Serie A pacesetters AC Milan and SSC Napoli meet on Monday in a fixture which casts the mind back to a time when the Partenopei and the Rossoneri dominated Italian football.
In the eight seasons spanning from 1986/87 to 1993/94, Milan (four) and Napoli (two) won six Scudetti between them, with results between the two often proving decisive in determining the outcome of the championship. It was during that period that Arrigo Sacchi's Milan lifted successive European Champion Clubs' Cups and a Napoli team including Diego Maradona won the UEFA Cup.
The duel between the Dutch trio of Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten against Maradona, Bruno Giordano and Careca was one of a number of intriguing plotlines. Though now a thing of the past, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Pato and Robinho for Milan, and Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marek Hamšík and Edinson Cavani for Napoli, have all drawn comparisons with their predecessors.
Ahead of Monday's summit meeting − leaders Milan are currently three points clear of Walter Mazzari's men – UEFA.com reminisces about those pivotal fixtures of yesteryear.
Napoli 2-1 Milan, 26 April 1987
On the back of a 3-0 defeat by Hellas-Verona FC, with only four games remaining, Napoli bounced back in front of 90,000 spectators. Andrea Carnevale opened the scoring with a header before Maradona made it two with a beautiful goal, the diminutive Argentinian controlling with his knee, dribbling past the Milan goalkeeper and finishing without the ball ever touching the ground. Two weeks later, Napoli celebrated their first Scudetto.
Napoli 2-3 Milan, 1 May 1988
Milan appointed Sacchi the following summer and were still in contention for the title when they visited the reigning champions with three games remaining. Pietro Paolo Virdis gave the Rossoneri the lead but Maradona equalised with a trademark free-kick just before the interval. Napoli had a one-point advantage atop the standings and were likely to settle for a draw.
Sacchi, though, brought on Van Basten at half-time, and his side dominated thereafter. Virdis and the Netherlands striker were both on the mark, rendering Careca's late strike mere consolation. "I will never forget that 1 May," Sacchi said. "We were convinced the Napoli spectators were not very good in accepting defeats but that day they gave us a standing ovation when we left the pitch." Two draws steered Milan to the title, but 1 May is the day Sacchi's Milan were born.
Napoli 4-1 Milan, 27 November 1988
With Giovanni Trapattoni's FC Internazionale Milano dominant, Napoli and Milan had to settle for second and third place respectively. The Partenopei nevertheless took revenge for the previous campaign, their comprehensive home win started by Maradona's remarkable 30-metre header. Careca (2) and Giovanni Francini inflicted further misery on Milan, who nevertheless won the European Cup that season. Napoli triumphed in the UEFA Cup.
Milan 3-0 Napoli, 11 February 1990
A header apiece from Daniele Massaro, Paolo Maldini and Van Basten gave Milan victory at San Siro after a wonderful collective performance which prompted Maradona to define Sacchi's side as "a team from a different planet". Yet Napoli had the last laugh, collecting their second Scudetto at the end of the season.
Napoli 1-5 Milan, 8 November 1992
"Maradona destroyed all my theories about football," Sacchi said. "We could dominate playing great football as a team, but then he needed just one touch to completely change the game." And life without Maradona proved immediately difficult for Napoli, who finished 11th in the 1992/93 season. Fabio Capello's Milan were crowned champions. Their meeting in Naples was a memorable one for Van Basten, who found the net four times. Despite playing only 15 games due to injuries, the Swan of Utrecht finished the season with 13 goals.
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