After taking a step back by reappointing Fabio Capello as coach the year before, AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi decided to put his faith in an exciting, up-and-coming tactician by the name of Alberto Zaccheroni for the 1998-99 season. The gamble reaped immediate dividends.
Zaccheroni brought Oliver Bierhoff with him from Udinese and the Germany striker again proved the perfect spearhead for the Italian’s daring 3-4-4 formation, netting 20 times as the Rossoneri pipped Lazio to the title by concluding their campaign with seven successive wins.
However, the centre-forward was ably supported by the classy Brazilian attacker Leonardo, who contributed 10 goals himself, the ageing but still effective George Weah and the intelligent Zvonimir Boban.
Thomas Helveg, another arrival from Udinese, offered width along with Andres Guglieminpietro, while Demetrio Albertini and Massimo Ambrosini protected an excellent back three comprising Luigi Sala, Alessandro Costacurta and Paolo Maldini.
Aside from Milan’s makeover, Lazio also bolstered their ranks with a number of exciting and expensive additions, pairing Chile’s striking sensation Marcelo Salas with the powerful Italy forward Christian Vieri to devastating effect.
Elsewhere, Roberto Baggio was rewarded for his brilliant season at Bologna with a return to San Siro, this time to join Ronaldo at Inter, while Juventus brought in an exciting young winger called Thierry Henry midway through the season. Unfortunately, they didn’t know what to do with the Frenchman, who struggled along with everyone else during a trying campaign for the Old Lady.
Indeed, Marcello Lippi was replaced as coach by Carlo Ancelotti in February 2009 but the former Parma boss was unable to prevent the reigning champions from finishing a disappointing seventh in the standings.
Despite being beaten by Lazio in the Supercoppa Italiana, Juve made a decent start to their Scudetto defence but the entire course of their campaign changed the moment Alessandro Del Piero suffered a season-ending injury in November against Udinese. The Bianconeri lost four of their next five games, drawing the other, and never recovered.
Inter’s fortunes were also adversely affected by their star forward’s fitness problems. Ronaldo was restricted to just 19 Serie A appearances and although he scored 14 times, the Nerazzurri endured a miserable campaign in which they went through four coaches - Gigi Simoni, Mircea Lucescu, Luciano Castellini and Roy Hodgson - in failing to even qualify for Europe.
With Inter and Juve struggling, the stage was set for a surprise Scudetto winner in Fiorentina. Both the Viola and Gabriel Batistuta looked unstoppable, with the Argentine attacker netting 17 times in 17 games. However, the Tuscans’ title challenge collapsed when ‘Batigol’ got injured and they only just managed to limp home in third place.
It was Lazio, and their star strikers, who looked most likely to benefit from Fiorentina’s capitulation. Indeed, by the time they faced Milan in April 1999, Salas and Vieri had helped Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side into a seven-point lead at the summit of the standings.
A draw with Milan on matchday 27 appeared to all-but-seal the Scudetto for Lazio but they sensationally lost their next two games, against Roma and Juventus, before allowing the Rossoneri to take top spot with just one round remaining by drawing with Fiorentina.
The Biancocelesti managed to beat Parma on the final day but Milan’s 2-1 win at Perugia ensured a deserved title triumph for Zaccheroni and Bierhoff.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
Bierhoff may have fired Milan to the title but it was Christian Vieri who was named Serie A Player of the Year, after netting 12 goals in the league, as well as the opener in Lazio’s Cup Winners’ Cup win over Mallorca.
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
The innovative AC Milan coach was a most deserving winner for the way in which had successfully implemented his bold 3-4-3 system at San Siro.
MARCIO AMOROSO - 22 GOALS
Filling the void left by Bierhoff at Udinese was a tall order but Marcio Amoroso made it look easy, netting 22 times to pip the unfortunate Fiorentina forward Batistuta to the Capocannoniere award by a solitary goal.
GOAL OF THE SEASON
Sinisa Mihajlovic scored one fantastic free-kick after another - he even hit three in one game, against Sampdoria - but the most beautiful goal of the season belong to another Lazio player in Roberto Mancini, who produced the most outrageous back-heeled volley from a corner against Parma.
MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER
Atletico Madrid to LAZIO
KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON
A 1-1 draw with Fiorentina cost Lazio the title. After Vieri had cancelled out Batistuta’s opener at the Artemio Franchi, the visitors thought they should have had a penalty when Salas appeared to be pulled down in the area by Roberto Mirri. The officials were having none of it, though, and only enraged Lazio further by awarding the Viola a spot-kick moments later. Luca Marchegiani saved Rui Costa’s penalty but Lazio were unable to force the winner that would have kept their destiny in their own hands.