If asked to list the most successful Italian club sides, you’d not get many variations from Juventus, AC Milan, and Inter Milan. Rightly so, as the 3 clubs top the list of domestic and European successes by Serie A clubs.

Bearing in mind the other clubs to have won Serie A titles are Genoa, Torino, Lazio, Roma, and Napoli amongst others, who do you think is the 4th most successful Italian club based on European trophy wins is? With 4 victories in Europe, Parma sits below only Juventus, AC Milan, and Inter.

Not bad for a club that has come from nowhere, gone back to nowhere, and come back to life more than once. Parma is in fact a Phoenix from the Flames story and worth taking a closer look.

Juventus, the most successful Italian team, won their first Serie A title in 1905. Parma didn’t even exist then. By the time Juventus had won their 22nd Parma had yet to even play in the top flight.   

Parma, based in Northern Italy was formed in 1913 and spent its early years floating between Serie B, C, and D. In 1968 the club went into liquidation. This wouldn’t be the first time the club faced this type of situation. With a change of name and licenses, the club was reborn and continued its tour of Serie B, C, and D.

It was not until the 1980s that Parma began a consistent period of success, notably through the guidance of two future Italian national team managers.

First at the helm was Cesare Maldini, ex-AC Milan legend and of course father to Paolo, who took the club back to Serie B. Then by Arrigo Saachi, who also took the club back to Serie B, following further yoyo seasons. In the 1986 season, the club was just 3 points off promotion to Serie A. They did however manage to defeat the mighty AC Milan in the Coppa Italia that seemingly convinced AC Milan to hire Sacchi to take over the reigns at the San Siro club. Unless you were hiding under a rock between 1987 and 1991, you’ll be aware he and the club did pretty well.

Back to Parma, and the hiring of Nevio Scala as their manager in 1989 changed the fortunes of the club forever. Scala took Parma to a historic promotion in 1990 to the dizzy heights of Serie A to finally join the big boys of Italian football. 

Scala and Parma quickly made up for lost time! Aided by financial investment from Italian food and dairy giants Parmalat, Parma won their first ever major honour, winning the Coppa Italia beating Juventus in the two-legged final in 1992. Not a bad accomplishment bearing in mind the imbalance between the two teams. For example, the strike force for Juve was Roberto Baggio & Toto Schillaci, whereas Parma started with the relatively unknown Tomas Brolin and Alessandro Melli.

Back in the ’90s, a domestic cup win took you into Europe via the Cup Winners’ Cup competition. Parma took this route and with a largely unchanged squad were victorious by defeating Royal Antwerp in the final held at Wembley in 1993. This was followed up quickly with a European Super Cup victory against AC Milan. The team then appeared in their second consecutive Cup Winner’s Cup final, losing to an Alan Smith strike for Arsenal. Notable additions to the starting line were a certain Gianfranco Zola and Faustino Asprilla. The latter had been on the bench a year earlier in London.

Scala and Parma achieved one final success together, remarkably winning the UEFA Cup in 1995, defeating Juventus again in a final. The 2 teams were becoming quite the rivals. 

This rivalry is reported to be behind a kit colour change from Parma. The club’s original home colours were white shirts, but in order to differentiate from Juventus, their home shirt colours were changed to yellow and blue between the seasons 1998 and 2004. 

Scala’s time at the club as manager came to an end in 1996, and he was replaced by Carlo Ancelotti, who took the club to their highest ever finish, 2nd in Serie A, missing out on the title by just 2 points. Ancelotti departed to rivals Juventus, replaced by Alberto Malesani, who immediately won the Coppa Italia and another UEFA Cup, beating Marseille in the 1999 final. 

The 1999 team was full of superstars including homegrown youth keeper Gianluigi Buffon, defenders Lilian Thuram and Fabio Cannavaro, midfielders Dino Baggio and Juan Sebastian Veron, and attackers Hernan Crespo and Enrico Chiesa, both of whom scored in the UEFA Cup final win. On the bench, ensuring the ‘class of 93’ wasn't forgotten was none other than Faustino Asprilla.

The superstars in the team began to be plucked by sides with bigger budgets, with Crespo leaving for a world record transfer fee in 2000, joining Lazio, and Buffon moving to Juventus for a world record fee for a goalkeeper in 2001.

By the time Parma won the 2001/02 Coppa Italia (beating Juventus again in a final) the lineup was ever so different. This was to be their last major honour.

There was one consistency, however. Antonio BenarrivoParma’s full-back had played in the Coppa Italia final against Juventus in 1992 and played in the Coppa Italia final victory ten years later. Parma has won eight major trophies, and Benarrivo has won every single one of them with the club. He sits second on the all-time appearance list, and you could argue he was the club’s good luck charm.

So much so, when he retired in 2004, Parma suffered significantly. The financial collapse of Parmalat put Parma in dire straits. 

The club had to reform and ended up in administration for 3 years! Unsurprisingly the Hollywood story came to an end, and within four years the club was relegated back to Serie B, having spent 18 years in the top league. Fast forward to 2015, and although back in Serie A, the club was again facing financial ruin, resulting in bankruptcy and ultimately relegation again. Administration beckoned once more, as well as another reforming of the club.

In July 2015, S.S.D. Parma Calcio 1913 was formed and was placed in Serie D.

However, 3 successive promotions saw the club return to Serie A. They became the first Italian club to achieve this feat.

The club suffered relegation in the 2020/21 season and currently plays in Serie B, but without the fear of financial meltdown, they continue to function as Parma Calcio 1913.

Here are some of the Parma headline makers from their past;

Most appearances – Luigi Apolloni (1987-2000) 384 games (Benarrivo has 362)

Most league appearances – Alessandro Lucarelli (2008-2018) 333 games

Most European games – Antonio Benarrivo (1991-2004) 58 games

Top Goalscorer – William Bronzoni (1945-1953) 78 goals (Crepso is 2nd with 72)

Youngest player – Alessandro Melli aged 16 years and 130 days

Oldest player – Alessandro Lucarelli aged 40 years and 300 days

Record transfer fee paid – Hidetoshi Nataka from Roma (2001) €32 million

Record transfer fee received – Hernan Crespo to Lazio (2000) €55 million

Alessandro Lucarelli, a former Parma captain was the only player to remain at Parma following the club's demotion to Serie D in 2015. He earned three successive promotions in the rebirth of the club from Serie D in 2015–16, Serie C to Serie B in 2016–17 and to Serie A in 2017–18.

Alongside the terrific history of Parma, is of course the outstanding shirts they have worn along the way. From the late 80s and early 90s with Umbro, a short flirtation with both Puma and Lotto in the 90s followed by a superb relationship with the American sports brand, Champion into the 2000s. Other than the Welsh national team, Wigan Athletic, and Sochaux of the French league, I know not of another team with Champion as their sponsor. Their time with Parma was special and some ironic shirts were made. The Champions logo down a long sleeved shirt, now that is something else. The club continues now with Errea and has done since 2005, releasing some absolute beauties. 

Take a look at some of the selections on sale on the site, and let me know in the comments which are your favourite Parma shirts.

Blog by Stan Stanger, avid football fan and football shirt collector.  Follow me on Twitter @10Stan1981 and visit my website at


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