Last December, Michele Platini, who worked for FIFA from 1998 to 2002 and was UEFA president from 2007 to 2015, was banned from football for eight years after being found guilty of corruption and a series of other breaches. But, long before all of that, he was renowned simply as an outstanding footballer, a Number 10 whose 98 goals in 181 league matches for Nancy and 58 in 104 for Saint-Étienne evidenced how good he was at finding the net.
It was with this record under his belt that Platini joined Juventus in the summer of 1982. The deal took place barely three years after footballing borders had been opened in 1980, allowing Serie A clubs to spend millions to import foreign players for the first time in 15 years.
Some of those players were forgettable, though others have enjoyed cult status, delivering on the field and raising the standards of Italian football. Platini is among the distinguished imports who earned a spot in Serie A’s history, a Frenchman who played a pivotal part in Juventus’ successes in the first half of the 1980s.
“We bought him for the price of a loaf of bread but Michel was like caviar.” Gianni Agnelli
Platini quickly became president Agnelli’s favourite. The future three-time European footballer of the year suffered the difficulty of facing Italian backlines when he moved to Turin to replace Irishman Liam Brady in the summer of 1982.
On 1 May that year, La Gazzetta dello Sport published a column titled «Juve! Platini too», hinting that the Frenchman was signing alongside Polish forward Zbigniew Boniek. With each team authorised to have just two foreign players in their squad, these moves made Brady expendable. La Gazzetta also revealed Platini’s annual salary would be 400m lire, a substantial figure at the time.
Replacing Brady would not be an easy task. Despite the news of the imminent arrival of Le Roi Michel, the Irishman proved his professionalism by scoring the penalty that ensured the Bianconeri their 20th Scudetto during the last game of the season at Catanzaro.
Platini didn’t waste much time upon signing and, after a period of acclimatisation, he became one of the best players in Serie A’s star-spangled cast. One particular match that ensured the Frenchman fan favourite status came against the Bianconeri’s fiercest rivals.
The Derby della Mole is the game every Torino fan waits for. In recent times, Granata supporters have had to accept that the derby has been a battle for the supremacy of Turin. In the 1980s however, the Derby della Mole had another meaning as Juventus’ dominance was not so established and both teams competed at the top of the league.
The team the Bianconeri faced on 21 November 1982 were a good Torino side, with great players such as Dutch defender Michel van De Korput, 1982 World Cup winner Renato Zaccarelli, and the gifted Franco Selvaggi and Giuseppe Dossena.
Torino coach Eugenio Bersellini lined up his starting XI as follows: Terraneo, Van De Korput, Ferri, Zaccarelli, Danova, Galbiati, Torrisi, Dossena, Selvaggi, Hernandez, and Borghi. Meanwhile, Giovanni Trapattoni, coach of that formidable Juventus side, selected: Zoff, Gentile, Prandelli, Furino, Brio, Scirea, Bettega, Tardelli, Rossi, Platini, and Boniek.
For Platini, it was the first time he encountered the boisterous crowd of Turin, gathered on the bleachers of the Stadio Comunale for the Derby, the most important match of them all.
Juventus soon took control of the game and, after increasing pressure, their forward Roberto Bettega hit the post from inside the box. Then, with ten minutes remaining in the first half, Platini’s moment came. After a surprise short-corner routine, Gentile delivered a low cross for Tardelli, who having made a late surge into the box, met the ball deep inside Torino’s penalty area.
Granata goalkeeper Giuliano Terraneo made a fantastic save but the ball rebounded into the path of Torino’s defender Roberto Galbiati who, unfortunately for him, was unable to control it. Platini, who was floating around the six-yard box, was on hand to pounce. When the ball broke to the Juventus’ No.10, he crashed it past Terraneo, sparking jubilance among Juventus fans.
Juventus held on to their slender advantage and the game finished 1-0, opening the doors for the press to heap praise on Platini’s performance.
Platini ended his first Juventus season with 16 goals, earning him the crown of Serie A’s leading scorer. He would go on to score other goals in the Derby della Mole, but his goal on that sunny Sunday of November was unforgettable, both because it was his first derby goal and because it proved to be the winner.