An Internazionale fan site recently asked us to put together a greatest Inter team as part of our regular Elevens series and this post is the result of our dutiful considerations. We’ve taken things a step further too as we felt for reasons of balance any great nerazzurri team should be countered by a similar rossoneri selection to represent city rivals Milan.
So this is the first of a pair of back-to-back posts featuring our best post-war selections for both the Milanese giants. Our Inter selection features eleven players with a cumulative total of 142 years service, 5494 appearances, 872 goals and 802 caps for their various international sides. And who else but Helenio Herrera could be trusted with coaching this fabulous fantasy selection.
Below are potted histories of the players selected in this Eleven.
1. Walter Zenga (1982-94, 484 appearances, 58 caps for Italy)
Inter has a proud tradition of fine Italian keepers and Zenga narrowly edges out 60s legend Sarti to take the number 1 shirt. His athleticism, leadership, big-match temperament and that endearing touch of eccentricity made him the most watchable of keepers, as well as one of the most talented.
2. Javier Zanetti (1995 -2014, 858 apps / 21 goals, 145 international caps for Argentina)
The exemplar of the model professional footballer. On the pitch the Argentinian played every defensive and midfield position for Inter over nearly two decades to a high standard; off the field he was an exceptional leader and role model who conducted himself with class and dignity.
3. Giacinto Facchetti (1960-78, 634 apps / 75 goals, 94 caps for Italy)
The player who defined the modern role of the full-back as one that carried both defensive and attacking threat, Facchetti inspired a generation of players that included a young Franz Beckenbauer. An elegant defender with the build and touch of an international class centre-forward, his regular surges down the left wing and keen eye for goal were key elements in Inter’s great teams of the 1960s. Facchetti was studiously professional, fiercely loyal and a natural leader.
4. Luis Suarez (1961-70, 328 apps / 55 goals, 32 caps for Spain)
A world-record signing from Barcelona in 1961, Luis Suarez could have cost twice his £142,000 fee and still have been a bargain. The Spaniard operated effectively at the base of Inter’s midfield for nearly a decade: a passer, a tackler, a leader, a conductor; Suarez was a focused individual who brought a competitive and often ruthless edge to Inter’s European Cup winning teams.
5. Giuseppe Bergomi (1980-99, 756 apps / 28 goals, 81 caps for Italy)
Surprisingly for a player who was a World Cup winner at the tender age of just 18, Giuseppe Bergomi’s career was not one that peaked too early. Time and experience developed him into a determined and teak-tough defender who demonstrated remarkable consistency of performance and career longevity. Bergomi played much of his career at right-back but was also an effective central defender, where we have selected him.
6. Tarcisio Burgnich (1962-74, 467 apps / 6 goals, 66 caps for Italy)
Another player who made his name at right-back before becoming a fine sweeper later in his career; Burgnich was a quiet individual with an understated character that somewhat masked his steely determination and fierce professionalism.
7. Sandrino Mazzola (1960-77, 565 apps / 160 goals, 70 caps for Italy)
Son of the legendary Torino defender Valentino Mazzola who died in the Superga disaster, Sandro was picked up by Inter as a youngster and became their main creative player spanning most of the 1960s and 70s. While perhaps less flashy and elegant than his Milan contemporary and rival Gianni Rivera, Mazzola was generally the more consistent and effective of the pair.
8. Lothar Matthaus (1988-92, 153 apps / 53 goals, 150 caps for Germany)
The powerhouse German midfielder might have had the shortest Inter career of any player in this particular line-up, but his relatively low number of appearances doesn’t diminish his importance in bringing Inter back to relevance in the late 1980s. The archetypal midfield general, Matthaus’s intelligence and well-honed technique complemented his explosive physical power and dynamic all-action style.
9. Alessandro Altobelli (1977-88, 466 apps / 209 goals, 61 caps for Italy)
Sando Altobelli was one of the great predators of the Italian game, a deft player always looking to pickpocket goals at the expense of unsuspecting defenders. Famous for prowling in the shadows and the blindspots of opponents, he would suddenly spring to life whenever he scented an opportunity. Few strikers were as clinical as Altobelli in terms of scoring return relative to chances.
10. Roberto Boninsegna (1969-76, 281 apps / 171 goals, 22 caps for Italy)
Boninsegna was one of Italy’s most complex, autonomous and divisive of strikers with a skillset perfectly honed for the defensive era he played in. Boasting great control, a left-foot cannon of a shot as explosive as his temper and surprising aerial power for a player of average height, Boninsegna was an object lesson in striking economy: a forward of guile and cunning like a lion who slept in the long grass with one eye open. You can read our full-length article dedicated to Boninsegna here.
11. Mario Corso (1958-73, 502 apps / 94 goals, 23 caps)
Corso’s playing contribution for Inter was broader than that of a typical left winger, the position on the field he nominally occupied. Part inside-forward, part winger, part prompter; Corso’s cultured left foot and wonderful vision opened up many a defence, while his crossing and set-piece capabilities were the source of many goals. Such was his influence that successive Inter managers were willing to tolerate – through gritted teeth – his languid style and leisurely work-rate.