One of the standout games in Serie A this weekend sees Fiorentina host Juventus at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in what, for the past 40 years, has become one of Italian football’s most bitter rivalries.
Think Manchester United v Liverpool, with a sprinkling of Spurs v Chelsea and you’re in the right ballpark.
The history books tell us that the 1981-82 Serie A season was the starting point; when the two sides went into the final day of the season level on 44 points and with a chance to win the title.
La Viola, now owned by property tycoon Flavio Pontello, were in Sardinia to face Cagliari, who needed at least a point to keep hold of their top-flight status. Juventus meanwhile, faced Catanzaro down in Reggio Calabria with the home side comfortably sitting in seventh place and with nothing to play for.
After 90 frantic minutes, Juventus won their game 1-0 to claim their 20th league title because Fiorentina (now without their inspirational captain Giancarlo Antognoni due to injury) had been held to a goalless draw in Sardinia.
La Viola boss Giancarlo De Sisti claimed afterwards that his side had been denied a clear goal and his mood (and that of the Fiorentina fans) would grow even worse when later that evening.
That’s because legendary sports show La Domenica Sportiva broadcast the highlights from Catanzaro which showed the home side being denied a clear penalty after Juventus had converted their winning goal from the spot.
In 1985, Fiorentina bought a young unknown striker from Vicenza called Roberto Baggio and five years later, La Viola reached the final of the UEFA Cup where they met Juventus in the first all-Italian final in the competition’s history.
Due to the fact that their Artemio Franchi stadium was undergoing redevelopment ahead of Italia 90, Fiorentina were due to play their home leg of the two-legged final in Perugia, but this decision was later overturned when crowd disturbances at their semi-final win over Werder Bremen, forced UEFA to move the fixture to Avellino in Southern Italy, a place that contains a large population of Juventus fans.
In the first-leg in Turin with the score at 1-1, Fiorentina were once again left fuming after a push from Juve striker Pierluigi Casiraghi on Cesare Pin, allowed Angelo Alessio to put the home side ahead and after the game, which eventually finished 3-1 to the Old Lady, Pin took his anger out on Juventus boss Dino Zoff referring to his team as “ladri” (thieves).
Following a 0-0 draw in Avellino, a result which secured Juve’s second UEFA Cup win, goalkeeper Stefano Tacconi added more fuel to the fire by declaring that although Fiorentina might win the war of words, they would never beat his side on the pitch.
That game in Avellino turned out to be Baggio’s last for La Viola.
By now, Pontella was going through a financial crisis and rumours started to surface that he was ready to part with his star player, but was looking for what was then a world-record transfer fee of £8M.
When it emerged that Juventus were the only side willing to meet his demands, Fiorentina fans began rioting in the streets before marching on the club’s headquarters to demand answers. The answer they got was unfavourable and within 48 hours of Baggio’s departure to Turin, club HQ had been bombarded with Molotov Cocktails as riot police tried to restore order.
The biggest game of the 1990-91 Serie A season was undoubtedly “traitor” Baggio’s return to Florence and when he refused to take a penalty that had been awarded to his side in the game, Juventus fans became concerned that Il Divin Codino’s (The Divine Ponytail) heart wasn’t really in it.
At the end of the game when Baggio went over to the Curva Fiesole which houses Fiorentina’s hard-core ultras and promptly started waving a scarf that had been thrown to him, certain sections of Juve supporters never took him seriously again.
History was to repeat itself in 2017 when another young Fiorentina star, Federico Bernardeschi was put up for sale to try to balance the books with the club’s owners, the Della Valle brothers, looking to sell their majority stake.
Once again, Juventus were on hand to help and the Italian international, just like Baggio 17 years before, headed to Turin with the fee this time around €40M.
When Bernardeschi returned to Tuscany, the ultras on the Curva Fiesole displayed a banner which declared, “A chi non piacerebbe sputarti in faccia, Bernardeschi gobbo di merda” or “who wouldn’t like to spit in your face, Bernardeschi you s***ty hunchback”; the youngster then scored a sensational second-half free-kick to silence the crowd.