Juventus and Fiorentina are two Italian teams steeped in illustrious elegance and darkly dwellings. They have graced the game with fantastic players, both domestically and at international level, have both been punished and had tarnished reputations with match-fixing in the Calciopoli scandal, and now are both again at the top of Serie A fighting for glory and honours. It has been a credit to the strength and quality of both clubs that their returns have been welcome and swift.
It is the qualities that unite them which make the Juve-Fiorentina matches so intense and highly contested. It has been hailed as one of the most exciting rivalries in the league, and there is a clear moment in the past when the animosity and intensity between the clubs started. After some questionable refereeing decisions in the 1981/82 Serie A title race allowed Juve to steal the trophy from under the noses of Fiorentina, the 1990 sale of Florence’s golden son, Roberto Baggio, to the Bianconeri saw that the rivalry between the sides reached the point of no return, and since then, contests between these sides have been fought in a war-like spirit.
Before Baggio’s move, both clubs were respected as strong, competitive teams from affluent, cultural cities in the north. Fiorentina had won the Scudetto twice before in 1956 and 1969, whilst Juventus has enjoyed a sturdy dominance, of Italian and European football, since their founding, having accumulated a record 27 league titles.
With success and similarity, inevitably brings rivalry. In the current game, Juve and Fiorentina have both retained their status as two of the strongest Italian teams on the European stage. Fiorentina were recently eliminated from the Champions’ League, but qualified deservedly, after such a consistent campaign last season. Juventus are still competing in the competition, and have been drawn against Chelsea in the first knockout round.
Both teams not only employ world superstars like Alessandro Del Piero, Pavel Nedved, Amauri, Adrian Mutu, Alberto Gilardino and Sebastian Frey, but have also produced some fantastic, young Italian internationals, in Sebastian Giovinco and Riccardo Montolivo.
Both sides have proved their importance to modern Italian football, and their rivalry is evident at the height of the sport, in challenging for the top titles and producing some fine and talented, home-grown players.
When thinking about the players who have graced both shirts, the list includes some of the most impressive Serie A names. Of course the most prominent and important is Baggio, but others such as Angelo Di Livio (the man whose loyalty most inspired Fiorentina’s rise from Serie C), Moreno Torricelli, and contemporary protagonists such as Adrian Mutu and Giorgio Chiellini can be included too.
The ties between the clubs continue further, especially with both current Coaches. Current Juventus Tactician Claudio Ranieri had a degree of success at La Viola in his four-year spell, after winning promotion from Serie B in his first season, and then securing the Coppa Italia and Super Coppa Italiana, with players like Gabriel Batistuta, Manuel Rui Costa, and Francesco Toldo.
Fiorentina Coach, Cesare Prandelli, was a Juventus player in the 1980s and won the Scudetto three times with the Bianconeri, under the guile of legendary Coach Giovanni Trapattoni – who would also go on to coach Fiorentina as well.
There are many factors and similarities with which to compare the two clubs. The Juventus/Fiorentina fixture stands out as a ‘derby’ match for the clubs’ supporters, but also as a fascinating spectacle for the neutral fan.
Tifosi of La Viola consider it as a vital grudge match, and a chance to find revenge against the ruthless Bianconeri. Certain fans from the black and white half of Turin claim that this fixture has always been a derby for Fiorentina, rather than Juve. It is because of the Viola’s resentment for the transfer of Baggio that this all stems and so ardent fans of Juventus rile Fiorentina supporters by claiming that the derbies with Torino, Inter, and Milan are more important to them. Judging from the combativeness from Juve in past fixtures, it doesn’t seem to be the case.
The reason why the Baggio transfer rankled so deeply with the Fiorentina supporters was that, not only did they lose their very best player to a great rival club, but they also had to watch, over the coming years, Baggio and Juve enjoying great successes, which surely should and could have been enjoyed by Baggio at Fiorentina.
Juventus had beaten them in the Uefa Cup final, and then had beaten them in their quest to build a team around Baggio. Juventus, “the thieves”, had robbed them of a glorious trophy and a glorious player. In true Italian style, the vendetta was declared.
Since the turn of the millennium, Juve have dominated the fixtures against Fiorentina, and have always finished higher than La Viola (excluding the seasons involving the Calciopoli scandal, of which both clubs were drawn into). There have been some exciting 3-3 draws, and many games lost by single goals.
However, last season was a defining one for i Gigliati. Last season’s famous 3-2 victory in Turin has left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Bianconeri. It was a shock, as was the fight for third place, where Fiorentina were consistently strong and pushed Juve all-year. That satisfying victory, alongside their 1-1 draw at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, gave Prandelli’s men a total of four points and an unbeaten season over their hated rivals. It is a record they will be fighting hard to maintain, but one that Juventus will quickly want to quell.