History of epic battles with Juventus shows a formidable opponent

Mancini was a boyhood fan of the Old Lady - but he has stood up to the Turin club as both a player and coach
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The Independent Football

As Roberto Mancini walked into a storm of his captain's making last night, he made the remarkable assertion that his professional life in England was, in some respects, easier than Italy. "I have more power over things that I did in Italy, but I am happy that everything is working well and I am satisfied," he said.

It was an observation delivered with the nonchalance which the Premier League has come to expect of the 46-year-old. A browse through Mancini's history with tonight's opposition Juventus – a club which he supported avidly as a boy and would be managing now had he not opted for City rather than the offer of replacing the sacked Ciro Ferrara a year ago – reveals the kind of force which Carlos Tevez is up against if he and his representatives want to play the Italian for a fool.

The relationship with Juventus has certainly been a complex and often passionate one, which raged at its most extreme in the Turin team's darkest hour. The Bianconeri's involvement in the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal in 2006, bringing their relegation to Serie B, contributed to some deep bitterness towards Mancini, then managing Internazionale. As Didier Deschamps' Juve side set about climbing back from obscurity, Mancini's Inter reigned in Serie A, happy to have one of their prime competitors out of the way.

The Juventus chief executive, Jean-Claude Blanc, rained taunts on club and manager, insisting that their title was a travesty. When Juve's youth team beat Inter to take the Italian version of the Youth Cup, they celebrated as if they had won the Champions League.

Mancini was their target for a reason. When Juve's 2005 scudetto was taken away from them and assigned to Inter instead, he proclaimed this to be "the scudetto of the honest". The Juventus striker Alessandro del Piero was indignant: "Enough of this honest scudetto boasts, this comment offends us players who worked our asses off on the pitch to win it." Then the war of words got personal. "Blanc who? The former defender of Napoli?" Mancini said of the Juve chief executive at one stage. The inference was clear: Laurent Blanc was the only defender worth talking about.

The roots of Juventus antipathy actually go back further, to Mancini's time as a player in April 1998 at Lazio, whose owner Sergio Cragnotti was outraged about refereeing decision in a vital defeat to Juventus. Mancini had his say on that one, too. Luciano Moggi, then the Juve managing director, declared: "The boy Mancini should rather concentrate on his game on the pitch."

Mancini upped the stakes. "Given that Moggi is always ready to get on people's nerves, I have to conclude that this time too he's spoken wide of the mark," he said. "He'd better shut his face." Not bad from a mere 34-year-old player... and there was more. "Moggi is always ready to mess with everything, he feels like he owns everything, all the stadiums of Italy. But from now on I'm not letting him off. I'm going to answer his every remark, even if it becomes a never-ending story."

Mancini's words proved remarkable prescient, given that eight years later the Calciopoli investigations revealed that Moggi did indeed "own" much of Italian football. And yet, for all this history, Mancini could have been the Juventus manager sitting behind the desk amid the fading grandeur of Turin's Stadio Olimpico last night. Juventus believed they had a chance to lure him there last December, though by then his discussions with City were well under way and he was ready to take that plunge.

"There are not many big differences between Italy and England, but I feel good. After one year, it has been a positive experience," Mancini concluded last night – and there was certainly not the slightest hint in his demeanour that his captain's conduct has damaged him in the slightest. Perhaps his relationship with this great old club tells us at least that he has seen enough things and waged enough battles in football for the plaintive demands of Tevez or Kia Joorabchian to be nothing new. Mancini will deal with it tomorrow and, whatever the outcome, move on with equanimity.

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