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Marcello Lippi retires: ten unforgettable games in his career
The coach who won the 2006 World Cup said he's "too old to train". Let's revive the most important moments of his long and winning career
by Federico Formica
At his 66 years Marcello Lippi decided that 19 trophies were enough. On November 2014 he retired after having won the third Chinese League in a row at the helm of Guangzhou Evergrande. With 5 Scudettos won he is the second most winning Italian coach ever in Serie A together with Fabio Capello, only Giovanni Trapattoni managed to do better with 7 Italian titles. But neither Capello nor Trapattoni raised the most important trophy ever in football: the FIFA World Cup.

This is the main reason why Marcello Lippi has, and he always will have, a special aura around him. He's obviously one of the most beloved ever by Juventus' fans, as he basically won everything leading La Vecchia Signora. But he became a popular hero after the 2006 World Cup, and this is something that shouldn't be taken for granted: who leads Juventus is a public enemy in Italy, as half of all Italian football fans love the Bianconeri while the other half hate them, especially if they win.

We picked ten unforgettable moments in Lippi's career, both positive negative.

August 27th 1989. Cesena-Milan 0-3. Ok, not the best way to start with, but this game was his first ever in Serie A. It must be said that to face one of the best teams in the world in your debut is not exactly a stroke of luck. Sacchi's side finalized matters in ten minutes with Stroppa and Borgonovo, then scored the third goal at one minute before half time. Lippi was chosen by Cesena's president Edmeo Lugaresi to avoid the drop to Serie B. The club from Romagna was in their third season in a row in the top flight and Lippi met the expectations as Cesena placed at the 12th place dodging the relegation for one point. Mission accomplished. And his revenge on Arrigo Sacchi would come soon...

March 27th 1994. Napoli-Milan 1-0. Five years had past since that defeat in Cesena. Lippi was at his first (and only) season at Napoli, a team that he led to the UEFA Cup qualification with a stunning sixth place. It was a great achievement. Napoli was at the end of a golden age as the club was about to go bankrupt and some sacrifices were necessary. Maradona left Napoli three years before, Careca and Gianfranco Zola were sold in the summer and everybody expected a mid-table season. Mr Lippi performed a miracle and the win at San Paolo against Milan (goal by Paolo Di Canio) was an important step to the sixth place. That wasn't a game like the others: under Capello's guidance Milan dominated both in Serie A and in Champions League in that 1993-94 season and the squad was full of legendary players such as Baresi, Maldini, Tassotti, Desailly, Papin, Donadoni and Boban. At the center of Napoli's defense, a young players in his first Serie A season made a good impression that afternoon. His name was Fabio Cannavaro and he would achieve other results together with Marcello Lippi in the following years.

May 21st 1995. Juventus-Parma 4-0. Among many, that afternoon was maybe one of the most precious memories of Lippi's long spell in Juventini's mind. At his first try, Lippi won the Italian title with the Bianconeri, something they have been chasing for nine years. Juve dominated the 1994-95 season ending it with a 10-point lead over Lazio and Parma. The Tuscan coach applied an offensive strategy that year: a 4-3-3 which a simply outstanding attacking trio, Baggio-Vialli-Ravanelli. Everyone of them was on fire that day, as Ravanelli scored a double, Vialli another one and Baggio made two magic assists. That game was anything but easy on the paper as Parma was a great side in those years, the Crociati also clashed with Juventus in the Coppa Italia final (Juve won) and the UEFA Cup final, that was raised by Parma. Anyway, the legend of Marcello Lippi at Juventus had just started.

May 22nd 1996. Juventus-Ajax 1-1 (5-3 after penalty shoot-outs). In his first Champions League ever, Lippi decided to experience how it was to raise the Big Eared cup. And he did it by beating Louis Van Gaal's Ajax. The Dutch were the defending champions, as they beat Milan one year before, and the majority of the bookmakers preferred to aim at them. Ajax's tactical mark was a prolonged ball-possession, waiting for the passing lane where a forward would snuck in. But Lippi had one of the best intuitions of his career: he organized an intense pressing game in every zone of the pitch, even on Ajax's players that weren't in possession. The result was a sort of total man-marking that left space to Juventus' counter attacks. Lippi's side dominated the game and Fabrizio Ravanelli broke the deadlock in 13th minute; but Jari Litmanen levelled 30 minutes later. The game, that was played in Rome, was decided by the penalty shoot-outs, where Juventus were infallible. It was their first real Champions League after the European Cup won in 1985, which was bloodstained by the Heysel's tragedy.

April 6th 1997. Milan-Juventus 1-6. In the end, Lippi had his revenge on Arrigo Sacchi. Well, maybe it was a bit excessive, but Lippi's sides didn't take half-measures. The 1996-97 season was one of the worst ever for Milan, that placed 11th and got closer to the relegation zone than to the UEFA Cup qualification. Juventus won their second title in Lippi era. And that night, the Bianconeri didn't have any compassion for a suffering Diavolo. The game was virtually closed after half an hour already, but La Vecchia Signora kept slapping Milan until the end. Jugovic and Vieri scored a double, Zidane and Amoruso netted also. The consolation goal was scored by Marco Simone in the 77th minute.

May 23rd 2000. Inter-Parma 2-1. After five unforgettable years, Lippi decided to leave. And he did it in a very controversial way as he joined Inter, the biggest Juventus' rival. At that time Inter was a noble in decay: despite the huge investments made by Massimo Moratti, the Nerazzurri were still chasing a title they missed since 1989. Lippi, the Winner, was the last resort for Inter. In his debut season in Nerazzurro he reached the fourth place together with Parma, and that led to a decisive playoff for a Champions League place, as Serie A had four places in CL at that time. The game was decided by Lippi's worst enemy: Roberto Baggio. The Divin Codino had an awful relationship with the Tuscan coach, and he even wrote in his book that "Lippi always conducted a personal war against me, without any plausible motivation". Anyway, Baggio did his duty and scored a wonderful double that blew Parma away. Unfortunately for Inter fans - that loved Baggio - he was about to leave. That was one of the lowest points in Lippi's public image.

October 1st 2000. Reggina-Inter 2-1. The pressure on Lippi was huge, something he wasn't used to at Juventus. The fans never forgave his past at Juventus and too many years had past since the last Scudetto. The Champions League qualification they grabbed after so many difficulties faded away in August in the preliminary round as Helsinborgs kicked them away. The patience was over. Inter had just bought an impressive amount of flops in the summer transfer market (Fabio Macellari, Vratislav Greško, Francisco Farinos, Vampeta and Hakan Şükür are still legendary names among Serie A fans as objects of ridicule), but Lippi still couldn't have known it in that moment. His second season lasted 90 minutes only. Enough to be humiliated by Reggina in a embarassing game. "I feel ashamed of my team. If I were Moratti, I would sack the coach and I would kick the players in the ass" Lippi said after the game. Moratti's composure wouldn't allow him to kick the footballers, but he followed Lippi's instructions in a certain way: he axed him.

May 14th 2003, Juventus-Real Madrid 3-1. The future World Cup champion in 2006 faced the future World Cup champion in 2010: Vicente Del Bosque. At that time, Lippi was living his second spell at Juventus (2001-2004) after two second places obtained by Carlo Ancelotti. Once back in Turin Lippi started to do again what he always did there: winning. The Bianconeri clinched two Italian titles in 2001-2002 and 2002-2003. And, five years later, Lippi brought Juve to a Champions League final. The game was played in Manchester and was an Italian derby vs Milan. Although that was one of the most boring CL finals ever, Juventus reached Old Trafford after an epic semifinal against Real Madrid, also known as Los Galacticos, one of the greatest concentrations of talent ever seen in football. Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane (an ex Juventus player), Ronaldo and Raul. Los Blancos won the first leg 2-1, but Lippi's side was everything but an underdog as Buffon, Thuram, Zambrotta, Davids, Conte, Nedved, Trezeguet and Del Piero formed an incredibly strong side. The Bianconeri overturned the gap with an astonishing performance: 3-1 was the final result. Zidane was able to score only one minute before the final whistle. "I had my players watch videos of Lippi's team and would say: 'Don't look at the tactics or technique, we had that too; you need to learn to have that desire to win', Alex Ferguson would have said later.

World Cup 2006. In the summer of 2006 Marcello Lippi ceased to be only a "Juventus man" and started to be a national heritage. He led Italy to a totally-unexpected World Cup title in Germany. While la Nazionale was about to take off heading for Germany, Italian football was enduring its worst crisis ever. Calciopoli had just exploded: the scandal casted light on a corrupt system, whose leader was Juventus' general manager Luciano Moggi, with the purpose of influencing referees. Many critics asked Lippi to resign, as he was considered part of that system, having worked at Juventus for many years. Lippi refused to leave and started to build an extraordinary team. He gave confidence to Juventus' "block" and he was rewarded, as Buffon, Cannavaro, Zambrotta and Camoranesi were crucial. But he also built a great relationship with Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti, AS Roma players. Lippi changed his playing style, switching from his ordinary 4-3-1-2 to a more defensive 4-4-1-1. And it worked, as Italy only conceded one goal (as one was an own-goal): the penalty kick scored by Zidane in the final game. Italy was so solid and the play so thick, that the Azzurri managed to score with 10 different players in that tournament, a World Cup record.

October 15th 2008. Italia-Montenegro 2-1. When you look back at it, it seems to be a normal qualification game for the 2010 South African World Cup. But that night Marcello Lippi reached, as Vittorio Pozzo, his 30th game without a loss as Italy's coach. Vittorio Pozzo was the coach that led Italy to the World Cup wins in 1934 and 1938. One month later (Greece-Italy 1-1) Lippi jumped at the top of this special table with the 31st game in a row without losses. A legend.

Tuesday, December 2 nd, 2014
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