Why Are Inter Milan so Short on Italian Players?
Within the span of just a few years, it has become commonplace to see top-flight clubs fielding starting 11s containing a high number of foreign players.
It does not even raise eyebrows nowadays when a team from England or Italy takes to the pitch completely bereft of footballers from the country in which it is based.
Internazionale of Milan are notorious for boasting foreigner-heavy squads, though they were not the first club to put out a starting side without any native players.
While Liverpool had won the F.A. Cup final back in 1986 with no Englishmen, that team contained a host of British players.
It wasn't until the "three foreigner rule" was abolished in 1995, however, that it became possible to put out a side entirely made up of overseas-born footballers.
That honor of being the first goes to Chelsea, who did so on December 26, 1999.
Chelsea's Italian manager Gianluca Vialli named the following side to take on Southampton at the Dell:
Ed De Goey, Albert Ferrer, Celestine Babayaro, Emerson Thome, Frank Leboeuf, Dan Petrescu, Gus Poyet, Didier Deschamps, Roberto Di Matteo, Tore Andre Flo and Gabriele Ambrosetti.
It took Inter until the 2007/08 season to reach that stage. The Nerazzurri's most common starting 11 of that season was the following:
Julio Cesar, Maicon, Ivan Cordoba, Christian Chivu, Maxwell, Javier Zanetti, Dejan Stankovic, Esteban Cambiasso, Cesar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Julio Cruz.
That side contained four Brazilians, three Argentines, a Colombian, a Serb, a Romanian, a Swede and no Italians.
It was a similar scenario in 2010 when Inter won the treble. There were no Italians in the team that started the Champions League final against Bayern Munich that year, though Marco Materazzi did come off the bench deep into injury time.
Of the 35 players currently registered to Inter's senior squad, only six are Italian, with a number of others holding Italian passports despite representing other national teams.
The tendency for Inter to feature foreigners is no modern fad, however. In fact, it goes right back to the club's origin.
Even the team's name gives a healthy hint at its international leanings, as former Nerazzurri keeper Sebastian Frey once explained.
"Inter have it written in their name: they are a club where foreigners have always been important and who helped bring success in the last few years," Frey said.
On March 9, 1908, members of the Milan Football and Cricket Club (later to become A.C. Milan) broke away to form their own team.
The reason? They were disgruntled with the rule that only Italian players were allowed in the team.
The new club's name reflected its multinational ethos; Internazionale Milano Football Club.
Inter proudly represents Italian football, but as a club it has never been shy to welcome a healthy foreign contingent.
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