'I can't believe it' - Serie A success with Sampdoria was a dream for Mancini

In the third part of Goal.com's serialisation of Roberto Mancini - A Footballing Life, Luca Caioli looks at the Manchester City manager's part in Samp's historic title win
Toninho Cerezo blows kisses to the stands as he hobbles off the football pitch. There are 20 minutes of the match remaining, and Samp’s ‘old man’, with Vujadin Boskov’s blessing, departs the arena with his hands up in the air.

Damiano, the tambourine-playing figure well known to Samp fans, walks round the perimeter of the
field, his snow-white hair covered by a Blucerchiati cap, wearing an official jersey and various charms, spreading salt to guard against bad luck.

Samp are already winning, but you never know. After Mannini’s second goal, an Italian flag with the number 1 embroidered on it appears in the southern stand of the Marassi Stadium.

The chanting of ‘Champions, champions, champions’ begins only after the third goal, scored by Gianluca Vialli. No one has contravened the good luck spells – that’s good.

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After the final whistle has sounded, Roberto Mancini carries ‘the thing’ onto the pitch: a huge polystyrene shield, which goes around the stadium like a giant cake, passed from hand to hand.

It is a dream come true for a city, Genoa, for a club, Sampdoria, for a president, Paolo Mantovani, and for the Goal Twins, Roberto and Gianluca. It happens at 5.45pm on a Sunday in  May 1991, the penultimate match day in the Serie A season.

Earlier, ‘the thing’ landed on the Marassi Stadium after only three minutes of play, when Cerezo managed to head the opening goal from Vialli’s cut-back. The ensuing goals, from Mannini and Vialli, were simply a prologue to the celebrations that would go on for weeks.

The last championship in the region was won by Genoa in 1924. Now, 67 years on, the cradle of Italian football has again produced the champions of Italy.

It is the cradle because Genoa Cricket and Football Club was founded here back in 1893: a sports society for emigrated Englishmen, which opened its footballing arm to Italian players as well in 1897, thanks to James Richardson Spensley. This year, it is the turn of the Liguria region’s younger club to celebrate.

There is no questioning the title won by Samp: they really deserved it, beating the big guns of AC Milan, Juventus, Inter Milan and Napoli along the way. Only Genoa and Torino managed to steal three points (out of four) from them.

Nor can there be any doubt when the final league table is consulted: 51 points (20 matches won, 11 drawn and three lost; 57 goals scored, 24 conceded). AC Milan and Inter are five points behind, while Juventus and Napoli are 14 points behind.

What’s more, Gianluca Vialli is the division’s top goalscorer with 19 goals, ahead of Lothar Matthäus, the German playing for Inter. Roberto Mancini, with 12 goals, ranks tenth in the list of goalscorers.

"How much is this scudetto worth?" Mancini is asked amid the celebrations on the pitch. "It is worth an awful lot to all these people," he answers. "It is their first time - I just can’t believe it."

Extracted from Roberto Mancini - A Footballing Life: The Full Story by Luca Caioli (Corinthian Books, £16.99 HBK, £7.99 ebook). Available to buy at Amazon.co.uk.

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