Juventus v Inter Milan: Poisonous rivals and the Derby d’Italia

Alessandro del Piero and Ronaldo in the Derby D'Italia's 90s heyday
Alessandro del Piero and Ronaldo in the Derby d’Italia’s 90s heyday
Juventus v Inter Milan
Date: Friday 7 November Time: 19:30 GMT
Coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Fifteen seconds of action on 26 April 1998 defined the conspiracy and rancour that accompanied the Derby d’Italia over much of the next 20 years.

With 69 minutes gone at the Stadio delle Alpi that day, Serie A leaders Juventus were 1-0 up against Inter Milan, just a point behind, in a potential title decider.

Inter, who had toiled without much sight of goal, suddenly had a sniff.

A burst into the box from Ivan Zamorano, a brief muddle of confusion by the black-and-white clad defenders and the ball breaks into the path of Inter’s spearhead Ronaldo. The Brazilian nudges the ball into space, but, before he can let fly, he is floored by a shoulder charge from defender Mark Iuliano.

All eyes spin to referee Piero Ceccarini, but he waves play on. With a trail of Inter midfielders pursuing the official and their gesticulating manager Luigi Simoni being ushered off the field of play, Juventus break upfield.

Edgar Davids sweeps the ball to Zinedine Zidane. Zidane tickles the ball into the path of an onrushing Alessandro del Piero. Inter defender Taribo West chases back furiously. Del Piero hits the floor.

This time referee Ceccarini blows for a spot-kick.

The protests were long and loud on the day. And they haven’t really stopped since.

Inter Milan fans celebrate Juventus' various European Cup final defeats before a meeting last season
Inter Milan fans celebrate Juventus’ various European Cup final defeats before a meeting last season

When the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal broke in 2006, many Inter fans felt that their suspicions over Juventus’ treatment by officials had been proved right.

Juventus were relegated to Serie B and stripped of their last two league titles as punishment for their overly cosy relationship with the referees’ chief. When Inter Milan were awarded one of Juventus’ crowns, the spite between the two sharpened further.

“In the last 20 years, it has become one the bitterest, most poisonous rivalries that you can imagine,” Italian football expert James Horncastle told BBC Radio 5 live’s Football Daily European Show.

“It was given the name Derby d’Italia in the 1960s by legendary sportswriter Gianni Brera because, at the time, these were the two teams who had won the Scudetto the most times.

“With the passing of time the name caught on more generally.”

Gonzalo Higuain
Gonzalo Higuain celebrates a last-minute winner over Inter Milan last season, when Juventus won a seventh straight title

The rivalry suffered an imbalance in the last few years. Juventus have won seven successive titles, while Inter have made the top four only twice.

However, since Chinese retail giant Suning bought a controlling stake in Inter in 2016, they have formed an unlikely alliance aimed at restoring Serie A to the mid-90s glory days when it was home to the world’s superstars.

“While that rivalry exists in the stands and when the whistle goes, these two clubs are very allied off the pitch,” said Horncastle.

“They see themselves as the future of Serie A and making the league more relevant again.

“Both have young ambitious leaders. Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, 43, has been very much responsible for their rise over the last decade.

“Meanwhile, Steven Zhang was appointed (as Inter president) in October at the age of just 26.

“It is no coincidence that former Juve chief Beppe Marotta, who is seen as the architect of some of their great transfers over the last year and helped bring about their new training ground and offices, is about to take that same position with Inter.

“He is seen as someone who can put them back where they feel they belong.”

Where they feel they belong is right alongside Juventus, at the centre of the footballing universe in a star-studded end-of-season title showdown.

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