Wednesday, February 29, 2012

If France was showing signs of positive change, Italy remained stagnant. 1975-76 was yet another unexciting season. The Italians so far were utterly unable to grasp, let alone adapt to, total football. Juventus was the most promising team and also the strongest, yet, even this is questionable: seemingly, Juve were superior and supposed to dominate easily the domestic scene. But no… they finished 2nd. It was quite alarming, for the next two in the final table were same old, same old Milan and Inter. Unlike Juventus, the clubs from Milano seemed paralyzed – they still depended on Mazzola, Fascetti, and Rivera, the once upon a time mighty superstars, who were getting older and older. And they were prime examples of 1960s football, which at the end shaped both Milan and Inter in mid-70. The Milanese were not even real contenders anymore, yet they were still at the top of the table. Worse, there was no other club emerging with strong and modern squad, challenging the status quo. Worst – no young bright stars were in sight… The unusual champions of the years before – Caglairi and Lazio – proved to be freakish accidents, emphasizing the state of crisis more than anything – the won mostly because the grand clubs were weak, and neither lasted for long. Lazio quickly returned to its normal mid-table position (they finished dangerously close to relegation in 1975-76 – 13th) and Cagliari… the champions of 1970 were dead last in 1975-76 and Second Division bound. Meantime Napoli made an effort to challenge status quo – they got Savoldi for a record transfer fee and also had a few other strong players – but nothing really happened: Napoli managed to elevate itself a bit, but coveted championship title was still beyond their reach. 1975-76 proved to be their most successful season during the 1970s, yet, they finished behind the struggling Milan and Inter. Torino FC finsished first. Naturally, it was great year for the long suffering club: their previous title dated 1949! The years of the ill-fated ‘grand Torino’ squad. The most recent trophy was the Italian Cup, won in 1971. By numbers, the club still ranked high with its 6 titles, but it was clear for years that it was a club of ancient success. At the end, this affected even the derby with arch-rivals Juventus: it was important in token, not in reality, for it had only moral and local significance by now, deciding nothing important. Winning its 7th title seemed like revival, like opening of new era. Beating hated Juventus by two points, finishing with best attack and best defense in the league, and with impressive record of home games: 14 wins and one tie. Superb. Away matches were not that great – the team seemingly depended on the old Italian habit to play for a point. Eight ot total 15 away games were tied, but who cares when the title is secured. Champions at last! Top, from left: Castellini, C. Sala, Zaccarelli, Graziani, Mozzini, Santin
Front row : Pecci, Salvadori, Pulici, P. Sala, Gorin
How good were the champions? Well, Luigi Radice eventually became very well respected coach, but hardly capable of building a dynasty. He depended on minimal squad – the above eleven were practically his whole team: they played practically every game. Mozzini ended with least – 25 out of total 30 matches. The reserves rarely stepped on grass - only 6 more players appeared during the season, and only one of them – Gorin II – played in more than 5 matches. He had 12 appearances. Yes, it was stable, well oiled starting team, but evidently with limited resources. A single injury of a starter and collapse was imminent. As for the starters… Claudio and Patrizio Sala, Pulici, Zaccarelli, and Graziani all played for the Italian national team. Yet, hardly any became big star – Paolo Pulici is the best example: he was Italian top goal scorer in 1972-73, 1974-75, and 1975-76. He was in the Italian squad at two World Cups (1974 and 1978). But he largely sat on the reserves bench… anybody recognizing his name today? Only Francesco Graziani became relatively big – and World Champion with Italy in 1982, but by that time he was no longer playing for Torino. The champions were strikingly without superstar – Cagliari and Lazio at least had one each when winning the Italian championship. Torino had none – only a group of ‘second bests’. Which immediately prophesized the future: Torino was unlikely to stay on top. (The future mercilessly confirmed predictions: after 1976 and up to today Torino won nothing.) So, enjoy the moment and cherish the memory.
Italy was still in the dark. Torino was hardly bringing positive change, but managed to edge Juventus – the most up to date Italian team.
Second, instead of first. ‘The Old Lady’ looked fantastic – to the point there was no place for one Paolo Rossi! (Rossi was loaned to Como because of that). Invinsible… on paper.
Milan, a place behind Juventus – clearly outdated by now.
Nereo Rocco still coaching, with Trapattoni staring to learn the craft. But what kind of art can be learned from the catenaccio’s arch-priest? The past governed Milan – Rivera, Anquilletti, Bigon, Albertosi, Chiarugi… Milan was more representative of the Italian football at the time than Juventus. No wonder Torino – closer to Milan rather than Juventus in style – won the championship.