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  • Writer's pictureLazio Stories

What happened in Serie A 1988-89

Official Football Club Internazionale Milano photo

The previous season had seen a clash between Milan and Napoli which lasted almost the entire season. Napoli had a four point lead coming into match 26 but they first lost to Juventus away, then drew at Verona and the lead had been reduced to just one point. The mother of all games, at least for that season, was Napoli Milan on May 1 where the Rossoneri won, overtook the Neapolitans and de facto won the scudetto.

This season the favourites were obviously AC Milan. Manager Arrigo Sacchi had revolutionised football in Italy. He introduced a fluid, attacking 4-4-2 formation, with zonal marking hence no libero. This had already been done with Nils Liedholm, but the difference was that Sacchi preferred Dutch-style total football, hence directed more at attacking than defending. Other characteristics were the high pressure, offside trap, and the entire team, in no more than 25 metres, moving like an accordion. His defensive line-up was considered one of the best in the world: Mauro Tassotti (former Lazio), Filippo Galli, Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini. His midfield had Roberto Donadoni and Carlo Ancelotti and upfront Ruud Gulit, Marco Van Basten and Pietro Paolo Virdis. In the summer of 1988 they also added Frank Rijkaard from Real Zaragoza.

Napoli, beaten and badly bruised, went through a revolution. Old-timers Claudio Garella, Bruno Giordano and Salvatore Bagni were accused of mutiny and sold. The club signed Brazilian Alemao from Atletico Madrid.

Inter invested heavily, signing Lothar Matthaus and Andreas Brehme from Bayern Munich plus Ramon Diaz from Fiorentina. Juventus changed manager and now relied on legend Dino Zoff.

Also to note, the return to Serie A of Lazio after three years of purgatory. Serie A was now made up of 18 teams instead of 16 as two more were added to increase the amount of games. Hence four clubs would now be relegated.


The Campionato started late due to the Seoul Olympic Games. As a consequence the Coppa Italia was organised with two group phases. The first phase had 8 groups with 6 teams each and was played from the end of August until the beginning of September. The top three teams from each group qualified for the next group phase. There were no major surprises and all of the top teams qualified.

The second phase was held between mid and the end of September. Six groups of four teams each, the winners of each group would qualify for the quarter finals plus the two best second placed teams. In group 1 Verona eliminated Milan and Torino; Napoli won group 2; Pisa won group 3 eliminating Roma and Pescara; Sampdoria and Atalanta qualified from group 4; Lazio and Fiorentina reached the quarter finals in group 5 whilst Inter were eliminated; Ascoli won group six eliminating Juventus.

In the first leg of the European Cup first round Milan won 2-0 away against Vitosha Sofia. In the Cup Winners Cup Sampdoria lost 2-1 to IFK Norrköping. In the UEFA Cup, Roma lost at home to Nuremberg, Inter beat IK Brake 2-1 at home, Juventus lost 1-0 away to Otelui Galati and Napoli beat PAOK Thessaloniki 1-0 at home. Difficult return games for the Italian teams.


Serie A finally began on October 9 and the first top level clashes took place in game four with Inter beating Roma and Juventus-Milan ending 0-0.

Milan qualified for the second round of the European Cup beating Vitosha Sofia 5-2 with 4 Marco Van Basten goals. In the first leg of the second round they drew 1-1 at home with Red Star Belgrade. Qualification will not be easy. In the Cup Winners Cup Sampdoria beat IFK Norrkoping 2-0 and qualified. They then drew away against Carl Zeiss Jena.

In the UEFA Cup Roma won 3-1 in Nuremberg and qualified as did Inter, who won 2-1 away against IK Brake, Juventus, who crushed Otelui Galati 5-0 at home, and Napoli who drew 1-1 against PAOK. In the first leg of the second round, Roma lost 4-2 away to Partizan, Napoli drew away to Lokomotive Leipzig, Juventus crushed Athletic Bilbao 5-1 at home and Inter won away against Malmo FF.

Inter 7, Sampdoria 7, Napoli 6, Milan 6, Fiorentina 6, Juventus 5, Lecce 5, Verona 5, Atalanta 4, Lazio 4, Roma 4, Como 3, Torino 2, Bologna 2, Cesena 2, Pescara 2, Ascoli 1, Pisa 1



Milan were struggling, losing first at home to Atalanta and then collapsing 4-1 in Naples. Inter took the lead with Napoli and Sampdoria not far behind. Lazio, after holding Milan to a draw in October, did the same with Napoli.

In the European Cup Milan were losing 1-0 against Red Star Belgrade but then a thick fog reduced visibility and the match was abandoned. In the replay the next day, Milan won on penalties. Sampdoria also qualified for the next round of the Cup Winners Cup winning 3-1 against Carl Zeiss Jena.

In the UEFA Cup, Roma, Napoli, Juventus and Inter all went through to the third round eliminating Partizan, Lokomotive Leipzig, Athletic Bilbao and Malmö FF. In the first leg of the third round, Juventus won 2-0 away to Bayern Munich, Napoli 1-0 in Bordeaux, Juventus did the same against RFC Liege but Roma lost 2-0 against Dynamo Dresden.

Inter 13, Napoli 11, Sampdoria 11, Juventus 9, Milan 8, Atalanta 8, Lazio 8, Fiorentina 8, Roma 7, Pescara 7, Torino 6, Verona 6, Como 6, Lecce 5, Pisa 4, Ascoli 3, Bologna 3, Cesena 3



Inter won the derby and consolidated their lead. They drew against Juventus, who won the Turin derby, but thanks to Napoli losing against Roma, they increased their lead to +3. Big battle in the lower ranks with 11 teams in just four points. Anything could happen.

In the second leg of the third round of the UEFA Cup, Inter collapsed at home 3-1 against Bayern Munich and were eliminated, Roma were also beaten at home by Dynamo Dresden whereas Juventus and Napoli managed to qualify for the quarter finals against Bordeaux and RFC Liege. The two Italian teams would meet in February and March for a place in the semis.

Inter 20, Napoli 17, Sampdoria 15, Juventus 15, Roma 15, Atalanta 14, Milan 12, Lazio 10, Fiorentina 10, Pescara 10, Verona 9, Como 9, Torino 8, Bologna 7, Cesena 7, Lecce 7, Pisa 7, Ascoli 6



The first four games of the year saw Inter and Napoli go off on their own to fight for the title. The clash between them ended in a goalless draw. Roma lost against Juventus, Lazio (first win in the derby for the Biancocelesti since 1979, even if only six had been played since then), and Milan, falling seriously behind.

In the quarter finals of Coppa Italia, Atalanta, Napoli, Sampdoria and Pisa eliminated Lazio, Ascoli, Fiorentina and Verona.


Inter 26, Napoli 23, Sampdoria 20, Atalanta 20, Juventus 18, Milan 17, Fiorentina 16, Roma 16, Lazio 13, Pescara 12, Verona 12, Cesena 12, Pisa 12, Como 12, Torino 11, Ascoli 10, Bologna 10, Lecce 10



Napoli reduced the deficit to two points after Inter were beaten in Florence. Milan climbed up and were now fourth but too far off  the Nerazzurri. Behind still a lot of teams in just four points.

In the first leg of the UEFA Cup quarter finals, Juventus beat Napoli 2-0.

In the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia Sampdoria and Napoli eliminated Atalanta and Pisa.

Inter 32, Napoli 30, Sampdoria 27, Milan 24, Juventus 22, Atalanta 22, Fiorentina 19, Roma 19, Verona 18, Bologna 16, Pescara 16, Lazio 15, Cesena 15, Torino 14, Como 14, Lecce 14, Pisa 13, Ascoli 12



Napoli drew away to Pescara and Lazio so now Inter had a lead of +4. Things seemed to have been stabilised up front while behind the only team to lose ground was Ascoli.

In the quarter finals of the European Cup Milan eliminated Werder Bremen and would go on to play Real Madrid in the semis. In the Cup Winners Cup, Sampdoria eliminated Dinamo Bucharest and would play Mechelen in the semi-final. Napoli managed to overturn a 2-0 deficit and beat Juventus 3-0 to qualify for the semi-final of the UEFA Cup where they would meet Bayern Munich.

Inter 38, Napoli 34, Sampdoria 30, Milan 28, Juventus 26, Atalanta 25, Fiorentina 23, Verona 20, Roma 20, Bologna 19, Pescara 19, Lazio 17, Cesena 17, Como 17, Lecce 17, Torino 16, Pisa 16, Ascoli 14



Napoli lost at home to Juventus and drew against Milan hence paving the way for Inter’s scudetto. The Milan derby ended in a draw. Lazio, struggling to score, were sucked back into the relegation zone but with so many teams in just a few points, a couple of wins could give safety and a couple of losses lead to damnation.

After drawing 1-1 in the first leg of the European Cup semi-finals against Real Madrid, Milan crushed the Spaniards 5-0 at home and went on to the final which would be played in Barcelona in May against Steaua Bucharest who had eliminated Galatasaray. Sampdoria also reached a final, the Cup Winners Cup, eliminating Mechelen 4-2 on aggregate. They would play Barcelona in the final. Napoli also reached the final. In the UEFA Cup semis they beat Bayern Munich 4-2 on aggregate. They would play Stuttgart in a two-legged final in May.

Inter 45, Napoli 39, Milan 33, Juventus 32, Sampdoria 31, Atalanta 30, Fiorentina 28, Roma 26, Verona 23, Bologna 23, Pescara 22, Lecce 22, Torino 21, Lazio 20, Cesena 20, Ascoli 18, Como 18, Pisa 17



Despite there being still four games to the end of the campionato, Inter secured the title after beating Napoli 2-1 on May 28. They were now unreachable. Milan and Juventus were battling for third place. The Rome derby finished in a draw as did also the Turin one. Pisa had a foot in Serie B, while 8 teams would have to fight it out for the other three relegation spots.

In the European Cup final, Milan beat Steaua Bucharest 4-0 and won the trophy for the first time since 1969. Sampdoria lost the final of the Cup Winners Cup. They were beaten 2-0 by Barcelona. Napoli won the UEFA Cup beating Stuttgart 5-4 on aggregate. First European victory for the club.

Inter 52, Napoli 43, Milan 38, Juventus 37, Sampdoria 34, Atalanta 34, Fiorentina 32, Roma 29, Verona 27, Lazio 26, Lecce 26, Ascoli 25, Bologna 25, Pescara 24, Cesena 24, Torino 22, Pisa 21, Como 21



The interest now lay with the relegation battle. With two games to the end of the season, Verona, Ascoli, Lecce and Bologna had 28 points, Cesena 27, Lazio 26, Torino and Pescara 25, Como 22 and Pisa 21.

In the penultimate match, Lazio, Torino and Cesena won so the lower end of the table saw the Biancocelesti on 28 points together with Ascoli, Torino on 27 and Pescara 26. Pisa and Como were already relegated. Final games: Ascoli-Lazio, Lecce-Torino, Pisa-Pescara.

Lazio and Ascoli literally did not do anything in the game apart from passing the ball to each other so they both avoided relegation. Torino, who lost in Lecce, and Pescara, who drew at Pisa, went down.

The first edition of the Super Coppa between the scudetto holders and the winners of the Coppa Italia was played in June. It should have taken place before the start of the campionato, but due to the Olympic Games in September, the match was postponed to June 14. Milan beat Sampdoria 3-1 coming from behind.

In the final of the Coppa Italia, Sampdoria beat Napoli 4-1 on aggregate.

With Milan having won the European Cup, hence securing a place also for the 1989-90 edition, plus Sampdoria having won the national cup and therefore playing in the Cup Winners Cup next year, two extra spots for the UEFA Cup were available. The first was taken by Atalanta, but a playoff between Fiorentina and Roma was needed for the other slot. An early Roberto Pruzzo goal allowed the Viola to win.

Genoa, Bari, Udinese and Cremonese (after a penalty shootout win in the playoff against Reggina) were promoted from Serie B.

Aldo Serena (Inter) was Serie A’s top scorer with 22 goals, three more than Careca (Napoli) and Marco Van Basten (Milan).

Final Table: Inter 58, Napoli 47, Milan 46, Juventus 43, Sampdoria 39, Atalanta 36, Fiorentina 34, Roma 34, Lecce 31, Lazio 29, Verona 29, Ascoli 29, Cesena 29, Bologna 29, Torino 27, Pescara 27, Pisa 23, Como 22


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