The Calciopoli scandal of 2006 was serious business.
One of the biggest match-fixing investigations in the history of modern football ended with several clubs having the book thrown at them, and nearly put one or two out of business for good.
Two teams were banned from Europe, Reggina and AC Milan were given hefty points deductions, while Juventus – along with Fiorentina and Lazio – were booted from the top flight altogether. Only Juve’s relegation stuck after appeal, however.
As the threat of another Juve relegation lingers as a result of their involvement in the Super League fiasco, it’s an interesting period in Italian football history to revisit.
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It’s remembered as the darkest period in Juventus’ long and illustrious history, even if it was a fairly short-lived one. The knock-on effects would be felt for years later, but even a nine-point deduction couldn’t keep them in Serie B for long.
They had an exodus of top talent, but having just finished top of Serie A, there was more than enough left in the tank to fish them out of the fire. And when the likes of Napoli and Genoa realised they were facing up against a team that still boasted Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Pavel Nedved and Alessandro Del Piero, the smiles at Juve’s misfortune quickly dissipated.
They took just four matches to wipe out the points deficit that was imposed on them, though they got off to a stumbling start away to Rimini, who now play in Serie D.
Starting the season with Del Piero up front and Chiellini out at left-back, the lesser-known Matteo Paro got them off to a strong start, before Adrian Ricchiuti struck back and secured one of the most famous results in their history.
Life outside the top flight was clearly a culture shock to Didier Deschamps and his team, but they didn’t take long to get going. A 2-1 victory over Vicenze, with David Trezeguet and Del Piero on the scoresheet, got the monkey off their back, and they didn’t look back from there.
Any questions that Juventus were there to stay were pretty much dissolved by Christmas. The Vicenze win was followed by seven successive victories in which they didn’t concede a single goal – a record run of 712 minutes which still stands to this day.
They stuttered over the festive period, but their quality got them through the other side. You wonder how things would have gone for Juve had their core group of stars not decided to stick around, but Del Piero and Trezeguet, supplied by the ever-present Nedved, made for a force to be reckoned with.
The trio netted 46 league goals between them as Juventus stormed through their remaining games. While there were some hiccups along the way, they lost just four games from start to finish, and made sure of their promotion with a thumping 5-1 win over Arezzo.
It was arguably their best performance of the season, with Del Piero and Chiellini netting braces to bring the nightmare to an end. A 2-0 win at home to Mantova made sure of the title, and Juventus were back in the big-time as Serie B champions…not that there was too much fanfare to their trophy presentation.
Despite the threats from Serie A, it seems unlikely Juventus will be back in Serie B any time soon. But the precedent has been set for what we can expect if they do, and it doesn’t exactly bode well for next season’s promotion hopefuls.