Growing up in the Eighties, Serie A, and by extension the Italian national side, appeared to consist of two, and only two, very different personality types.

There were the hard-as-nails defenders, 24 going on 54, with moustaches you could scour a thousand pans with. Borderline sociopaths to a man, they excelled at the dark arts, their eyes lighting up at the sight of an unprotected calf. 

They were brutal, ruthless assassins and it was entirely possible to be appalled and enamoured by them in equal measure.

Contrasting wholly with these fearsome individuals, Italian creatives typically adhered to an altogether more pleasing stereotype.

Whether they were an attacking midfielder, all swishy and swooshy in possession, or a prolific front-man, always just a moment away from altering the Serie A odds, forward-thinking talent from the peninsula so often had names comprised of wonderful cadence.

Saying that name out loud was like recalling the title of a long forgotten opera or the final line of a renaissance ode. 

It is really difficult to say ‘Alessandro Altobelli’ without slipping into an accent that in this modern day and age would rightfully be considered inappropriate. It is, all the same, so lyrical, the syllables dancing to and fro.  

Moreover, wingers and the like had softer skin and kinder eyes to their defensive compatriots, with hair silky and stylish enough to warrant a shampoo ad or adorn a statue. 

In that era, lions and gazelles shared pitches in Turin, Milan and Rome and bar the odd pacy full-back, or metronomic midfielder, there was little in between.

You may have noticed incidentally that we are now 250 words in and thus far there has hardly been any mention of football at all, but that is sort of the point. 

Because in the nineteen-eighties, before the game went global, and before technology made that possible, our only awareness of Italian footballers came from their three World Cup finals appearances or when Juventus, Roma et al were paired with English opposition in the European Cup. 

The banning of all English clubs in UEFA competitions from 1985 to 1990 deprived us of even that. 

Naturally then, denied nuance and with only primary colours to paint with, we focused on their names, their looks, and identifying them as this kind of player or that. The rest was an exotic mystery, a world unexplored. 

That all changed in 1992, when Paul Gascoigne’s transfer to Lazio provided the perfect excuse for Channel 4 to acquire the broadcasting rights to Serie A games, the network plumping out its coverage by featuring a then-unknown presenter sitting in a café and perusing the newspapers before linking to a highlights reel. 

That show was Gazzetta Football Italia fronted by the acclaimed James Richardson, a cult classic of British television. Airing each Saturday morning it was irreverential yet informative. It flew by the seat of its pants but was never less than entertaining. It was utterly brilliant. 

Better yet, 24 hours later, we awoke hungover and tuned into Parma v Inter, or Sampdoria v Fiorentina, mesmerized by the players and the colours and the indecipherable chants. 

With Serie A at its absolute peak, we were treated to teams that were stellar and kits that bewitched, none more so – and we really could pick out at least twenty sides and at least twenty kits here – the iconic Parma collective that was expensively assembled late in the decade.

Reeling off the names; from Buffon in goal, to Cannavaro in defence, to Veron in midfield, to Crespo up front; all resplendent in yellow and blue hoops, tugs at the heart-strings. 

It makes us want to be young and idealistic and innocent again.

Around that time, Juventus and Milan may have dominated the football betting, alternating winning a scudetto throughout the Nineties, but it was the teams below them that remain treasured. 

Rui Costa and Batistuta tearing things up in Tuscany. The incomparable Ronaldo and formidable Vieri at Inter. That Samp side lit up by Mancini and Lombardo and bolstered at the back by Vierchowod, by turns lightning quick and gloriously filthy. 

What a time it was to be alive. What a time to be so completely besotted with football that it was all-consuming. And what a nation to choose, to get your kicks from. 

Fast forward to the here and now and much has changed of course. The money has dropped out of the league, meaning signings consist of an altogether lesser calibre, Premier League rejects some.

Yet still, catching a Serie A game, it is impossible not to be lured straight back to its charms.

To be entranced by the whistles and the jeers and the slowed down pace. To be amused by the cynicism and more than that, the stark contrast between the brutality at the back and the beauty in attack

Because if these were crude stereotypes formed out of ignorance way back when, we know now they hold true. 

Serie A is a league made up of two extremes and it should forever be cherished accordingly.

*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to Alamy*

Stephen Tudor is a freelance football writer and sports enthusiast who only knows slightly less about the beautiful game than you do.

A contributor to FourFourTwo and Forbes, he is a Manchester City fan who was taken to Maine Road as a child because his grandad predicted they would one day be good.