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Juventus vs. Napoli: The Fixture Where Diego Maradona Vanquished Michel Platini

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistOctober 28, 2016

Soccer stars Argentine’s Diego Maradona, left, Pele of Brazil, center, and France’s Michel Platini pose shaking hands during Platini’s jubilee at Nancy stadium, Eastern France, Monday, May 23, 1988 as they celebrate Platini’s one-year-old retirement in a match opposing a selection of international soccer stars to France’s best players. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
Lionel Cironneau/Associated Press

Saturday sees Napoli travel to Turin, looking to knock off Juventus in their own stadium. To do so would see Maurizio Sarri’s men not only establish their own title credentials but also further dent the aura that surrounds the Bianconeri, who have already suffered losses to both Milan clubs this term.

Yet this clash is about so much more than the 2016/17 title, with its presence on the fixture list provoking memories of yesteryear, of the days when Serie A was undoubtedly the biggest league in Europe and home to the world's best players.

Indeed, fans of both teams see it as north vs. south, Piedmont vs. Campania and the perennial title winners against a club that has won the Scudetto just twice. It carries a huge whiff of nostalgia, of the days when Diego Maradona and Michel Platini made the Italian top flight the most prestigious championship in the world.

The Argentinian arrived in 1984 after a tempestuous two years with Barcelona, but he was welcomed to his new club with open arms. A local newspaper (h/t ESPN FC) lamented the city’s lack of "a mayor, houses, schools, buses, employment and sanitation” but added that “none of this matters because we have Maradona!"

El Diego introduced himself to Juventus fans with a stunning free-kick that Bianconeri goalkeeper Stefano Tacconi was powerless to stop. Yet Hellas Verona would surprisingly end that season as champions, with Juventus recapturing the title before the 1986 FIFA World Cup began.

It was that tournament at which Maradona had his watershed moment, carrying Argentina to victory almost single-handedly. At the same time, Juventus would undergo a major summer overhaul as long-term coach Giovanni Trapattoni departed for a stint with Inter Milan after a decade in charge of the Turin giants.

Under the veteran boss, the Bianconeri had dominated at home and abroad, winning a plethora of trophies and firmly establishing themselves as Italy’s most powerful club. His tenure saw them clinch six Serie A titles, two Coppa Italias, the 1985 European Cup, a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, the UEFA Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and the 1985 Intercontinental Cup.

After the tragedy of Heysel, that latter victory was the champagne moment Platini had longed for, the French maestro putting on a show that few will ever forget. Set to face Copa Libertadores holders Argentinos Juniors, Juventus were immediately troubled by the state of the pitch at the National Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

While the South American teams often played with more intensity than their European counterparts in this fixture, Juve's desire to create history saw a surprisingly end-to-end display.

Carlos Ereros scored past Tacconi with a wonderful lob, with the goal cancelled out by a Platini penalty before arguably the most iconic moment of his entire playing career.

The ball came to him on the edge of the box, and knowing that the pitch was terrible, he took three touches without ever letting it hit the ground. He then dispatched an unstoppable volley into the back of the net and ran off celebrating.

The goal was disallowed by the referee, prompting Platini to lay down and glare incredulously at the official who had dared to deny such a breathtaking moment. He eventually guided La Vecchia Signora to glory, however, with Tacconi making some incredible stops in the penalty shootout before Platini stepped up to coolly convert the decisive effort.

A year later, as the defence of their Serie A title began, it was clear Juventus had lost some of the magic that had once galvanised them. Former Como boss Rino Marchesi had done little to convince fans that he could step into the gaping chasm left by Trapattoni's departure, and the team on the pitch seemed significantly weaker too.

JuventusFC @juventusfcen

Many happy returns to Juventus legend, Giovanni Trapattoni. Happy birthday, Trap! https://t.co/NBMvdRZ0ET

The likes of Gaetano Scirea, Antonio Cabrini and Sergio Brio were coming to the end of their careers, while perhaps the most significant change in Serie A was at AC Milan. New owner Silvio Berlusconi was set to enjoy his first full season in charge of the club but had yet to bolster the team with talents such as Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten.

A super team was beginning to take shape in Milan, but despite the fact that duo would not be arriving for another 12 months, the landscape of Italian football was changing nevertheless.

Napoli were clearly a team on the rise. Coach Ottavio Bianchi now had Fernando De Napoli and Francesco Romano at his disposal, bolstering a team that already contained the likes of Giuseppe Bruscolotti, Salvatore Bagni and Bruno Giordano.

The League Magazine @Theleaguemag

Diego Maradona of Napoli, Michael Laudrup and Michel Platini of Juventus When Serie A was the place https://t.co/FxXpAQpqwh

Juventus and Napoli began the 1986/87 campaign by quickly being eliminated from European competition, meaning both were forced to concentrate on domestic matters. They did so in some style, going undefeated over the first eight rounds, turning their Week 9 clash into a vital encounter that would be hugely influential in the outcome of the title race.

Playing at home at the then-Stadio Comunale Vittorio Pozzo, the Bianconeri battled their rivals to a stalemate in the opening 45 minutes. Shortly after the break, the home side took the lead through Michael Laudrup, with the Danish forward tapping home after a mix-up in the Napoli box.

Yet Napoli were in no mood to roll over for the champions, with Maradona pushing his team quickly back into contention. Chances started to flow, only for Tacconi to deny them with a string of incredible saves, including one well-struck free-kick from El Diego.

It seemed only a matter of time before a Partenopei goal came, however, and Moreno Ferrario soon bundled home from a corner. Their confidence boosted, they took the lead less than a minute later. Another corner—this time from Maradona—was volleyed powerfully home at the far post by Giordano.

With time running out, Juve went in search of an equaliser, only to be picked off by a swift counter-attack, with substitute Giuseppe Volpecina deftly curling the ball past Tacconi from the edge of the box.

It was an emphatic victory, one that gave Napoli belief that they could finally win the title, which they went on to do that season. Trapattoni’s Inter emerged as their closest rivals, but the Nerazzurri imploded in the last few weeks of the campaign, and a win over Fiorentina saw Maradona and his team-mates crowned champions of Italy.

J Bayas @jabayas

Maradona y Platini, Napoli - Juventus. Año 1986 https://t.co/4gUlVuepXL

They marked the accomplishment by defeating Atalanta in the Coppa Italia final to claim a memorable league-and-cup double. Despite being out of the title race for much of the season, Juventus finished in second place.

It seemed as if the loss to Napoli had highlighted both Platini and the team’s rapid decline, with the final match of the season, against Brescia, proving to be the last of the Frenchman's career. He retired despite being just 31 years old, and the Bianconeri went almost a decade before winning another title. It was the end of an era in Turin.

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