It takes a special player to bring about a positional change for the great Roberto Baggio – but that’s exactly what happened at Juventus with the arrival of the German Andreas Möller in the summer of 1992.
“I cannot put aside Möller’s talent,” Giovanni Trapattoni, the giant of Italian football coaching said of his new signing. “I will therefore ask Roby (Baggio) to play as a second forward.” High praise, indeed. So, who is Andreas Möller and just how good was he?
Juventus signed the 24-year-old attacking midfielder from his hometown club Eintracht Frankfurt. Möller had impressed during five seasons in the German Bundesliga and had earned a World Cup winners’ medal with West Germany at Italia 90. The Bianconeri hadn’t won Serie A since 1986, and Trapattoni – a year into his second stint as manager of the Turin side - was charged with building a team capable of challenging a dominant AC Milan, who, under Arrigo Sacchi and then Fabio Capello, were regarded as one of the - if not the - best sides in the world at the time.
Among Juventus’ other summer signings in 1992 were Gianluca Vialli, for a then world record fee of £12.5 million from Sampdoria and Englishman David Platt from Bari, who spent the majority of his single campaign with the Bianconeri on the side lines through injury. Of the big-name trio, it was Möller who hit the ground running from the off, and he quickly established himself as a key player in Trapattoni’s starting XI. The German’s brace in a 4-1 victory over Atalanta, on the second day of Serie A, quickly endeared him to the Juventus faithful. This was followed, two weeks later, with a long range strike in a 1-1 draw with Roma. Möller’s excellent start continued with another crucial goal in a 3-2 victory away to Napoli in week five.
Juventus fan Rocco Staro, who manages Toronto’s Juve supporters’ club, recalls ‘an eccentric attacking midfielder.’ “I say so because he had iron lungs, and a cannon in place of his right boot.” These qualities were on show for all to see in perhaps Möller’s finest hour in the Bianconeri jersey, when the German put in a swashbuckling display in a 3-1 victory against league leaders and eventual champions AC Milan at the San Siro in April 1993.
After going behind early to a deft Marco Simone finish, Möller restored parity in the thirteenth minute with a signature right-foot bullet from the corner of the box. As he angled his run to create space for a pass from Baggio, Möller’s movement tied the normally imperious Milan skipper Franco Baresi in a knot and he could only stare from the ground as the German’s effort slammed past Sebastiano Rossi. Seven minutes later, the visiting supporters were in dreamland when Möller - having timed his run from midfield perfectly - met Moreno Torricelli’s cross from the right wing with a scissor-kick volley. Again, Rossi and his defence were helpless as the ball nestled in the corner of the net. The German also played a crucial role in the Bianconeri’s all-important third goal. Having cleverly dispossessed Gianluigi Lentini (who broke Vialli’s transfer record when he signed for Milan from Torino only a matter of days later) he fed Roberto Baggio, who turned his marker on the halfway line before completing a superb run and finish.
Despite this result – and the fine displays from Möller and Baggio – at the home of the champions, Juventus finished the season in a disappointing fourth place behind Milan, Inter and Parma. The Bianconeri did, however, achieve success on the continent and Möller was on top form as they destroyed Borussia Dortmund 6-1 over two legs to win the 1993 UEFA Cup. With his crisp and incisive passing, Möller was a constant thorn in the flesh of his compatriots over the 180 minutes. He set up three of Juve’s six goals and added the final goal of the second leg, albeit in bizarre circumstances, when a clearance deflected off his shin and into the net.
In his first season in Turin, Möller scored a very respectable 10 times and was Juve’s second top goal scorer behind Roberto Baggio, who found the net 21 times. The German netted a further nine goals in his second campaign, and, although improving on their fourth-place finish from the previous season, the Bianconeri could still not catch AC Milan, finishing three points adrift of the champions in the runners up spot. Again, the German began the campaign emphatically, netting seven goals in the opening ten fixtures.
With the club’s wait for a Scudetto extending another year, Juventus replaced Trapattoni with Marcello Lippi – a move that also saw the end of Möller’s short stay in Turin; the German went on to re-sign for Borussia Dortmund, where he had spent two seasons in between spells at Frankfurt, prior to his move to the Peninsula.
Although Lippi enjoyed immediate success in Turin – the Bianconeri won three of the next four Scudetti and beat Ajax to win the Champions League in 1996 – Möller came back to haunt his old teammates; the German was instrumental in the 1997 Champions League Final as his Dortmund side defeated Juventus 3-1 in Munich.
Playing alongside Roberto Baggio at a time when the world’s finest talents were strutting their stuff in Serie A means Möller’s name rarely crops up when it comes to remembering the greats. However, Adam Digby, author of Juventus: A History in Black & White, says the German is ‘fondly remembered’ by most Juve fans. Because of the relative lack of success at the club during the early 1990s – and the Scudetti/CL triumph that would follow – Moller is one of those players often overlooked when recalling the stars to have worn the black and white stripes, but his class was undeniable” he said. “He was a highly skilful player who could score with either foot.”
Though he may not be recalled as one of Juventus’ greatest players of all time, there’s no doubt that, on his day, Möller had the finesse, class and engine of one of his country’s finest sports cars, and the German certainly provided more than a few champagne moments during his two years in the black and white of the Turin giants.
Martin's passion for Italian football kicked off with the 'Notti Magiche' of Italia '90 - from Toto Schillachi to Ciao, the mascot. He thinks the San Siro stadium is the finest building in the world!'