Champions League: Why It Means More to Inter Milan than Bayern Munich
Sarti, Burgnich, Guarneri, Facchetti...
For Inter fans of a certain vintage, those names are like the start of their own version of the Lord’s Prayer. Even younger generations have been taught to recite the lineup which once made the team the greatest in the world.
The story of La Grande Inter is the first book in the Nerazzurri’s Bible.
Yet those legendary names have cast a long shadow over the years. What first was a source of pride has come, at times, to seem like a millstone around the neck of one of Italy’s biggest clubs. Anything they could achieve would never match up to the side which current owner Massimo Moratti’s father Angelo built.
To be fair, back-to-back European Cups and World Club Cups in the mid-1960s were always going to be a hard act to follow. Many sides would have been happy to bask in the warm glow of past glories.
Unfortunately, Inter’s city rivals would not allow them such nostalgic notions.
Silvio Berlusconi built a Milan side which, for a while at least, seemed to “own” the continental competition. In the process, he made the other occupants of the San Siro look pitiful in comparison.
The glory days seemed to drift further and further into footballing history.
Indeed, recent years made Inter Milan seem like a by-word for underachievement. Despite millions of pounds of investment, their search for the Scudetto appeared utterly fruitless. It took the storm of the Calciopoli scandal to finally address that situation.
With their Serie A shortcomings resolved, all attention became focused on the Champions League. Yet despite their domestic dominance, European success stubbornly refused to arrive.
Until this year, perhaps.
The appointment of Jose Mourinho had deliberate echoes of the self-styled wizard, Helenio Herrera, who ran the great Inter side of the 1960s. The Portuguese manager has finally delivered a team capable of going to some of the toughest grounds in Europe and not letting itself down. The Holy Grail beckons at last.
It has been 45 years since Inter won the trophy, 38 since they even reached the final. The temptation could be to think that their time has come. Mourinho has been quick to try to stifle such thoughts. If we don’t win it this year, he claims, we will win it next.
The problem for the Italian side is that they face another team which believes its name is written on the trophy this weekend. For anyone who has watched Bayern Munich’s progress, it would be hard to argue. It has often seemed some footballing Guardian Angel has been watching over them.
Serie A supporters will know what a key role Juventus played in turning around Louis Van Gaal’s season. Facing elimination from the Champions League, they turned up in Turin and dished out a brutal drubbing.
The Bianconeri never recovered, Bayern went from strength to strength.
Fiorentina fans, too, will not easily forgive or forget the offside goal which allowed the German side to defeat them in the Allianz Arena. Or, indeed, the beautiful Arjen Robben strike which ultimately won the tie.
The Dutchman struck another beauty to sink Manchester United.
Which side truly has a date with destiny will be revealed on Saturday. Jose Mourinho’s latest announcements suggest that if Inter do win the trophy, it could be his parting gift. But what better way to go than by giving his supporters a new prayer?
Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Zanetti…
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