The Serie A is deemed to be on the verge of replicating their golden era from the 1990s, as their clubs have dominated the UEFA’s three club competitions this season.
The golden era of Italian Serie A started in late 1980s and lasted until the start of the new millennium. It was that time when massive top players signed for Italian top flight clubs, with lucrative contracts. The likes of Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Lothar Mattheus, Jurgen Klinsmann, Jean Pierre Papin, Gabriel Batistuta, Andreas Müller, David Platt, Paul Gascoigne, Ronaldo Luiz, Diego Simeone and Hernan Crespo were only a few of them. English football’s five-year ban in Europe because of Heysel Tragedy and World Cup 1990 were among the factors that contributed to Italy’s golden age. It was no surprise that the Serie A had been dubbed the world’s most competitive league back then.
It was also the era of Italian dominance on the continent. It all began with AC Milan’s ‘Dream Team’ European Cup victory alongside Diego Maradona’s Napoli’s success to clinch UEFA Cup trophy in 1989. It would have been perfect if Sampdoria had beaten Barcelona in the Cup Winners Cup final as well.
This season, the Italians have the opportunity to reignite their next golden era. Five Serie A sides have been able to qualify for European semifinals this term. Two are in the Champions League (AC Milan and Inter Milan), two in the Europa League (Juventus and AS Roma), plus another one in the Europa Conference League (Fiorentina). Will they finally make it to the top and lift the long-awaited silverware?
Italian was in Charge of Europe Back in 1990s
In the European Cup/Champions League
Italian glory in the European Cup (the old name of Champions League) at that time was basically dominated by AC Milan and Juventus. After their back-to-back triumph in 1989 and 1990, the Rossoneri won another one in 1994 after trashing Barcelona 4-0. They also reached the finals on two other editions, 1993, 1995. It was Olympique Marseille and Ajax who defeated them by a single goal on those occasions, respectively.
There was also Sampdoria’s run to the final in 1992. However, Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona stood in their way of victory. Ronald Koeman’s bullet free kick made the difference in a tight affair.
Meanwhile, Juventus snatched their second title in 1996 after beating the reigning Champions Ajax on penalties. However, La Vecchia Signora failed to defend their title in 1997 and bounced back in 1998. Borussia Dortmund surprised them in 1997, whereas Real Madrid snatched an unlikely win over Alessandro Del Piero and co in Amsterdam a year later.
As the millennium approached, Serie A gradually gained new rivals on the continent, including La Liga and the Premier League. Both have emerged as new destinations for international football stars. After their absence from 1999 to 2002, Milan and Juventus locked horns the 2003 Champions League final. It was the beginning of the end of their era.
In The Second and Third Tier European Competition
In the second tier (UEFA Cup Winners Cup) and the third tier (UEFA Cup, now currently the Europa League), Italian dominance was even more evident, especially in the latter. There were four all Italian finals the 1990s. Prior to World Cup 1990, Juventus won 3-1 on aggregate over Fiorentina. In 1991, Inter Milan defeated AS Roma in the showpiece 2-1 on aggregate. In 1995, the two sides involved in league title race, Parma and Juventus, also squared off in the final with Parma winning the title. In 1998, Inter dismantled Lazio 3-0.
Moreover, Juventus and Parma lifted the trophy once more each. The Old Lady did in 1993 after smashing Dortmund 6-1 on aggregate. Parma, led by Juan Verón, ran rampant against Marseille in 1999 final by 3-0 victory in Luzhniki Stadium.
In the Cup Winners Cup, Sampdoria won their first and only European title to date in 1990 by beating Anderlecht 2-0. In 1993, Parma followed their footsteps by a 3-1 victory over another Belgian side, Royal Antwerp. Unfortunately, they lost to Arsenal the following season in their attempt to defend their title. Last but not least, Lazio underSven-Göran Eriksson clinched the title in 1999 after beating Mallorca 2-1. It was the last edition of the tournament before it was abolished largely due to the Champions League’s expansion.