep them at Verona and they both signed for Inter.
Starting goalkeeper Claudio Garella also left and joined an ambitious Napoli.
As a result Verona started the season with a handicap, though they were able to hang on to their foreign duo of Briegel and Elkjaer. The additions of former Como goalkeeper Giuliano Giulliani, Juventus’ Beniamino Vignola and AC Milan’s Vinicio Verza were hardly significant acquisitions.
They finished the season in a dismal tenth place.
After the debacle of the previous season, the Agnelli family and Giampiero Boniperti realized Juventus needed a facelift to replace ageing stars.
Marco Tardelli, Paolo Rossi and Zbigniew Boniek were transferred to Inter, AC Milan and AS Roma respectively.
Photo From: Mondial, new series, issue 73, May 1986(Juventus’ Michel Platini and former teammate AS Roma’s Zbigniew Boniek)
In their place came many new younger players. Denmark’s young star Michael Laudrup arrived to replace Boniek after a two-season loan at Lazio.
Midfielders Massimo Mauro (Udinese), Gabriele Pin (Parma), Ivano Bonetti (Genoa) and former International Lionello Manfredonia (Lazio) arrived to give more options in the middle.
Photo From: World, Soccer, March 1986(Paolo Rossi with AC Milan)
Strikers Aldo Serena (Torino) and Marco Pacione (Atalanta) arrived to form a younger strike force that Juventus had been used to in years.
Aldo Serena was actually an Inter player, who had been on loan to Torino the previous season. Boniperti arranged a deal to have him loaned to Juventus for that season, which eased Tardelli’s transfer to Inter.
Photo From: Onze, Issue 118, October 1985(Marco Tardelli at Inter)
The veterans Stefano Tacconi, Gaetano Scirea, Antonio Cabrini, Sergio Brio, Massimo Bonini and French star Michel Platini still remained to add some experience to a rebuilding side.
Photo From: Mondial, new series, issue 68, November 1985(Juventus’ Aldo Serena playing vs. his former club Torino)
AS Roma with Sven-Goran Eriksson in charge for his second season, had to deal with Falcao’s loss. Although Boniek was a significant purchase and was money well spent. After years of League inconsistency in contrast to his European exploits, under Eriksson he was able to perform in the League.
Eriksson could also still count upon veterans such as Toninho Cerezo, Bruno Conti and Roberto Pruzzo.
Inter in addition to the acquisitions of Fanna, Marangon and Tardelli, also acquired former International Franco Selvaggi from Udinese. They had held onto their foreign duo of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Liam Brady, but had transferred Veteran Franco Causio to Lecce and Antonio Sabato to Torino. Many regarded Ilario Castagner’s Inter as title favorites, however, after a poor start he was sacked after 10 matches and replaced with former star Mario Corso, who did enough to achieve UEFA Cup qualification.
Nils Liedholm’s AC Milan had also still held onto their English duo of Ray Wilkins and Mark Hateley. Paolo Rossi’s addition did not turn out to be the success they had hoped for, however, 17-year-old Paolo Maldini showed signs of things to come. During the season, their controversial President Giuseppe Farina fled to South Africa for fear of prosecution. This paved the way for Silvio Berlusconi to purchase the club and the rest is history.
Diego Maradona’s Napoli made many ambitious signings. In addition to the arrival of Verona goalkeeper Garella, Former Internationals Eraldo Pecci, Ruben Buriani and Bruno Giordano arrived from Fiorentina, Roma and Lazio, along with defender Alessandro Renica from Sampdoria
Photo From: Onze, Issue 123, March 1986(Diego Maradona)
Argentine International Daniel Bertoni was still around along with International midfielder Salvatore Bagni.
For Fiorentina, Argentina’s Daniel Passarella was ever present. The good news was the return of Captain Giancarlo Antognoni after over a year out injured.
They had acquired former International Sergio Battistini from AC Milan and made double signings of future Internationals Roberto Baggio (Vicenza) and Nicola Berti (Parma). UEFA Cup qualification at the end of the season was just rewards.
Photo From: Mondial, new series, issue 69, December 1985(Fiorentina’s Giancarlo Antognoni)
Sampdoria had also retained their foreign duo of Graeme Souness and Trevor Francis and had high hopes for striking duo of Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini. They had surprisingly spent the most for the transfer of midfielder Gianfranco Mateolli from Como.
Torino, despite the loss of Serena, were mostly an unchanged side with Brazilian Junior and Austrian Walter Schachner still in the side, as well as Giuseppe Dossena.
The new foreign player acquisitions were made by newly promoted sides. Lecce acquired Argentineans Pedro Pasculli (Argentinos Juniors) and Juan Barbas (Real Zaragoza), while Bari acquired English and Aston Villa duo of Gordon Cowans and Paul Rideout.
Pisa had retained their foreign duo of Dutchman Wim Kieft and Denmark’s Klaus Berggreen. All of the promoted sides were relegated at the end of the season.
As far as action on the field, Juventus started the season in irresistible fashion and won their first eight matches. None of the other teams could match Juventus’ early pace. Juventus just dropped four points in the first half of the season.
Their first loss was on their ninth match on November 3rd vs. Napoli. Napoli won this match 1-0 with a Maradona free kick.
Along the way Juventus also won the Intercontinental Cup vs. Argentinos Juniors in Japan in December. At this point the outcome of the League seemed like a foregone conclusion.
Photo From: Onze, Issue 121, January 1986(Michael Laudrup, December 8, 1985, Intercontinental Cup, Juventus 2-Aregntinos Juniors 2 )
However, in the second half of the season, Juventus started to lose ground and AS Roma started to move up the table and reduce the deficit with six consecutive wins.
By Matchday 21, only 3 points separated the squads. Roma lost some points in the following couple of weeks, however a heavy 3-0 win vs. Juventus on March 16th, reduced the deficit to once again to 3 points with five matches to go.
By Matchday 28 with two rounds to go, the teams were even with 41 points each, after another Juventus loss vs. Fiorentina (0-2) and a scoreless tie with Sampdoria on Matchdays 27 and 28, coupled with Roma wins.
Photo From: Mondial, new series, issue 68, November 1985(Juventus’ Michel Platini and Inter’s Karl-Heinz Rummenigge)
At this point the momentum was with Roma, however the penultimate round on April 20th decided the title destination.
Roma were surprisingly defeated at home by last place team Lecce (2-3), while Juventus won 1-0 vs. AC Milan and jumped two points ahead.
A demoralized Roma lost its final match as well, while another Juventus win gave them a point-winning margin of four points.
A much-improved Diego Maradona inspired Napoli finished in third place.
AS Roma’s consolation was in winning the Coppa Italia in June (While the World Cup was going on!!!). Roma’s veteran striker Roberto Pruzzo was also the League’s top goalscorer with 19 goals, for the third time in his career.
Even though Juventus did win the title, there was a feeling that the once great team was still in decline. Had they not started the season in emphatic fashion they most likely would not have been able to retain their lead in the end against a rampant AS Roma side. Little did they know that they would not win another title for nine years.
Giovanni Trappatoni left Juventus after a glorious decade, which hastened their decline.
That season was also the end of Enzo Bearzot’s generation at International level and the World Cup in Mexico showed that Scirea, Cabrini, Conti, Tardelli and the other mainstays were living on borrowed time.
It is a shame I did not get to experience such an exciting League campaign with a nail biting finish.
One day by luck in May 1986, I was walking in a Mall, where there was a Soccer shop. There I discovered a magazine called ‘Soccer America’.
By reading that issue, I learned that Liverpool had just won the double and Real Madrid had won the UEFA Cup.
While one cannot compare this magazine with other European Soccer publications, it was nevertheless a very informative magazine all things considered. In a way it was a glimmer of hope, now that at least I could read about the events of my favorite Sport, if not see it first hand. (Remember, still no TV coverage).
That magazine sustained me with all the relevant Football information for nearly a decade. It is still around and being published all in color.That summer ended with Diego Maradona winning the World Cup almost single handedly with Argentina and setting his sights on the next season’s Scudetto as the undisputed King of Football (1986/87 season, to be continued…..)