Following their sixth straight Serie A title, it’s difficult to imagine the Italian top flight playing out any differently this upcoming season. Former Italian international and Inter Milan legend Christian Vieri admitted he thought as much when speaking with Corriere dello Sport on Monday.
“Which Serie A will it be next season? I’m afraid it’ll be unchanged. Juve will win it again and the others will chase them,” said Vieri. “Of course, we’re only in early July and there’s still time for clubs to make good signings and try to close the gap on the Bianconeri. We’ll see, but like I said, I’m afraid there’ll be no great emotions in the title race.”
It’s equally as difficult to remember a time when Serie A wasn’t a one-horse race, but it really wasn’t all that long ago when the division was both the most talented and compelling in Europe.
In Vieri’s pomp (which lasted roughly 10 years between 1995, when he was with Atalanta, and 2005, with Inter), Italy saw five different clubs claim the Scudetto: Milan, Juventus, Lazio, Roma and Inter.
This period was dominated, at the attacking end, by the likes of Francesco Totti, Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero, Gabriel Batistuta, Filippo Inzaghi and Vieri.
After spending a season each with Juventus, Atletico Madrid and Lazio, Vieri landed at Inter in 1999 and was there for over six years — his longest spell at any one club.
Christian Vieri goal for Atletico Madrid vs. PAOK in 1997
RT 90sfootball: Christian Vieri vs PAOK, 1997. #Greatest90sGoals pic.twitter.com/KqV9CmHs9n— Dhiqrullah (@taiwoolagoke) July 7, 2017
Scoring 103 goals in 144 Serie A matches for Inter, Vieri was one of the most prolific Italian strikers in the division, but his club never finished higher than second during his spell there.
Christian Vieri goal for Inter Milan vs. Parma
Christian Vieri vs Parma, 1999.#Greatest90sGoalspic.twitter.com/TDI1ofvuQP— 90s Football (@90sfootball) July 10, 2017
Christian Vieri goal for Inter Milan
Christian Vieri was sum player!
pic.twitter.com/iI9eYYXPtG— Baller St. (@BaIIerSt_) June 20, 2017
But Vieri remained committed to the club at a time when Juventus weren’t simply prizing away all the division’s top talent. Even with Vieri performing admirably for Italy at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, Inter retained his services.
Christian Vieri goal for Italy vs. Ecuador at the 2002 World Cup
A glance at the 2001-02 Serie A table, when Inter finished third, shows you how competitive the division was: Juventus were champions despite drawing 11 matches and losing three from 34. Roma finished only one point behind them, and Inter finished two points back. Inter lost the title on the final day of the season with a 4-2 away defeat to Lazio.
The 1999-00 Inter season remains one of the biggest what-ifs in lineup building history. With Roberto Baggio and Ronaldo on the books at the club (and with Ronaldo at the peak of his powers), the club paid nearly $50 million to get Vieri from Lazio.
But Baggio was injured and struggled for form before being ignored by Marcelo Lippi, and on November 21, 1999, Ronaldo suffered his first major knee injury in a match against Lecce.
The renowned trio hardly saw the pitch together before Ronaldo was sold to Real Madrid and Baggio was allowed to leave for Brescia.