After a nine year absence, the Italian Championship has finally returned to lnternazionale. It's been a long wait but when it did come, it came in style.
Indeed Inter, by virtue of a late Lothar Matthaus free-kick winner against Napoli five games from the end of their programme, were confirmed champions long before the season ended. The predictable outcome made for an unexciting end to the championship as far as the rest of the country were concerned and switched the spotlight to the three European finals and to the other end of the league table, where seven clubs, including once-great Torino (who actually managed to beat Inter in their second last game) were trying to shake off the threat of relegation.
The Napoli match was just the occasion Inter needed to wrap up what had been on the cards for so long. It was much more satisfactory than winning in one of their less glamorous final games, particularly as Napoli were the only side with a remote chance of catching them. Napoli led at half-time thanks to a spectacular long-range drive from Careca but Berti's deflected effort pulled Inter level after the break, and set the scene for an exciting finish. When Lothar Matthaus forced a free kick into the left corner of the net ten minutes from time, the celebrations began in earnest. Inter's triumph surely confirms manager Giovanni Trapattoni as the greatest of all Italian club coaches.
Trapattoni, a former European Cup winner (twice) as a player with AC Milan, arrived at Inter from Juventus three seasons ago, having been the guiding force behind Juve's virtual dominance of the Italian club scene in recent times, up to Napoli's success in 1987. The last time Inter were champions was back in 1980, when Eugenio Bersellini, in his third season as manager, guided his all-Italian line up to a long awaited triumph, their first since 1971. The much coveted European Cup proved beyond them, however, the following season. They did manage to make the semi-final, but a suspension-hit side lost 2-0 away to Real Madrid in the first-leg, and they could manage only 1-0 at home, Graziano Bini's goal coming too far into the second half.
Bersellini stayed on as boss until 1982, leaving with a respectable record of one Championship and two Italian Cups ('78 and '82), in his five years in charge, though of course in Italian terms the Cup is only of token significance, unless it is needed for participation in Europe. What everyone really wanted at Inter was the kind of Championship record that the club had enjoyed in the 1960’s when they won three titles in four years and carried off two successive European Cups.
Rino Marchesi was the next manager to try his luck (82/83), followed by Gigi Radice, the next season. During Radice's one- year reign a more significant change was taking place in the club's city centre administrative headquarters on the Foro Buonaparte.
In March '84 Inter president lvanoe Fraizzoli, who had been at the helm for 16 years, handed over his position to Ernesto Pellegrini, a dynamic restaurant tycoon. Pellegrini's new structure included the appointment of Franco Dal Cin (the man responsible for bringing Zico to Udinese) as general manager-the post held nowadays by Paulo Giuliani. Pellegrini also brought in a new team manager, llario Castagner, for the following season (84/85) and new players included Karl Heinz Rummenigge, Liam Brady from Sampdoria, and Andrea Mandorlini from Ascoli. The Rummenigge deal was initiated by former star Sandro Mazzola, who was one of the top administrators in the Fraizzoli set-up but had left when Pellegrini became president, because he was offered a much lesser role.
Results didn't come in the new season however, and the following year saw the purchase of Marco Tardelli and Pietro Fanna, to satisfy Castagner that he at last had the right players to land the championship. It wasn't to be though, and Inter had a poor league season and only barely managed to qualify for the UEFA Cup.
Still, they had enjoyed an impressive run in Europe, reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup where they faced old adversaries, Real Madrid. Inter won at home by 3-1, but league poor results were taking their toll on Castagner and he was gone before the second leg, leaving the youth coach Mario Corso (a playing hero of Inter's 60s team) to take command for the Bernabeu return. Aided by two penalties, the Spanish giants eventually triumphed 5-1 after extra time, to advance 6-4 on aggregate.
For the following season (86/87) Pellegrini succeeded in bringing Trapattoni to Inter and in his first season in charge Inter emerged as serious title contenders. In fact for a while they looked like making it, but three defeats late in the season allowed Napoli to take command. Even then Inter came back with a late rally, including a passionate home win against the Naples club, thanks to a late close-range volley from Giuseppe Bergomi. The win wasn't enough though, and Inter had to settle for the UEFA cup yet again as Napoli managed to hold off the late challenges of both Inter and Juventus.
Last season Inter were never in the hunt and had to watch Milan take the glory. Now, at last, they have captured the title for themselves, sweeping all before them, and playing some magnificent football along the way. Inter’s pre-season acquisitions Berti, Brehme, Matthaus, Serena and Diaz-complemented perfectly the long standing defensive backbone of Ferri, Baresi, Bergomi, Mandorlini and, of course, goalkeeper Zenga.
It will be interesting to see how they perform next season, especially in Europe. Will they keep the stronghold of Italian football in Milan or will this be just another isolated triumph like 1971 and 1980? The former seems much more likely, and they may well go a long way towards emulating the achievements of 60's heroes like Facchetti, Mazzola, Corso, Suarez and Jair.
They had seemed the best side in the UEFA Cup this season, until that remarkable collapse in the third round second leg at home to Bayern Munich, when they conceded three goals in seven minutes in the first half, thereby losing a 2-0 away advantage. They managed to pull back to a 3-3 aggregate before half-time, and dazzled the Germans in the second half, but ultimately failed.
Goalkeeper. Born Miln April 28, 1960. Joined Inter in1982 from second division Sambenedettese as understudy to Ivano Bordon. Graduated to the first team the following year when Bordon went to Sampdoria. Zenga was a reserve keeper for Italy in Mexico '86 and has since become more or less established as the national XI number one.
Goalkeeper. Born Piacenza May 3, 1958. Joined Inter from Lazio three seasons ago. Has been with six other clubs during his career, including five seasons at Brescia.
Defender. Born Travagllato February 7, 1958. A true 'nerazzurro', ‘Beppe’ Baresi has been a regular on the Inter first team since 1977. Like his brother Franco, who has been similarly faithful to rivals AC Milan, Giuseppe is a capable defender and is also adept at moving and creating for the attack although he seldom scores himself. Appeared in the national side during the 1980 European Championship finals and again In Mexico '86 but hasn’t been a regular for his country. The only survivor of Inter’s last championship win in 1980.
Defender. Born Miland December 22, 1963. Came to International prominence in 1982 when, as an 18-year-old, he played for Italy in the 1982 World Cup Final. Bergomi graduated to first team status at Inter in the middle of the 1980/8 season, when Inter were the reigning champions. A regular on the national team, Bergomi is a tough and determined player with tremendous pace and usually scores a few goals during the course of a season.
Defender. Born Crema August 20,1963. One of Italian national manger Vicini’s "new stars", Ferri featured in last year’s European Championships In West Germany. He has been a regular in Inter’s defence (usually at right-back) for the past six years. Scored a splendid long range goal for Italy in the recent friendly against Hungary .
Defender. Born Ravenna, July 17, 1960. Normally deployed in defence, Mandorlini is a versatile operator. Comfortable in midfield and fits in well with the attack when required. Scored Inter’s vital winner away to Sampdoria in April - the goal which ended the Genoa club's title hopes. Signed from Ascoli in 1984, having previously had spells with Torino and Atalanta.
Defender. Born Lodi, 30 September 1963. Recalled by Inter from a loan spell at third division Monza to whom they had loaned him for last season. Has made a few appearances this season but is generally on the bench.
Midfielder. Born Salso Magglore, April 14, 1967. One of the bright prospects in the Italian game. Berti has had a great season, scoring frequently for his club and grabbing a few for the full international team as well. Joined Inter only this past season following three years as a regular first-teamer in Florentine.
Midfielder. Born Hamburg September 9, 1960. One of Inter's two big foreign signings this year, West German international Brehme has fitted in perfectly in the Trapattoni system. Indeed the manager attributed Inter's elimination from the UEFA Cup, in that 1-3 home defeat against Bayern Munich, to the fact that Brehme limped off just before "Those seven minutes of madness" during which Bayern got all three of their goals.
Midfielder. Born Nuoro April 21, 1959. Signed from Sampdoria at the start of Trapattoni's reign three seasons ago and has more or less been a regular in the first team ever since.
Midfielder. Born March 21, 1961. Inter's other German International signing, Matthaus has added extra strength to the midfield, and, like Brehme (and indeed most German Internationals), is capable of playing varying roles In the course of a game.Inter fans will cherish, for a long time to come, his late free-kick winner against Napoli, which clinched the championship for Inter, four games from the end of the season.
Forward. Born Cervla April 7, 1966. In his first season at Inter having previously played for Cesena and Padova.
RAMON ANGEL DIAZ.
Forward. Born La Rioja August 29, 1959. Signed from Florentine, the Argentinian striker has performed relatively well in his first season at Inter,but the foreigner limitations may mean that Diaz won't be around for next season's bid for European Cup glory, if Inter swoop another big-name import. At press time Jurgen Klinsmann seemed Milan-bound and the writing was on the wall.
Forward. Born Leece January 11, 1968. Inter youth product. Made one league appearance last term in a 1-1draw against Verona, and has come more into the picture this past campaign, but is generally on the bench.
Forward. Born Montebelluna June 25, 1960. A bit of a homing pigeon as far as Inter are concerned, Serena came up through Inter's youth ranks in the late 'seventies' before departing to neighbours Milan. From there he returned to Inter for the season 83/84, before leaving for Torino and tater Juventus, finally coming home to roost in this championship winning season and looking as sharp as ever in front of goal. He was the league's 22-goal top scorer.
This article was written by Mick Dunne and published in the June 1989 edtion of World Soccer magazine.
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