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Juventus, Italy’s most popular club

Manchester: When Juventus, who face AC Milan in Wednesday’s Champions League final, won their 27th Italian title earlier this month there were celebrations across the length and breadth of Italy — in small villages in the south of the country as well as in the Piemont heartland of the club.

Juve are Italy’s most popular club and as a result also the most disliked by supporters of other teams across the peninsula, but while the crowds may flock to see Juve perform in friendly matches in Sicily or Sardinia, the club’s roots are firmly in Turin.

The club was formed on November 1, 1897 as a sports club of the Massimo d’Azeglio Grammar School and adopted the name Juventus, or ‘Youth’ Football Club two years later.

Although Juve’s first Italian title came as early as 1905, city rivals Torino were the dominant side in the city until the 1930s when, with the financial backing of the car manufacturing Agnelli family, Juventus were able to attract top class players tempted by the combination of good wages, a high signing-on fee and a Fiat car.

With Argentine-born Raimundo Orsi and Luisito Monti and Italians Luigi Bertolini and Giovanni Ferri, all World Cup winners with Italy in 1934, Juve won five straight titles from 1931.

The next golden era came with three titles between 1958 and 1961 as Juventus set the trend for foreign imports with Danish forwards John Hansen and Karl Praest, Welshman John Charles and the hugely talented but hot-headed Argentine Omar Sivori, European Footballer of the Year in 1961.

Juve struggled to compete with their big-spending rivals from Milan for much of the 1960s and in Europe they lost two Uefa Cup finals but four more titles followed in the 1970s with the likes of striker Roberto Bettega and goalkeeper Dino Zoff helping the side to the 1977 Uefa Cup win over Athletic Bilbao, the club’s first European honour.

That year, current Italy coach, Giovanni Trapattoni took charge of the club and launched a run of six titles in ten years with a team that was the core of Italy’s 1982 World Cup winning side with the likes of Marco Tardelli, Claudio Gentile and later Paolo Rossi. Again Juve turned to foreign stars to boost their chances in Europe with Ireland’s Liam Brady and Poland’s Zbigniew Boniek and most noted of all Frenchman Michel Platini.

Platini was top scorer in Italy, from midfield, for three successive seasons between 1984 and 1987 and he led Juve to their European Cup triumph — after defeat to Hamburg in 1983 they beat Liverpool in Brussels in 1985.

There were no celebrations however, as 95 fans, most of them Juventus supporters, were killed at the Heysel stadium as terracing collapsed after a charge by Liverpool fans.

After Platini’s departure Juve faded but with Bettega upstairs as a director and Marcello Lippi on the bench they reached three European Cup finals in the 1990s beating Ajax in 1996 and losing to Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid in the following seasons.

In his two spells, with the likes of Alessandro del Piero and Ciro Ferrara with him throughout, Lippi has returned the club to the helm. (Reuters)

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