In the 2005/06 Serie A season, Juventus raced their way to the title and wrapped up the league, having finished 15 points ahead of Inter Milan but instead of being awarded the Scudetto the Old Lady were relegated to Serie B after a match-fixing scandal dubbed Calciopoli came to light.
The scandal was uncovered in May 2006 and it implicated league champions Juventus and several other major teams including AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, and Reggina when a number of telephone interceptions by the Italian police showed a network of relations between team managers and referee organizations.
The teams implicated were accused of rigging games by selecting favourable referees. The whole sleaze came to light when transcripts were published in some Italian newspapers as early as the 2004/05 season of Juventus general managers Luciano Moggi and Antonio Giraudo having conversations with several officials of Italian football to influence referee appointments.
The Italian Football Federation’s prosecutor, Stefano Palazzi, argued for severe punishment for the guilty clubs. Palazzi had reserved the harshest punishment for the Old Lady calling them to “be excluded from the Serie A Championship and assigned to a lower category to Serie B with six points deducted”. He didn’t specify which division Juventus should have been thrown in, but urged it to be lower than the second division.
Ultimately, Juventus were handed the worst punishment in the fallout of the scandal and were relegated to Serie B with a nine-point deduction. They were also handed an equivalent of £50,000 fine and were stripped of the 2004/05 and the 2005/06 league titles. While the 2004/05 title Scudetto remains unassigned the 2005/06 title was surprisingly handed to Inter Milan.
AC Milan managed to evade demotion to Serie B but started the next Serie A campaign with an eight-point deficit. Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina also kept their top flight status but they all started the next season with substantial point deductions.
The nine-point deduction notwithstanding Juventus made a swift return to Serie A the following season having won the 2006/07 Serie B title. However, their relegation had seen several of their big names, including Fabio Cannavaro, Lilian Thuram, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic leave the club. While Cannavaro, who had led Italy to World Cup triumph in Germany in the summer of 2006, went to Real Madrid, Thuram went to Los Blancos’ hated rivals Barcelona. Ibrahimovic landed at Inter Milan.
The scandal also had a debilitating effect on the Italian top flight as many players left the league and moved to other clubs across Europe.
Calciopoli scandal was undoubtedly very damaging for the reputation of Juventus in particular and Italian football in general. However, the Old Lady appear to have become stronger having put the past behind them.
Some of the Juventus players like Gianluigi Buffon, Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved, who stayed at the club despite the relegation, have become legendary figures among fans. Buffon still remains the number 1 for the reigning Italian champions while Nedved is now the vice-president of the club.