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The day an Irishman started a 40-year war between Fiorentina and Juventus

Footballer Liam Brady 1978 Photo by Mark Leech/Getty Images

As Fiorentina fans we all know there is one sworn enemy, the Bianconeri from Turin. Most of us know all about the Roberto Baggio saga, those dramatic days when the idol of the Viola faithful was sold to our bitter rivals, and chaos descended on the city of Florence. It turned many locals against the Italian national side just before the World Cup which they would host.

The story didn’t begin there however, and the day which started it all came 40 years ago. Juventus, owned by the powerful Agnelli family, were not exactly a club which inspired sympathy for fans of any other club in Italy. It would take this one particular incident for the ‘Old Lady’ to become so despised by Fiorentina fans, as it hadn’t always been the case. Back in 1969, Fiorentina clinched their second Scudetto win with a victory in Turin, and on that day the home support also applauded the achievement of the Viola. Something which would be unthinkable today.

An 11-0 defeat at the hands of Juventus back in 1928 certainly didn’t endear them to the hearts of Fiorentina fans, but the day we came closest to winning a third Serie A title would be the spark which light the flames of hatred. The 1981/82 season went right down to the wire, and the two clubs involved in the title race were Fiorentina, and reigning champions Juventus.

At the halfway point of the season, Fiorentina were top of the table. Juventus had just closed the gap to one point with a home win against Catanzaro on the same day in January that Fiorentina were held to a draw at home by Cagliari. It would be the return fixtures of those games which would decide the title destination.

Back in January, Inter and Roma were still involved in the battle at the top, sitting just a point behind Juventus, but both of these would fall away before too long, leaving the top two to fight it out. Three weeks after that draw with Cagliari, Fiorentina’s scoreless draw at Ascoli allowed Juventus to draw level at the top with a 2-0 win at Como. The scorer of their second goal that day was Irish international, Liam Brady.

LIAM BRADY Photo by Juventus FC - Archive/Juventus FC via Getty Images
LIAM BRADY Photo by Juventus FC - Archive/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Brady had signed for Juventus the previous season, when Serie A finally reopened to foreign players after 15 years. The Dublin born left-footed midfielder was bought from Arsenal, a club he had been with for almost a decade, but he was still only 24 years old when he made the move to Serie A, having joined the London club at youth level. The Irishman settled in straight away to Italian life, learning the language in a very short time, and while he would go on to spend another five years playing in Italy, this would turn out to be his final campaign with Juventus.

At this stage of the season though, he was oblivious to what the future would hold. For now, in mid-March, it meant moving ahead of Fiorentina again. Juventus scored three goals in the first half away to Roma, while Fiorentina were still being held scoreless in Turin, by Torino. The score in the capital would stay the same, while the second half in Turin saw four goals scored.

Fiorentina took the lead shortly after the interval through Francesco ‘Ciccio’ Graziani before Torino levelled the game. An own goal from Paolo Pulici put the Viola ahead, but three minutes from the end, the same player stepped up to take a penalty, and cost Fiorentina a precious point. Pulici would later go on to play for Fiorentina, for now though, he had allowed his neighbours Juventus to go a point ahead at the top.

A week later Fiorentina were boosted by the return of Giancarlo Antognoni. Back in November, the Fiorentina captain had suffered a serious injury in a win over Genoa and having returned to action in a win over Cesena a week after that draw in Turin, his second game back would see Fiorentina face Genoa again. This time Fiorentina were unable to get the better of Silvano Martina, the Genoa keeper who had caused the Antognoni injury, but as the Viola played out a scoreless draw at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Juventus too were held to a draw at Bologna.

The next game, on April 4th, brought the league leaders to Florence. When the sides had met in Turin back in November, there had been nothing to divide them in a 0-0 stalemate, and the result here was the same. That left Fiorentina still one point behind with five games left to play, but they did manage to draw level at the top after the international break. Fiorentina’s Graziano, Antognoni and Daniele Massaro joined up with Juventus players Dino Zoff, Claudio Gentile, Marco Tardelli, and Gaetano Scirea for a friendly in Leipzig, where Italy went down 1-0 to East Germany.

Four days later Graziani scored the only goal as Fiorentina beat Bologna, and although Tardelli had put Juventus ahead against Ascoli, they were held to a draw in Turin. With just four games now remaining, the two clubs were again level at the top of Serie A. The next weekend Fiorentina faced a trip away to Napoli, while Juventus hosted Inter.

With less than fifteen minutes left, Juventus were awarded a dubious penalty. Gianpiero Marini was adjudged to have fouled Antonio Cabrini, although the Juventus man looked to be already going to ground before the challenge even came in, having lost control of the ball. Enzo Barbaresco pointed to the spot, Liam Brady stepped up, and although Ivano Bordon went the right way, Brady’s penalty was perfectly placed in the corner.

After the game Brady was asked if he had feared missing the spot kick “There’s always some fear, especially since from the penalty spot, in this campaign, I had already tried my hand twice, missing one and scoring the other”. When asked his opinion on the awarding of the penalty he replied, “I’m not certain if it was a penalty, but one thing is for sure, Marini went in on Cabrini like a madman”.

At the time of Brady’s penalty, it was still scoreless at the San Paolo, but eight minutes from time Antognoni found a winner. Juventus manager Giovanni Trapattoni, speaking after the game, admitted that he hadn’t expected a Fiorentina side without both Graziani and Eraldo Pecci to win in Naples, saying that this was the real surprise of the day. He also expressed relief that Udinese, his next opponents, had beaten Bologna, as he preferred to face a side not involved in the fight for survival at the bottom of the table.

Much of the talk around Juventus at the time focussed on the return of Paolo Rossi to the pitch. Rossi had not been available all season, serving a suspension for his involvement in the betting scandal which had rocked Italian football. That had happened while he was with Perugia, but now at Juventus he was ready to return for the last three games of the season. The other news from Turin was that Juventus now looked likely to sign the Polish player Zbigniew Boniek.

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A couple of days after that Inter game came the official announcement that Boniek would indeed be arriving in Turin for the next season. With clubs now allowed to have two foreign players in their squad from the next campaign, Juventus fans were excited by the prospect of Boniek linking up with Brady, along with Paolo Rossi. Before the next game, however, came even more surprising transfer news, as Michel Platini was now also confirmed as a new signing. For Liam Brady, still with a year left on his contract, this would mean the end of his spell at Juventus.

Brady had heard the rumours and asked Trapattoni if it was true. Trapattoni, put in a difficult situation as Brady himself admitted later, denied the story, but Brady then received a call to go in and see Giampiero Boniperti, the club president, and the Irish man knew his time was up. While the press reported that Brady and Boniperti’s meeting had gone smoothly, with the player accepting the decision, the reality was a little different. Brady would later reveal that when Boniperti explained how broken-hearted they were, how they would love to keep him but for that ridiculous foreigner’s rule, Brady told him to stick it up his ass.

Liam didn’t hold it against Trapattoni, as they would later work together when when Trap took over as manager of the Republic of Ireland national team. Marco Tardelli was also a part of the management team, in 2008.

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The club officials were now worried that Brady would refuse to play the remaining games, but the player was never going to follow through on his threats, not wanting to let his teammates down. That next game was as easy as Trapattoni had hoped, with Juventus storming to a 5-1 win at Udinese, and Paolo Rossi among the scorers, just in time for the World Cup that summer.

Juventus had actually gone behind after just two minutes at Udine but were 2-1 up by the interval. Rossi then added a third shortly after the break, before two late goals added some shine to the result. While Brady wasn’t among the scorers, he was highly praised after the game for his professionalism despite the recent bad news, receiving the highest player grade in the press.

Fiorentina, meanwhile, were at the San Siro to take on Inter. The Viola were without Antognoni, Pecci and Pietro Vierchowod, and fell behind to an own goal by Armando Ferroni in the first half. Five minutes after the break and Luciano Miani levelled the tie, but Fiorentina were unable to find a winner, with Graziani forced off through injury late in the game.

With just two games now left in the season, Juventus held a precious one-point lead. The newspapers had all but awarded the Scudetto to the leaders, discussing how Boniek and Platini could now look forward to playing in the European Cup next season. There had been many twists in the story so far however, and on the penultimate day of the season, it was Fiorentina who would now face Udinese, while Juventus hosted Napoli in Turin.

Fiorentina manager Giancarlo De Sisti admitted that Juventus were now the favourites but wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. As a player ‘Picchio’ had won the league title with Fiorentina, and still had hopes of at least forcing the race to a play-off. Speaking after the draw with Inter, he said that before that game a play-off had seemed the most likely conclusion, and he would definitely take that option now.

A packed Stadio Comunale in Florence on May 9th saw Fiorentina easily dispose of Udinese. 2-0 up by the break, with goals from Daniel Bertoni and Graziani, they ended the match with a 3-0 win. The fans, most of whom had one ear on what was happening in Turin, invaded the pitch after the final whistle, a sign that things had gone their way. Juventus had been held to a scoreless draw by Napoli, and the Viola faithful could enjoy the end of the last home game of the season knowing that their dream was still alive.

Before the final whistle, fans were already lining the pitch, ready to acclaim their heroes. When the referee blew the whistle for a foul the invasion began, in the belief that the final whistle had sounded. The referee signaled to the players that the game was, indeed now over. Afterwards Vittorio Benedetti, the referee, played down the incident, and no further action would be taken, apart from a fine for the club.

In Turin, there had been a party atmosphere around their final home game. The fans were of the belief that their 20th Scudetto was now just a mere formality. Paolo Rossi was given a warm welcome, as despite having been at the club as a youth player, this was his home debut in Serie A. After the disappointment of that draw with Napoli, came the farewell for Liam Brady. He too was acclaimed by the crowd, with a giant banner which read ‘Grazie’ and flowers after the game. “They were marvellous, I’ll never forget them” were Brady’s words afterwards, while also praising the opposition, “well done the Azzurri, Castellini was excellent, and we were unlucky”. His positive words about the Napoli keeper were echoed by Boniperti, although there may have been a touch of bitterness in his words, saying that here in Turin against Juventus, Luciano Castellini always made big saves.

On the Thursday before the final game, the preliminary squad had been announced for the World Cup in Spain that summer. Forty players were on the list, from which Enzo Bearzot would then choose the official squad of 22. There were seven Fiorentina players in that initial squad, including the recently recovered Antognoni, with eight from Juventus.

The game in Cagliari would be a 60,000 sell out, and for the home fans all that mattered was avoiding relegation. Former club legend Gigi Riva speaking on the eve of the game said he could also wish that Fiorentina win the league, as long as Cagliari survived. He knew that a draw could be enough, if everything went well, but said that the players had to play for the win without getting betrayed by nerves.

By Saturday evening Fiorentina were already in Cagliari while the first Viola fans had started to arrive in Sardinia as early as Thursday. This Fiorentina squad, its results, and performances, had seen large numbers follow the team all season, and in Florence at the Stadio Comunale, the average crowd that season was over 47,000. Thousands were expected to make their way to Cagliari for the final showdown of the season.

Of course, it may not be all over even after the last day of the season. If the two sides were still level on points, the title decider would go down to a play off the following Saturday. The host stadium would be announced on the Sunday evening if it was required, but the Stadio Olimpico in Roma was the favourite.

It was no secret that the football federation and the national manager, Bearzot, were hoping that the Scudetto would be won on May 16th. The Italian squad was due to meet up on Wednesday May 19th for their pre-World Cup camp, but an eventual play-off would mean a postponement. Bearzot’s prediction, however, was that both games on Sunday would end in a draw. De Sisti, meanwhile, in the event of a play-off game, would reportedly request that it should go to a replay and not a penalty shoot-out if the sides were still tied.

The game at Catanzaro was also a sell -out, and the visitors could expect a large number of supporters among the crowd. While only a few hundred would make the trip from Turin, the many Juventus supporter clubs from the southern part of Italy would be well represented, with 2,700 of those arriving from Crotone. Not everyone was as welcoming in Calabria.

They landed at the Lamezia airport around 6 pm on Saturday evening, and a larger crowd than the police had anticipated were there to greet Juventus. Amidst the abuse and coin throwing, one local managed to get close enough to give Paolo Rossi a slap, the player being the target of most of the anger.

Flavio Ponetello was the Fiorentina owner at the time, with his sons, Luca and Ranieri involved in the running of the club. A private jet had taken the family, around 20 people altogether, from Pisa to the island of Sardinia. Luca would be the only Pontello to remain with the squad before the game, the team based at the Hotel Mediterraneo, while Ranieri would have his lucky silk purple scarf hidden in his pocket when the match began.

Another Ranieri, Claudio, would not be taking part in the game against Juventus. Claudio Ranieri had been the captain of the Catanzaro team, but after a falling out with manager Bruno Pace, was now out of the squad. The future manager of both Fiorentina and Juventus would miss out on the decision day for the two clubs.

Liam Brady, by now already coming to the end of his short Juventus career, was a player who Juventus hoped would continue to display the professionalism he had shown since the announcement of his forced departure. Before the game at Udinese, Trapattoni had jokingly warned that if he played poorly or asked to be taken off, he would follow him onto the pitch with a stick.

Brady already had plenty of offers from both Serie A and abroad. A return to England wasn’t to be ruled out, with Arsenal looking to take him back, while Liverpool and Manchester United were also interested. In Italy, Sampdoria looked the club who were keenest to sign the midfielder, while PSG and FC Köln were also possible destinations. For now, it seemed most likely that he would be leaving Italy, and he expressed a wish to one day return to Turin, maybe as an opponent of Juventus in European competition.

History wasn’t on Fiorentina’s side, as in their previous 14 Serie A trips to Cagliari, they had achieved just one victory, which came back in 1965. On that day, a last-minute goal from Paolo Nuti had given the Viola a 1-0 win, and the same outcome here in 1982 would be a more than welcome result.

Blue skies greeted the Fiorentina team as they entered the pitch at the packed Stadio Sant’Elia, with the crowd already baked by the mid-May sun. Both sides emerged from the tunnel behind referee Maurizio Mattei. This was the fifth Fiorentina game that Mattei had taken charge of that season, the latest of those came in the scoreless draw at Genoa at the end of March, while the Viola had won the other three fixtures, including a win at Catanzaro. In Catanzaro, the game with Juventus would be refereed by Claudio Pieri, in his third Juve game of the campaign, with Trapattoni’s side winning the previous two.

De Sisti was still without Pecci, but Vierchowod had recovered to take his place in the starting line up in Cagliari. The eleven chosen by the manager were Giovanni Galli, Renzo Contratto, Armando Ferroni, Francesco Casagrande, Pietro Vierchowod, Roberto Galbiati, Daniel Bertoni, Luciano Miani, Francesco Graziani, Giancarlo Antognoni, and Daniele Massaro. Cagliari were managed by Paolo Carosi, who had spent two and a half seasons in charge at Fiorentina. Carosi had been sacked halfway through the previous season, with De Sisti taking over.

Trapattoni could rely on Paolo Rossi, after the striker had missed training earlier in the weak with severe migraine problems. This is the Juventus team which lined out at Catanzaro; Dino Zoff, Claudio Gentile, Antonio Cabrini, Sergio Brio, Giuseppe Furino, Gaetano Scirea, Domenico Marrochino, Marco Tardelli, Paolo Rossi, Pietro Paolo Virdis, and Liam Brady.

It was a nervy first half in Cagliari, with neither side capable of creating any clear chances. Speaking at the break, Antognoni explained that this was to be expected given what was at stake for both teams, but he claimed that they had played their own game without thinking about what Juventus were doing. Juventus were also scoreless at the break, but there was already controversy at Catanzaro.

After 35 minutes, the home side were denied a penalty claim, when Carlo Borghi entered the area and looked to be heading for a one on one with Zoff, before Brio charged over and with an outstretched arm, blocked his path. For Pieri, this elbow to the throat was not a foul. Of all the major refereeing decisions made that day, perhaps this one could be seen as the worst mistake.

With fifteen minutes played in the second half, and while it was still scoreless in Catanzaro, Fiorentina had just found the net. Graziani’s celebration was cut short, as Mattei raced towards the goal to let everyone know that he had already blown his whistle for a foul. Antognoni’s corner had been headed clear by Alberto Marchetti, but only back to Antognoni who whipped a cross back into the box and when the ball fell to Graziani unmarked in front of goal, he made no mistake, for what would have been his 10th goal of the season.

As the cross came in, Daniel Bertoni went up for the ball with Oreste Lamagni, the Cagliari defender. The keeper, Roberto Corti, came out to try and punch the ball clear. Whether Mattei blew his whistle for a foul by Bertoni on the defender or the keeper, it’s hard to tell. The ’moviola’ that evening on the Domenica Sportiva, with Carlo Sassi going over the replay of the incident, claimed that Bertoni had his hands on Lamagni’s back, and then raised his elbow to block the keeper’s arm.

Bertoni has always protested his innocence, saying that it was the keeper who fouled him. A Cagliari player, Giuseppe Bellini who had come on as a substitute at the start of the second half, years later would reveal that for him there was no foul by Bertoni, something which he still believed having watched the replay many times.

Fifteen minutes later at Catanzaro, Pieri this time did award a penalty, but unfortunately it was to Juventus. Brady started the move, collecting the ball in his own half before spraying a pass across to Marocchino, he took the ball into the area and after getting the better of Sergio Santarini he crossed to the near post for Paolo Rossi. Rossi’s header beat the keeper but came back off the post. The ball then fell to Pietro Fanna, who had replaced Virdis early in the second half, but his shot was blocked on the line by the outstretched arm of Costanzo Celestini. A clear penalty and Pieri pointed to the spot straight away.

The Catanzaro players protested, insisting that the player had his arms by his side when struck by the ball, but that was clearly not the case. As they continued their discussion with the referee, Juventus were deciding who would take the all-important penalty kick. Brady had been the regular penalty taker, but after the recent drama, it had been decided with the rest of the team that in those last few games he would step down from his duties. The man who should have replaced him was Virdis, who had already been taken off by Trapattoni, and so, Liam Brady took the responsibility of a possible league title deciding penalty.

Brady’s first goal in Serie A had come against Inter the previous season, from the penalty spot. He had taken on that role after a UEFA Cup game with Polish side, Widzew Łódź. Having lost 3-1 away, in the return leg it was Brady who scored the goal to make it 3-1 and force the game to extra-time and then penalties. In the shoot-out, Brady was the only Juventus player to convert his spot kick, as both Franco Causio and Antonio Cabrini missed theirs. When Boniek put away the fourth penalty for Widzew, Juventus were out of Europe, but Brady would now start to take more penalties, and by the following season had taken over the role completely.

Brady had a long time to wait before taking that penalty at Catanzaro. The area was still full of the home players, some protesting, others kicking at the turf in front of the penalty spot where Brady had already placed the ball. Plenty of intimidation and mind games, but Brady was already far too experienced and level-headed for that sort of thing to get to him. The referee also waited until objects stopped arriving on the pitch, thrown by the unhappy home fans behind the goal. That was an area where among the red and yellow flags of the home side, a large Fiorentina flag could also be seen.

It now came down to Liam Brady against Alessandro Zaninelli, with the Catanzaro keeper still buying time, clearing more objects from the goal. The Irishman stood waiting patiently, impassive, and after wiping the sweat from his brow he took a short run up to the ball. Brady himself admitted later that it wasn’t a great penalty, but with the keeper going the wrong way, it was enough to give Juventus a vital lead. The first to celebrate with the hero was Paolo Rossi, and they were soon surrounded by photographers on the pitch.

The news filtered through to Cagliari, De Sisti threw on Luigi Sacchetti and Paolo Monelli for Casagrande and Bertoni. Fiorentina were unable to raise their game enough to find the desperately needed goal, and Mattei blew the final whistle while Fiorentina were in the Cagliari area. The Cagliari players celebrated, knowing they were safe from relegation, and the home fans invaded the pitch. For the Fiorentina players and fans, it was the moment their dream died. That elusive third Scudetto had slipped away again.

At the final whistle at Catanzaro, fans broke through the police cordon to make it on to the pitch, while the Juventus players raced for the tunnel. From there they would get confirmation that Fiorentina had failed to win, and the Scudetto was theirs.

Looking at the match reports in the Italian press, the Corriere Della Sera had given Mattei, the referee at Cagliari, a vote of eight out of ten, while La Stampa gave him another high vote of 7.5. They were clearly of the impression that he had made the right decision in disallowing the Fiorentina goal. For Pieri at Catanzaro the grade was lower, a 6.5 from La Stampa, and a six from the Corriere. Brady, meanwhile, received a seven from Corriere Della Sera and an eight from La Stampa.

It was a very disappointed Antognoni who spoke from the Fiorentina dressing room. “We weren’t up to the situation; we didn’t take risks when we should have. It’s a question of mentality, in the decisive moment of the championship we lacked experience and determination. It’s a pity, I was under the illusion of succeeding, at least once, to win this damned Scudetto. To lose it like this by one point is truly sad. Next year, I’d rather have a nice championship in mid table, without any problems or stress.”

The Fiorentina captain was also disappointed with his teammates attitude “I shouted like a madman to my teammates during the game, enough with that radio I repeated constantly. Instead, they were all concerned with what Juventus were doing at Catanzaro. This was the mistake, we knew Juventus would score at least one goal, that was predictable. For that reason, we should have attacked Cagliari more and won the game.”

The referee didn’t speak after the game, but D’Agostino, part of the team who assigns the referees did talk to journalists. Sitting beside Mattei as he recovered, he claimed that Mattei had refereed well in what was a difficult game. Mattei overheard these words, and on his face some tears could be seen mixed with the sweat.

That was from the stress, D’Agostino explained, and with a pat on the shoulder he told Mattei that he had seen everything and done a great job. When asked about the disallowed goal, he responded that it wasn’t disallowed, as the referee had clearly blown the whistle before Graziani put the ball in the net, for a foul on the keeper.

That wasn’t quite how Graziani saw it, who insisted that his goal was valid and that Mattei had blown the whistle late, when the ball was already in the net. None of it mattered now, the decisions had been made, the games were over, and the Scudetto was once again going to Juventus. Liam Brady was the hero, and those at the club were full of praise for the Irishman’s performance. Roberto Bettega who had missed the end of the season through injury and followed the last day’s drama from his home in Turin, spoke of how Brady had once again shown to be both a player and a man of great character.

Boniperti and Brady hugged after the game, the player knew that the decision of his departure had been made by Agnelli, and with tears in his eyes, Brady used the Italian phrase ‘la classe non e’ acqua’ meaning that class isn’t water, as in not easy to find. With a forced smile, he spoke again of his bitter disappointment at having to leave Juventus, “I suddenly feel old and tired, and I ask myself, what did I do wrong? What more could I have done? I won everything there was to win and I can’t have any complaints.”

Brady had also managed to take the match ball from the referee to keep as a souvenir. When the plane finally touched down late that night in Turin for the party to begin, he was still holding the ball. While Juventus had returned to a party atmosphere, the Fiorentina squad arrived back in Florence at around 11pm that night. There were a few thousand fans there to welcome them back, still heroes in their eyes. De Sisti was brought to tears by the show of affection from the Fiorentina faithful.

While some of his teammates would now be preparing for the World Cup in Spain, and the others would be heading to Toronto on tour with Juventus in June, Brady was off on a South American trip with the Irish team. Poorly organised, and with very few regular players, that tour turned into a disaster. Ireland lost all three games and suffered a humiliating 7-0 defeat to Brazil.

The only goal of the tour was scored by Brady, in a defeat to Trinidad & Tobago. Italy would also soon face Brazil, at the World Cup, but for Brady’s teammates, Zoff, Gentile, Scirea, Cabrini, Tardelli, and Rossi, things would go much better. Anognoni and Graziani were also involved in that 3-2 win, and Italy went on to lift the World Cup, while Brady had by now figured out his future.

The Italian press spoke of the possibility of Torino signing the Irishman, while Roma had also expressed interest. It was then reported that the most likely destination was England, with a return to his former club Arsenal. Brady, however, had made up his mind to continue the Italian adventure, and it was newly promoted Sampdoria who managed to sign the player in early June.

Brady had friends in Genoa and would eventually settle down with a new house in Nervi. He was convinced by the project of Paolo Mantovani and was even happier when Trevor Francis was signed from England, along with a young Roberto Mancini, and Francesco Casagrande, who moved from Fiorentina having lost out on the Scudetto to Brady’s Juventus. Casagrande and Brady became firm friends at Sampdoria.

Brady’s first league game with Sampdoria, came against Juventus, and he got some revenge on his former club as Samp began Serie A life with a home win. While Sampdoria finished a creditable seventh place in their first season back in the top flight, Platini and Boniek were unable to repeat Brady’s success at Juventus, as they finished runners-up to Roma.

Fiorentina, meanwhile, ended up fifth, with no drama of the title race. Pietro Vierchowod, a member of that Fiorentina side who battled with Brady’s Juventus, did win the Scudetto that following season with Roma. He had actually been signed by Sampdoria in 1981 while they were still in Serie B, loaned to Fiorentina for that 1981/82 season, and instead of returning to Samp when they won promotion, he went on another loan spell to Roma, and won the league, with four points to spare over Juventus.

Vierchowod did play with Brady at Sampdoria the following season and remained there long enough to win another Serie A title in 1991. By 1991, Liam Brady had already retired, having also played with Inter and Ascoli in Italy. As for the other Fiorentina players who missed out on that Scudetto, goalkeeper Giovanni Galli later won the league title with Milan, Marco Baroni, from Florence, was just 18 years old in the 81/82 season and made only one appearance for Fiorentina, and went on to win the Scudetto with Napoli, Luigi Sacchetti won the title with Verona, while Daniele Massaro amassed four Serie A titles with Milan.

Some members of the squad had already won league titles before joining Fiorentina, Antonello Cuccureddu won six with Juventus, Ciccio Graziani won one with Torino, and Eraldo Pecci had a Scudetto from his time at Bologna. Unfortunately, none of them would ever win a league title with Fiorentina, and the rivalry with Juventus has only grown stronger over the last forty years. From Brady to Baggio, Bernardeschi and Vlahović, Avellino, Agnelli, Cagliari and Catanzaro, Calciopoli, Chiesa, Nedved, Pogba and Tévez, every Fiorentina fan has their own memories and reasons to keep that rivalry alive.

While some may look back as far as 1928, and that humiliating 11-0 defeat at the hands of Juventus, 1982 is really when it all exploded. The Florence publication, Il Brivido Sportivo, came out with the headline ‘Meglio Secondi che Ladri’ after that day in May, and ‘Better Second than Thieves’ has remained a slogan for Fiorentina fans ever since.

Liam Brady is of course, an innocent man in all of this. He stepped up to take a penalty, which had been rightly awarded, and did his job. For Fiorentina fans, it was the referees who were to blame, along with the powerful Agnelli family and the Juventus club. As a fellow Irishman, I wanted to take a look at Brady’s part in the story, one of the greatest ever Irish footballers, and a player who is still remembered and respected by Italian football fans.

It’s almost time for another season to end, and what better way to finish up than with a clash between Fiorentina and Juventus. There may be no Scudetto to battle for, but we do have a European qualification place to play for, and of course, a game with Juventus will never be just another game. A lot of that is down to what happened 40 years ago, and although not to blame, Liam Brady played a major role in that story.