August 1996 saw AC Milan and Fiorentina compete for the Italian Super Cup at the San Siro. With Fabio Capello in charge, Milan had finished the previous campaign eight points clear of the chasing pack to seal the league title, while Fiorentina had lifted the Coppa Italia for the fifth time in their history.
The Viola were coached by current Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri, and had emerged with a 2-0 victory over Atalanta in the Coppa final, with legendary striker Gabriel Batistuta in irrepressible form. He bagged a total of eight goals in that competition alone, helping to end a two-decade long trophy drought for the Tuscan side.
Confidence was high against a Milan side that had subsequently lost Capello to Real Madrid, meaning that the meeting with Fiorentina would see Uruguayan Coach Óscar Tabárez – having spent the previous year with Cagliari – make his managerial debut in charge of the Rossoneri.
In front of almost 30,000 supporters, the Viola took a stunning early lead. A looping through ball from Stefan Schwarz saw a sublime piece of control from Batistuta take the ball over Franco Baresi and Paulo Maldini. His deft piece of skill made the legendary defensive pair look ordinary as, regaining the ball, the Argentinian finished emphatically and sent the travelling Viola support into delirium.
The scores were levelled just ten minutes later when Dejan Savicevic’s shot from just outside the box rolled under Francesco Toldo and into the back of the net. But a foul by Marcel Desailly on Batistuta just before half time gave Ranieri’s men a centrally placed free kick 25 yards out. It was Batigol himself who took the free kick and he restored Fiorentina’s lead in true style, beating goalkeeper Sebastiano Rossi with the perfect combination of power and placement.
In comparison with the barren twenty years previously endured by the Viola, Milan had enjoyed a period of unrivalled success, winning six Scudetti, the Coppa Italia, three European cups, three UEFA Super Cups and four previous editions of the Supercoppa Italiana. It came as little surprise then that after beating Milan, there was great excitement in Florence, with fans beginning to enthusiastically discuss the prospect of winning their own elusive league title.
Despite 17 goals from Batistuta, their optimism proved to be unfounded as Ranieri was sacked at the end of the season following a ninth placed finish. The Viola wouldn’t win another trophy until their Coppa Italia triumph in 2000-01 and it remains their last major silverware to date.
It would also prove to be a disappointing campaign for Milan, the reigning champions ultimately finishing two places behind Fiorentina and exiting the European Cup at the group stage. Tabárez’s spell in charge would prove short lived as a result of the Diavolo’s poor start, the former Boca Juniors Coach was sacked on December 1st as the Rossoneri recalled Arrigo Sacchi to the bench.
The end of the season also saw the retirement of their illustrious skipper, Baresi, who called time on a 20-year career spent exclusively with the Rossoneri. The club would retire the number 6 shirt in honour of the great defender, simultaneously handing the captain’s armband to Paolo Maldini, ushering in another golden era in Milan’s history.
Milan: Sebastiano Rossi, Michael Reiziger, Alessandro Costacurta, Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Marcel Desailly, Demetrio Albertini, Zvonimir Boban, Dejan Savicevic, George Weah, Marco Simone
Fiorentina: Francesco Toldo, Daniele Carnasciali, Aldo Firicano, Lorenzo Amoruso, Giulo Falcone, Stefan Schwarz, Giovanni Piacentini, Sandro Cois, Manuel Rui Costa, Luis Oliveira, Gabriel Batistuta
Goals: Batistuta 12’ (Fiorentina), Savcevic 22’ (Milan), Batistuta 38’ (Fiorentina)