Ahead of the final Serie A weekend before the international break, old wounds were opened up between the two frontrunners for this year’s Scudetto.
Juventus appealed to the Italian Olympic Committee’s Collegio di Garanzia dello Sport tribunal for the awarding of the 2005-06 Serie A title to be taken away from Inter Milan. Why? Well, Inter finished third in the table that season, but were awarded the title after champions Juve and second-placed AC Milan were both found guilty of offences in the infamous ‘Calciopoli’ scandal.
Shameful instances of match-fixing came to light, in a year when the country’s national team won the World Cup in Germany. Italian football was at its lowest ebb, and the re-opening of the whole episode continues to deepen the already vigorous animosity between Juventus and Internazionale.
Ironically, claims of match-fixing were only discovered by chance; prosecutors were investigating on Italian football agency GEA World, regarding claims of doping involving Juventus’ team doctor in the 1990s.
Consequently, police stumbled across phone conversations between Juventus board members and officials at Serie A regarding referees, and the favouring of referees towards the ‘Old Lady’ in matches.
The man at the centre of the scandal was Luciano Moggi: Juventus sporting director at the time, Moggi attempted to influence games with the selection of certain referees who could side with Juventus regarding dubious calls.
The fall-out was gigantic.
On July 4 2006, the same day Italy stunned hosts Germany in the World Cup semi-finals, the Italian Football Federation’s prosecutor Stefano Palazzi called for Juve, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio to be thrown out of Serie A.
A lengthy appeals process followed, but Juventus were nonetheless penalised the harshest, and were accused of ‘creating a system to alter the outcome of matches.’
It was a triple whammy: Juve were relegated to Serie B, deducted nine points after originally being docked 30, and had their 2004-05 & 2005-06 league titles stripped from them – the latter controversially awarded to Inter Milan, who originally finished third.
A scandal which rocked Italy to the core, at a period when jubilation should have been at the forefront.
Yet there were also direct implications for the rivalry between Inter and Juventus which have only ascended since.
Patrick Vieira and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were not part of the stalwarts who worked to get Juventus immediately promoted from Serie B – they jumped ship. Where? Inter of course.
Though neither player was a linchpin for Jose Mourinho’s treble-winning Inter side in 2010, Juventus’ demise at the end of the last decade coincided with Inter’s rise to the top of European football.
But, Mourinho left Inter that summer, Conte joined Juve a year later in 2011, and the complexion irreversibly changed.
Juventus have won eight straight Scudettos since, with Inter nowhere near reaching the heavy heights set in 2010.
Yet now, after a period as national team manager and at Chelsea, Conte has moved over to Inter, in an attempt to derail the Turin domestic juggernaut.
It was first blood Juve at the San Siro last Sunday, as strikes from Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain ended Inter’s 100% win-record at the start of the season in Serie A.
Maurizio Sarri’s team are a point ahead after seven games, in what looks like being a two-horse race already in Italy’s top flight.
Frankly though, that’s better than the one-way Juventus domination which has made the title something of a foregone conclusion by Christmas for the majority of the past eight years.
A rivalry split by 78 miles, 17 Serie A titles and one 50-year-old manager called Antonio.
Not much in common on the face of it, but let’s hope their fight for the title is still a fight for the title come the reverse fixture in March. Serie A needs a threat to Juventus’ supremacy, and Inter Milan could be the club to crack it.