Words: Livio Caferoglu
On paper, Enzo Maresca’s Juventus career was nothing to write home about. Playing just 58 times between 2000 and 2004, he spent just as much of his spell away from Turin. Yet it took just one of those 58 appearances for the midfielder to cement his place in Old Lady folklore with a dramatic equaliser and a legendary goal celebration against Torino back in February 2002.
Recent Turin derbies have hardly been contests, but that wasn’t the case in 2001-02. First there was Riccardo Maspero’s cheeky penalty-spot divot during a 3-3 draw, when the Granata came back from 3-0 down. Then it was Juve’s turn to take revenge, in a derby that somehow surpassed its predecessor for controversial incidents and unforgettable scenes.
The Bianconeri took the lead just nine minutes in through David Trezeguet’s header, but Marco Ferrante equalised after a defensive mix-up between Lilian Thuram and Gianluca Pessotto. The striker duly celebrated by mimicking a bull, holding two fingers to his forehead, before squaring to former Inter man Benoit Cauet for what seemed to be the winner.
Marcello Lippi made the bold decision of substituting Edgar Davids for Maresca, who was only 21 at the time, and the ex-West Bromwich Albion star repaid his coach with a towering header in the 89th minute. If that wasn’t enough of a coming-of-age for the youngster, he made sure everyone knew about it by running around the pitch and imitating Ferrante’s bull celebration.
Although the celebration itself wasn’t anything special, its impact was more spectacular than any Luis Nani cartwheel. The bull is the symbol of Torino, whose nickname is ‘Toro’ – or ‘bull’ in English. Unsurprisingly, the hosts felt incensed by what they perceived to be Maresca mocking their club, and so they forced him to retreat into the tunnel after the final whistle.
Maresca later claimed there was no bad intent on his part, arguing he did the horns because ‘I did not know how to do the zebra’, in reference to Juve’s black-and-white stripes. Ferrante then cranked things up a notch, accusing his rival of spitting at teammate Gianluca Comotto. However, Torino President Franco Cimminelli went where no-one else dared, suggesting the Old Lady had paid the referee.
“It was unbelievable what Maresca did, but Mr Paparesta let Juventus do what they wanted all day,” he fumed. “It was like 12 versus 11. He whistled for every decision against us, as though he was paid by Juve. [Referee] Paparesta didn’t see a clear penalty and he didn’t show a red card to Zambrotta when he made a terrible tackle on Vergassola, yet he gave yellow cards against us for nothing.”
Maresca almost burned his bridges with Juve 11 years later, when he came close to signing for Toro, until club officials had to shelve the transfer, somehow not realising they were about to set off their entire fan base before a ball had been kicked in 13-14. It soon emerged that his arrival had been requested by coach Giampiero Ventura, clearly not one for popularity even back then.
“A sack of lies has been said about Maresca,” explained Ventura. “Maresca came looking for Torino and, seeing as he has played in the Champions League, he was good enough for Toro. I was asked if he would have been useful for my project and I said yes so long as his past was not a problem. However, his past was an issue and the possibility of his signing ended within 48 hours.”
Maresca went on to enjoy success in Spain with Sevilla and Malaga, before returning to the peninsula in 2012 and hanging up his boots five years later. For Juve supporters, he will always be remembered for grabbing the Toro by the horns.