Ruling European football: Serie A in the 1990s and its greatest players

Throughout the 1990s, Serie A ruled the world of football. 13 European trophies, six world record transfers and six Ballon d’Or winners only just about scratches the surface of such a lucrative era of Italian football.

Take a seat, you’re about to enter a world of controversy, fierce rivalry and incredible talent.

Italian football was bound to peak in a decade that started with the iconic Italia ’90 World Cup Finals. However, the tournament failed to live up to its billing. The Finals produced minimal quality and instead became synonymous with confrontation and cards. You only have to look as far as the two red cards Argentina received in the final to get a flavour for the tournament’s animosity.

Nevertheless, that isn’t to say it ruined football in Italy. In fact, it did the exact opposite. Attention on Serie A became so intense that, by the early 1990s, the footballing world almost depended on the top Italian league.

If you’re lucky enough to remember these times, you’ll know that, just like La Liga now, Serie A boasted the very best talent in the world. From Batistuta to Gascoigne, Calcio reigned supreme over the whole of Europe.

For old time’s sake, let’s reminisce over five of the best players to grace Serie A in the 1990s…

Paul Gascoigne

Gazza’s move to Lazio in 1993 sparked absolute chaos around the world of football. His cult hero status gathered in England soon stretched over the Mediterranean to Italian shores. His weekly salary of £22,000 was new territory for the financial side of football, but wasn’t he worth every penny?

Just on character alone, the Gateshead-born midfielder deserved such a salary. After arriving back from training one day, Gazza’s bodyguards mistook him for a burglar, shoving a gun to his head and shouting “don’t move!”. There’s a point when one fails to be surprised by a Gascoigne-related incident. And, perhaps that’s why he’s one of the most iconic English footballers of all-time.

His time on the pitch for Lazio failed to live up to all the hype surrounding him. Indeed, early in his career, he scored a late equaliser in his first Rome derby. Such is the rivalry between Roma and Lazio, the goal achieved automatic hero status for Gascoigne.

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Though Gascoinge’s time in Italy was spoiled by a broken leg and various altercations with the media, there’s no doubting the importance of his time in Italy. What became known as ‘Gazzamania’ saw Channel 4 invest heavily in Italian football coverage.

Serie A matches were broadcast on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons – Gazzetta Football Italia reigned supreme.

Before Gascoigne left Lazio, he had to create one final memory for us to enjoy. And, in true Gazza style, nothing says arrivederci quite like turning up to his final day of training on a Harley Davidson whilst smoking a cigar.

Roberto Baggio

If you weren’t an avid follower of Italian football in the 1990s, Baggio may be better known in your memory for a decisive World Cup Final penalty miss in 1994. But, please, don’t let that take away from an otherwise superb footballer.

The Italian was bought by Juventus in 1990 for a world-record fee of £8million. After five years at Juve’s rivals, Fiorentina, the moved sparked major controversy. Riots began in Florence, following confirmation of the transfer, with over 50 people injured.

That didn’t stop Baggio, though. The striker went on to score 78 goals in 141 appearances for the Old Lady. His creativity, eye for goal and passing ability means that he is tipped by many as the greatest Italian player of all-time.

True, he may have ruffled a few feathers back in 1990, but being awarded World Player of the Year in 1993 must have proved to him that the move was right.

Antonio Conte

They say that good players never make good managers. Well, then, Conte is certainly an exception to that rule. For younger readers who associate Conte as an exuberant manager in the technical area, please be aware that he showed ten times that energy as a player.

With incredible work-rate, tenacity, and leadership, Conte underpinned the engine room of an untouchable Juve side. Such was his ability, Conte helped Juventus to nime trophies in the 1990s with his distinctive energy and determination that made Juventus incredibly hard to breakdown.

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Though he is less well-known for his goalscoring, Conte did manage to score a few belters in the 90s. His long range striking ability saw most of his goals come from outside the box. Thus, showing that he was equally able to contribute to the team offensively as well as defensively.

These days, Conte might often wear the face of stern football manager, haggled by the media every two minutes. But, please, don’t let that detract from what a splendid player he was – yet another to rise from the 1990s in Italy.

Alessandro Del Piero

The Juventus goal-scoring legend joined the Old Lady in ’93 from Padova. A mere £2.34million was enough to acquire the services of what would become their all-time leading goalscorer. Del Piero scored 290 goals in his 19 years at the club and will forever be remembered amongst the Juve fans.

Most impressively, Del Piero seemed to have it all. Known in Italy as the “Fantasista”, he was highly-regarded as one of the best Serie A strikers in the 90s. His vision, ball control and ability to score goals meant he could score from anywhere.

Not surprisingly, Del Piero was, because of his versatility and natural talent, able to produce a record-breaking career at Juventus that etched his name firmly into the club’s illustrious history.

Gabriel Batistuta

Very few people remember that Batistuta was relegated in the ’92/93 Serie A campaign with Fiorentina. However, it becomes the mark of a player when they help promote their team the following season. And, within two seasons, become Serie A’s top scorer in the ’94/95 season.

The striker had his best years at Fiorentina, scoring an impressive 168 goals in 269 games. His prolific goalscoring talent and powerful style of play shows Batisuta to be one of the greatest players to grace Serie A in the 90s.

Alongside Rui Costa and under the management of Claudio Ranieri, Batistuta and Fiorentina recorded a 15 match unbeaten run in the ’95/96 campaign – writing their name in the club’s history.

As an Argentine, Batistuta was going to struggle to fill the drug-ridden boots of Diego Maradonna – but who would want to? Indeed, Maradonna will be revered as one of the greatest of all time. Nevertheless, Batistuta cannot be too far behind with such an incredible career, most notably in the 1990s.

Nothing says ‘golaccio!’ quite like Gabriel Batistuta.

There you have it, five of the greatest players to grace the Serie A in all its glory. The likes of Zidane, Totti et al will be remembered just as well. But, the aforementioned players were undoubtedly at their absolute best during the 1990s in Serie A.

Arrivederci.