Sixth place, Serie A
By Daniel Rubens
Juventus is unquestionably the biggest football team in Italy, but there was a period of time when they were second-best in their own city. Torino F.C. was founded almost a decade after its cross town neighbors, but that didn’t stop the club from rising to the top of the Italian football pyramid.
However, when tragedy struck, Il Toro (The Bull) went into a tailspin that it’s never fully emerged from. There have been flashes of success over the past 65 years, but Torino has failed to completely rise back to the heights they once experienced regularly. Now,
Originally founded in 1906, almost a decade after Juventus, from a merger between Juventus dissidents and members of the Football Club Torinese, what was initially called Foot-Ball Club Torino defeated Juventus in the first derby between the two en route to finishing second in the Italian championship to Milan in its first season. After some success in the first decade, Torino was preparing to play Genoa for the 1915 championship with the clubs sitting at the top of the table when World War I broke out, cancelling the end of the season.
When football returned after the war, Torino rose up the ranks again, eventually winning their first Scudetto in 1926-27. That was revoked due to match-fixing allegations against Torino’s team doctor, who actually played for Juventus, but Il Toro bounced back to win the title again the following season. They would slip back down the table over the next decade, but by the time World War II started, Torino was on the verge of something special.
With new president Ferruccio Novo providing financial backing, Torino reached the summit of Italian football in 1942-43, winning both the league title and the Coppa Italia, becoming the first team to achieve the double. That was the start of a run of success that was unprecedented at the time. Outside of the 1944 season’s cancellation, Torino won five consecutive titles, with a settled squad known as Il Grande Torino running rampant. At one point, the Italian national team contained 10 members of the
It seemed as though Torino would be a force in Italy for years to come, but everything changed on May 4, 1949. After playing Benfica in a friendly in Lisbon, the Torino team and management staff flew back to Italy through Barcelona. As the team’s plane approached Turin on a cloudy afternoon, it was flying too low. The plane slammed into the back of the Basilica of Superga, which, due to the fog in the air, was invisible to the pilot until it was too late. The crash killed all 31 people on board, including 18 first-team players and five coaches. With four games left in the season, the league’s leading team and the most dominant side in Italian football had been all but wiped out.
Torino was awarded the title two days after the crash, with the reserve team finishing out the season, but the club was unsurprisingly unable to rebound from the devastating tragedy. By 1959, Torino was relegated to the Serie B for the first time, and while that trip was a short one, another brutal moment was waiting in the next decade. After Torino had returned to the top portion of the table, in 1967, the club’s young star, Gigi Meroni, was killed when he was hit by a car (coincidentally driven by a man who would later become the club’s president).
It was another awful blow for the club, but this time, it didn’t result in an immediate drop. Instead, the club won the Coppa Italia that season and remained near the top of the league table, finishing in second in 1971-72 and sticking in the top group until returning to the winner’s circle in 1975-76 following a stirring comeback that saw them pass Juventus. They would finish second again each of the next two seasons, but Il Toro wasn’t able to maintain those results and was eventually relegated after a poor showing in 1989-90.
However, the club would regain its spot in the Serie A quickly, and the early 1990s were filled with achievements for Torino. They advanced all the way to the final of the 1991-92 UEFA Cup, the first continental competition in the club’s history, before falling on away goals to Ajax, hitting the woodwork three times in the second-leg of the final. The following year, Torino won the Coppa Italia for the fifth time in their history, but it was a fleeting success, as the club began to experience financial difficulties that led to relegation in both 1995 and 2000, with worse to follow. They were again promoted to Serie A, but would get relegated once more, and after finishing third in Serie B in 2004-05, the club was denied a spot in the top flight due to outstanding debts that had accumulated over the previous seasons. An appeal was denied, and the club folded in August 2005 when it announced bankruptcy.
Torino was quickly refounded by publisher Urbano Cairo, and they immediately succeeded in Serie B, finishing in third and winning a playoff to earn a spot in the top tier for the 2006-07 season. However, that success was again short-lived, as in 2008-09, the club was relegated once more. Il Toro remained in the Serie B for three seasons.
Once they returned to the top tier, Torino were finally able to cement themselves in it. Torino barely survived its first season, but quickly rose up the table to seventh, earning a Europa League berth behind the power of strikers Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci. Both players left before the European campaign began, but the club had a reasonable season anyway, making the Round of 16 and finishing ninth in the league.
After another mid-table finish last season, manager Giampiero Ventura left to take charge of the Italian national team and was replaced by Sinisa Mihajlovic. The club made a big splash in the summer, bringing in a handful of big names, including Adem Ljajic on a permanent deal and Leandro Castan and Iago Falque on loans, with all three coming from Roma. Then, on deadline day, Mihajlovic made one more big move, adding out-of-favor Manchester City keeper Joe Hart on a season-long loan deal.
The earliest returns weren’t great, as Il Toro lost two and drew one of their first three games, with Hart making a critical error in his first appearance. But,