Thirty seasons ago, Hellas Verona won their first and to date only scudetto and most of Italy celebrated. After all, this was not just a victory for a shrewd manager who had molded a group of talented individuals into an excellent cohesive unit, nor was it simply the standard feel-good reaction to the triumph of an underdog. When Verona lifted the Serie A title in May 1985, this was a victory for transparency, egalitarianism and hope of a cleaner future for the Italian game.
Under the tutelage of Osvaldo Bagnoli, Verona had assembled an impressive team in his first three seasons, adding to the squad each summer without ever losing sight of the importance of the collective. Ahead of the scudetto winning campaign, Hans-Peter Briegel, a tough-tackling German midfielder, arrived from Kaiserslautern, and striker Preben Elkjaer was signed from Lokeren.
When Verona hosted Napoli for the opening game of the new season, the attention was firmly on the visitors. Diego Maradona had just arrived in Naples for a world record £5m fee, and there was a feeling that the Partenopei would challenge the Juventus of Platini, the Roma of Falcao and the Inter of Rummenigge for the title. Verona, though, ensured Maradona would not enjoy a winning start to life in Italy with a 3-1 victory, Briegel man-marking the Argentine out of the game and opening the scoring himself with a towering header from a corner. Hellas would only lose 2 games all season. Typically Bagnoli played it all down: "Football is a simple game. I trained players that deserved the scudetto without being Machiavellian, without any secrets, without inventing any new tactics."
The Gialloblu’s admirable triumph was fully deserved yet remains perhaps the biggest shock in the history of Italian football.