Juventus fear Baggio

Italian football
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The Independent Online
For many Juventus fans, Roberto Baggio already did the unthinkable by signing for Milan. They now fear the unbearable - Baggio leading Milan to the Serie A title - may follow.

After helping the Turin giants prise the title from the grasp of their Milanese arch rivals last season, the World Cup attacker stunned the faithful by changing sides. The two clubs seized the opportunity at the same time to announce a joint marketing venture, but on the field the old rivalry is sure to remain as strong as ever.

Speaking like a born-again Milan fan, Baggio, the former Juventus captain had no doubts his new club can do it. "Having seen what (George) Weah can do, and considering our organisation on the field, I have no doubts: we are the best team in Italy. I feel at home," he said.

Milan, the European Cup winners three times between 1989 and 1994 and runners-up in 1993 and 1995, were the big spenders of the close season in a determined effort to clamber back to the top after a rare year without honours.

The Liberian striker Weah, twice the African player of the year, joined from Paris St Germain and has looked an exciting prospect in friendly matches.

Milan can also count on the Montenegrin Dejan Savicevic, the French midfielder Marcel Desailly, the Croatian Zvonomir Boban and Portugal's Paulo Futre in their costly squad.

"We must win, we must, absolutely. Milan has one key objective - to get back in the European Cup," Savicevic said.

Italy's august Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper declared Weah and Parma's Bulgarian Hristo Stoichkov the two most impressive foreigners. England's Paul Ince at Internazionale was third.

Juventus, who have won the title a record 23 times, have decided to keep faith with last season's heroes and have been absent from the overseas market. Their only foreign signing is 19-year-old Argentinian defender Juan Pablo Sorin.

They are looking mostly towards the charisma of the former Italian international striker Gianluca Vialli, reuniting him with two of the Sampdoria players with whom he won the European Cup-Winners' Cup and the league title in 1990 and 1991.

The shaven-headed striker, cast aside by national coach Arrigo Sacchi, has plenty of motivation to try to crown his career by lifting the European Cup and muscling his way back into the Italy team for next year's European Championship finals.

Alessandro Del Piero, 20, is likely to take over the No 10 shirt he wore during Baggio's long injury-enforced absence last season.

Stoichkov's move from Barcelona to Parma brings the stormy striker to a small town club with a big bank balance and an even bigger yearning for a first league title. The aggressive trio of Stoichkov, Colombian Faustino Asprilla and Italy's Gianfranco Zola should see Parma, who won the Uefa Cup last season, make their strongest challenge yet.

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