The Derby della Madonnina splits many a household in Milan. At casa Baresi in 1979 the bragging rights lay with Franco. The 19 year-old had yet to taste defeat against his older brother Giuseppe. Twice they had faced each other at the senior level. Both matches came during the Serie A season ‘78/79: Milan won the first 2:0, earned a point in the second (2:2), and went on to claim the Scudetto; sitting a cool eight points ahead of their city rivals in the final table.
Franco had just broken into the first team. Appearing in all 30 matches he began to make a name for himself. With one caveat. Franco was “The Other Baresi”. The Other Other Baresi played for the Nerazzurri. Giuseppe had sufficiently impressed the Inter coaches during a trial in 1974. Franco had not. Milan needed some convincing too, but Franco found a new home at Milanello.
And what a time to join the Rossoneri, at least when it comes to the derby. From November 1974 all the way through to October 1979 Milan did not lose any match against Inter. Thirteen times they met in league or cup during that run. A more one-sided derby form was only enjoyed by Inter who went sixteen meetings without defeat just prior to World War II.
Heading into matchday 7 of the Serie A season ‘79/80 Inter sit atop the table, one point ahead of Milan in second place. Both sides from the Lombard capital are still unbeaten.
Tough conditions at San Siro
And as the match is about to start one sees nothing. Fans had set off flares like it was going out of fashion in the ‘80s; engulfing San Siro in a cloud of smoke. On TV one can just about make out the lettering on the back of the players which stand out in contrast to the undefined red and blue shapes around them. Rules state, at least nowadays, that visibility has to be ensured from one end of the pitch to the other. If referee Gino Menicucci tried it is highly unlikely he will have, standing on the goal line, been able to make out the goal on the opposite end. Then again one imagines referees possess excellent eyesight.
Milan get the match underway regardless and another hindrance to the proceedings becomes clear. So heavy must have been the downpour before the match that the ball hardly rolls more than a few yards. The players need to find their footing and visibly adapt at different rates. Nazzareno Canuti flies down the right wing within minutes seemingly unaffected. His cross towards the far post is aimed at Evaristo Beccalossi who slips and falls trying to control the ball.
As the smoke begins to lift the extent of the damage on the pitch becomes clear. Large puddles are strewn across the pitch; in other parts grass has given way to mud. Some vindication then for Beccalossi, perhaps Canuti’s side of the pitch was just in better condition. The struggle, however, is real. Walter Novellino tries to show the others how it’s done, juggles the ball in the air as he crosses midfield, and sends a pass astray as the ball won’t roll properly. Franco Baresi favours a calmer approach as he ventures forth from the back line moving uncontested through the midfield. He remains upright, does not look down to judge the conditions, takes very small touches, and trusts the ball to still be at his feet.
Milan adapt quicker, Inter score
Milan adapt quicker as a whole, their play in the centre not structured around passes. Rather one player will carry the ball then leave it for the next while drawing away the opposition. The wingers will switch sides, Inter’s full backs will switch accordingly too (see graphic). After some ten minutes the first chance of the match falls to Milan, Fulvio Collovati forces Ivano Bordon into a tremendous save with a header from close range.
Shortly after, from a one on one, Franco Baresi concedes a corner to Alessandro Altobelli. Giancarlo Pasinato puts in a cross at waist height towards the near post. Ruben Buriani moves to clear it indecisively allowing Beccalossi to get the first touch. Becca guides it volley into the far side of the goal; cue the flares (14’).
Inter’s defensive setup, Milan’s response
Inter are now in their element. With a very structured approach they condense the space in front of goal. Bini is equipped with all the freedom while on the ball, but holds the line when defending. The back four are supported by up to three central midfielders as well as forwards Altobelli and Carlo Muraro who drop back regularly, something they hadn’t done at 0:0. It’s already about containment for Inter.
Milan on the other hand are really hindered by the pitch conditions and lack of space. Passes over the top of the defence can not work because there is nowhere to go. Passes into the feet of the attackers will, at best, leave them staring at a wall of blue and black. More often Roberto Antonelli & Co. will stumble into a puddle, or the ball will not reach them at all. The only bit of danger comes from long range. Francesco Romano forces Bordon into a fine save, earning a corner (25’).
Franco Baresi’s offensive involvement blows hot and cold after the goal. When he is involved, mostly through the left half channel, Milan look better for it. The Rossoneri push very high up, moving everybody into the Nerazzurri half, while Inter retreat. Altobelli, though, always looms as a threat on the counter. Spillo is booked at the close of the first half. Judging by Menicucci animatedly counting with his fingers the referee bemoans the amount of fouls committed by the Inter forward.
The pitch has by half-time more or less absorbed the water but weather and 45 minutes of derby action have reduced it to a sorry state. It looks to be spongy were there used to be puddles. Big chunks have been kicked up everywhere rendering it a far cry from a smooth playing surface. The match itself then should not be watched with any hopes for fine football but for individual battles, take ons, and tackles. Those are all the more engrossing.
Inter are in command as the second half begins, retaining possession while also looking for a gap in the first line. Giuseppe Baresi often pushes high up on the right wing leading Milan to look to exploit the space behind him. Aldo Maldera, now over the left, combines well with Franco in this regard. On the right wing Burani is now much more involved.
It is Inter, though, who actually look more likely to score. Enrico Albertosi denies Gabriele Oriali from 15 yards out who had been played into a good position by Giuseppe (51’). Minutes later Altobelli moves uncontested through the midfield. He finds Carlo Muraro at the edge of the box unmarked. Muraro turns and shoots right away missing by inches (56’).
Graziano Bini vs Franco Baresi
In current day football lingo the term quarter-back is sometimes borrowed from the American version to describe a deep lying playmaker, sitting in front of the defence or dropping in between the center backs. This match shows a precursor pitting two highly influential players on opposite sides. Only here they are actually part of the back line and still direct play. Graziano Bini might be slightly more present through all phases of the match but Franco Baresi plays with a tenacity, stature and poise belying his age. His decision making, at least on the day, is not always up to par. Franco plays few too many errant passes which are not down to the pitch conditions, and goes for some overzealous take ons high up the pitch.
Pasinato fares better in that regard. With less than a quarter of an hour to go he tanks through the Milan defence on the right wing, and shifts play via Muraro over to the far post. Oriali gets a shot off from 12 yards which whizzes across the face of goal going inches wide.
Alberto Minoia had come on for Aldo Bet a while before and now creates Milan’s best chance of the second half. Minoia uses first Novellini then Chiodi for give and goes to pull himself through the Nerazzurri defence and into the box. Bordon is out just in time to take it off Minoia’s foot (82’).
Inter’s substitute shines as well. Domenico Caso had replaced Altobelli and six minutes from full time finds Muraro at the edge of the box with a great diagonal pass. Albertosi is out quickly to stifle his shot attempt, though, Muraro picks up the rebound. Two Milan defenders are on him, another three or four in the box, yet crucially nobody picks up Beccalossi in the middle. Muraro squares the ball, leaving Becca with an easy tap in for the 2:0 (84’).
After some miscommunication in the Milan back line Muraro goes close again but is ultimately denied by Albertosi (87’). Nevertheless it is Inter’s first win in the derby since 1974. The Nerazzurri would enjoy quite the run winning five of the next six meetings with Milan, drawing the other.
The Derby della Madonnina, however, became a little less frequent over the next few years. Milan were after all relegated at the end of the ‘79/80 season. Not for sporting reasons, mind. While Inter claimed the Scudetto on 41 points, Milan came in third on 36 points. Until the rulings for the Totonero scandal came in.
As Totocalcio was the name for the state-run and only legal betting operation in Italy at that time; Totonero is a catch all term for illegal, hence black betting. In 1980 Totonero became synonymous with a betting scandal orchestrated and ultimately uncovered by Alvaro Trinca and Massimo Cruciani. In John Foot’s highly recommended book “Calcio” the episode reads like the script to a Guy Ritchie film: two small time grifters try to profit off fixing football matches, are unsatisfied with their share and decide to blow the whole thing up.
Foot: “Not only did Cruciani and Trinca not have enough resources to fix games properly, but they were also defrauding a group of ruthless men – the illegal bookmakers. […] Moreover, they did nothing to cover their tracks, talking openly about their plans to a whole series of people and writing innumerable cheques in their own names. The whole enterprise was bound to end in disaster, and they would not go down alone.”
That they did. By the time the dust had settled five teams in Serie A had been deducted points, or, as in the case with Milan and Lazio, were relegated. A host of players were banned from playing. Avellino’s Stefano Pellegrini was hit hardest, serving six years on the sidelines. For Milan Albertosi, Morini, and Chiodi served bans; and most notably Perugia’s Paolo Rossi was handed a three year sentence. Mercifully Rossi’s punishment was later reduced to two years, allowing the international to come back in time for the 1982 World Cup.
Referee Gino Menicucci, by the way, was cleared of all charges brought against him. He was, though, suspended a few years later by the Italian referee association for unauthorized comments made in a newspaper interview. Menicucci had bemoaned the Italian FA’s lack of transparency.
- Man Of The Match: Bordon, laudable effort from the entire defence, but Bordon made a handful of difficult saves as pivotal/crucial moments
- Best hair: Fulvio Collovati
- Viewing recommendation: Borderline, recommended at least for the changing conditions in the first half
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