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The beginning of the Sanson's age: waiting for the Udinese's revenge

On 8 June 1976, after the nth disappointment, Associazione Calcio Udinese resolved and a new Ltd company was established thanks to supporters' shares and to the capitals and shares of former deputy president, Lino Midolini, of Angelo da Dalt and the Venetian entrepreneur Teofilo Sanson, the club's president to be. Sanson wanted Livio Fongaro as the new coach, while Franco Dal Cin was the new General Director. 
 
The club moved really good during the transfer market and hiring the forward Claudio Pellegrini (joining from Barletta) proved great: he scored a record 18 goals. But still it was not enough and Udinese finished in second right behind Cremonese.

On the third game that season on 26 September 1976 during the match against Seregno, (1-0 for Udinese) the new Stadio Friuli was officially opened with its record20 thousand seats.
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La squadra festeggia con Massimo Giacomini
The following year was a turning point: Udinese eventually reached serie B. Bianconeri were even stronger thanks to the new striker Nerio Ulivieri, and thanks to their brilliant coach, Giacomini, back to Udine after a coaching experience in Treviso. These choices proved right and the team was just superior. Giacomini revolutioned the playing techniques according to the Dutch manner: exasperated off-side technique, hard pressing on the adversary and total football were the main ingredients. Udinese thus managed to gain Coppa Italia beating Reggina in the final match.

The masterpiece was complete in the 1978-79 season thanks to the Sanson, Dal Cin and Giacomini trio who led Udinese to fly high. The bianconeri only needed a slight touch up to be even stronger: Luigi del Neri was entrolled into the managing staff.

This was the lineup that year, a team who was able to inflame Friuli Stadium: Della Corna, Bonora, Fanesi, Leonarduzzi, Fellet, Riva, De Bernandi, Del Neri, Bilardi, Vriz, Ulivieri. Coach: Giacomini. 
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Illegal football pools saved Udinese

The 1979-80 season did not seem easy at all, newly-promoted Udinese was now led by a new coach, Corrado Orrico, former C2 trainer, since Giacomini surrendered to Milan's flattery. The beginning of the season was dignified, then Udinese's limits emerged: their will to remain in A was not enough. The second leg proved a disaster, at least for its 1st half. 
Orrico resigned after losing to Cagliari, but Sanson refused to accept his dismissal. The break between the coach and the club was near, though, it was only a matter of time: Orrico resigned again after losing 1-0 to Avellino and left the club for good. D'Alessi was the new coach, time was running out and Udinese finished the season in penultimatesecond to last place and was relegated to B again. In the spring of 1980 a scandal envolving some players and the club burst out: illegal football pools. Milan was the most troubled club and Sports Justice relegated them to B. Catanzaro was safe, Udinese fought for their rights and appealed to the Appeal Board against Lazio that, according to Sanson and Dal Cin, was envolved in the scandal, too. Udinese's appeal was granted: Lazio was relegated while Udinese remained in A.


The success of the early 1980s

The year after, Sanson enrolled Marino Perani but sacked him after only three games and called Enzo Ferrari (home match to Fiorentina, 0-0 draw). Then it was the turn of Gustavo Giagnoni on the bench, but the team played poorly, lost, and were relegated in low positions. After Udinese lost to Inter on 8 February 1981 in an away match, Giagnoni was sacked and substituted by Enzo Ferrari, again. The team was doomed and probably deserved serie B: yet Enzo Ferrari was a courageous man, full of common sense and motivated his men to do their best. Udinese had to face Napoli at home for the very last match day of the season: winning meant salvation. The match was just exciting, thrilling: Zanone failed a penalty at the beginning of he game thus strenghtening Napoli which scored thanks to former Udinese man Pellegrini. At 54' Vriz drew. It was not enoght, though. We needed another goal, a miracle: at '87' Gerolin dribbled four adversaries, included the Castellini phenomenon, and scored. The stadium seemed to explode with joy.
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Causio contro il Milan
Sanson resigned after that match leaving the team under the Town Major's guide. It was May 31st. In the meanwhile a substitute and a new board were needed. On 27 June a deal was finally found with Zanussi and its top manager, Lamberto Mazza, the new president of the Club.
 
The new board worked effectively: Causio joined from Juve, Muraro and Pancheri from Inter, Orlando Pereira from Vasco da Gama, Orazi joined from Catanzaro. Udinese walked a long and dignified way, and gained salvation. The following year thanks to some new arrivals (Pulici from Torino, Surjak from Croatia; Edinho from Brazil and Virdis joining from Juventus), Udinese finished in 6th. The bianconeri were now recognized as a strong reality in Italian football scene; Mazza and Dal Cin's desire was to turn them into a big team.

His majesty Zico joined Udinese

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Arthur Antunes Coimbra alias Zico
Ambition, ferment, money, the club did not seem to lack anything. On 1 June 1983 breaking news came from Brazil: Antunes Coimbra Zico, already a football legend, probably the best player of the time, was about to join Udinese. Federcalcio temporarly stopped the enrollment of Flamengo's ace since, according to them, Udinese could not cover all expenses for Zico.

Friulians could not believe nor stand the decision. In the meantime the club prepared a detailed defence and in the end the CONI board had to recognize Udinese got the right to hire the Brazilian ace. The same thing had happened to Roma when FIGC prevented the team from acquiring Cerezo for financial resons.Zico playing for Udinese meant a crowded Stadio Friuli, meant many more season tickets: an authentic record with 26611 new season tickets.The team made a good start reaching high positions right from the beginning; Zico scored and fascinated. Unfortunately on 8 March 1984 "Galinho", his nickname, got injured during a friendly match to Brescia. The Brazilian star was k.o. for five matches and when he came back he was no longer the same player: the team went down from 3rd to 6th place. 

However, the team kept having faith and wanted at least to aim and compete in UEFA. Unfortunately at the very last leg Udinese lost to Milan 2-1 at home. From that moment on a slow but inexorable decline started for bianconeri. The following year Udinese only gained salvation at the very end of the season also because Zico, injured again, could only play few games. The Brazilian champion also had to face justice problems, he was tried and sentences, in May 1984 to 8 months seclusion and was fined 630 million liras. That same evening, only o few hours after the verdict, Zico ran away to Brazil and he would not come back until December 1988 when, thanks to a lodge in appeal at Trieste Court, he was completely aquitted. Udinese's hardships went on: Dal Cin left the team because of his incompatibility with Mazza, and in 1985-86 season the team only managed tro finish in 13th place, with 25 points.

 




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The harsh beginning of Gianpaolo Pozzo

In July 1986 Gianpaolo Pozzo replaced Lamberto Mazza in a very difficult moment for Friulian football: Udinese was envolved in a scandal concerning illegal football pools. On 28 July 1986 the bianconeri were relegated to B. The appeal Court made the verdict void but inflicted Udinese 9 points penalty.

As a matter of fact it meant relegation to B at the end of the season. Pozzo did not surrender and wanted above all to ensure the complete regularity of the championship. He spent a large amount of money to set up the best possible line-up. He could have spared that money but he invested it to hire Graziani, Collovati and the Argentinian talent Bertoni: three authentic world champions. His aim was clear: Serie A was the only possible objective in his mind. At the end of the season Udinese funished in last with 15 points. Without the 9 points penalty they could have won salvation.

Gianpaolo Pozzo relied on Massimo Giacomini. He wanted the team to go back to A as soon as possible. Unfortunately the beginning was poor. Giacomini was sacked after the home draw to Bari on 11 October 1987. Marino Lombardo replaced Giacomini for a short time waiting for Bora Milutinovic to join the Club. The Serbian trainer was however sacked sorthly afterwards as well. Nedo Sonetti was the next to be hired. At first bianconeri seemed to have recovered but they surrendered again at the end of the season. In 1988-89 Sonetti was called back and the line-up underwent a makeover: De Vitis, Minaudo, Angelo Orlando, Lucci, Antonio Paganin, Garella, Zennoni, Catalano; Branca joined back Sampdoria after his loan expired. At the end of the season Undinese finished in 3rd: it was serie A again. .

Sonetti' s post was not confirmed and he was replaced by bruno Mazzia. Udinese hired Sensini and Balbo from Argentina to replace the Israelian talent Rosenthal whose back problems proved fatal for his carreer, and Gallego also joined from Real Madrid. Even so, coveted results did not arrive. At Christmas Pozzo decided to sack the coach and hired Rino Marchesi: things seemed to improve but soon the team started to lose again and again.Udinese got relegated to B again but what is worse was that after the World Cup the Udinese Case burst out. Sports Justice inflicted four pints penalty to Friulians because of a phone call made by Pozzo to Lazio's president Callieri on the eve of the match between them.Pozzo pleaded innocent but he was restrained to hold any position nor office within the Club. It was too much, well beyond the limit. Since then he would not accept the President's position again. Never again. In appeal, Udinese was inflicted an extra penalty point, that was 5 points. Even so, Udinese was serie B protagonist that year let apart some good occasions that the team wasted. After Marchesi and Fontana were sacked, Adriano Buffoni was the new coach. He managed to motivate his man and refine tactical strategies and the rest of the season was good. Unfortunately, Serie A was still far away because of the penalty.
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