Last week’s post lamented the dwindling power of Serie A and the sickening trend of Italian clubs being outgunned in the transfer market by their French rivals (‘filled to the brim with bitterness’ as one happy reader described it). This led to some further eulogising on Twitter about the competitiveness of Serie A in its heyday between the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Looking back at results and standings during this period, I was struck by the top scorers in the 1991/92 season, and the hilarious quality of the names featured in it:
25 goals: Marco van Basten (Milan)
18 goals: Roberto Baggio (Juventus)
16 goals Francesco Baiano (Foggia)
15 goals Careca (Napoli)
Gabriel Batistuta (Fiorentina)
Karl-Heinz Riedle (Lazio)
Rubén Sosa (Lazio)
12 goals: Gianfranco Zola (Napoli)
David Platt England (Bari)
Giuseppe Signori (Foggia)
Tomáš Skuhravý (Genoa)
Gianluca Vialli (Sampdoria)
This was a time when getting into double figures was an achievement, which makes van Basten’s haul all the more insane. But, what really caught my attention was the presence of two Foggia players featured on the list, Francesco Baiano and Guiseppe Signori.
Signori (Left: 46 goals in 100 league appearances for Foggia) was one of early favourites when I started watching Serie A regularly a few seasons later – mainly because of this brilliantly effective two step penalty technique, which I tried to imitate with limited success in the park. I actually remember Baiano (below right: 38 goals from 69 league appearances) more for his seasons at Derby County in the late 90’s. They formed Foggia’s attacking trident alongside Roberto Rambaudi (31 league goals in 107 apps) – who I don’t remember at all, and have therefore largely ignored in this piece. Mi dispiace Roberto.
I’m genuinely gutted that I was too young to appreciate this Foggia team at the time, because it sounds like they were a lot of fun. With Zdeněk Zeman in charge they rose from the third tier to Serie A in three years, always playing attacking football – Zemanlandia was created in Foggia.
A glance at the stats suggests they were capable of scoring and conceding against anyone: Goals For, 58; Goals Against, 58. That’s Zeman for you. However, it’s worth noting that eight of the total goals conceded occurred in one game at home to champions Milan during an 8-2 hiding. When was the last time you saw a score like that in Serie A?
Other results that leap out was a 2-2 draw at home to the Inter of Matthäus, Brehme and Jurgen Klinsmann; Foggia came from behind to salvage a point despite being 2-0 down and reduced to 10 men. A 3-3 draw at home to Batistuta’s Fiorentina was probably worth the entrance, too.
But, I’ve found highlights of another game that epitomises that greatness of the league at this time, and the importance of their striking pair. It’s another 3-3 draw, this time away at the Napoli, and Foggia again come from behind, with Baiano setting up Signori for the equaliser.
There’s probably never been a higher concentration of the world’s best players in one league as there was in Serie A at this time. Milan had their ridiculously talented Dutch trio; Roma had players like Völler, Aldair and Giannini; and, although Maradona had departed, Napoli still had Careca, a young Zola and Laurent Blanc. Nice.
For a small Southern club like Foggia to survive in that environment they needed quality, and they needed goals. They had all that in Baiano and Signori (and the other chap). It was never going to last forever – their success was their downfall as Zeman, Signori, Baiano and others departed. But, at least they went for it, and what a ride it must have been. Grande Foggia.
Added bonus – a Signori penalty compilation: