Monday, November 17, 2008

Inter Milan History part 2

La Grande (golden era)

Following the war, Inter won their sixth championship in 1953 and the seventh in 1954. Following these titles, Inter were to embark upon the best years of their history, affectionately known as the era of La Grande Inter (The Great Inter). During this period with Helenio Herrera as head coach, the club won 3 league championships in 1963, 1965 and 1966. The most famous moments during this decade also include Inter's 2 back-to-back European Cup wins. In 1964, Inter won the first of those tournaments, playing against the famous Spanish club Real Madrid. The next season, playing in their home stadium, the San Siro, they defeated two-time former champions Benfica.
Following the golden era of the 1960s, Inter managed to win their eleventh league title in 1971 and their twelfth in 1980. Inter were defeated for the second time in five years in the final of the European Cup, going down 0-2 to Johan Cruijff's Ajax Amsterdam in 1972. During the 1970s and the 1980s, Inter also added two Coppa Italias to their tally in 1977-78 and 1981-82.
Led by the German duo of Andreas Brehme and Lothar Matthäus, and Argentine Ramon Diaz, Inter captured the 1989 Serie A championship. Fellow German Jürgen Klinsmann and the Italian Supercup were added the following season but to little avail as Inter did not manage to defend their title.
Dark times
The 1990s were a period of disappointment for the club. Whilst their great rivals AC Milan and Juventus were achieving success both domestically and in Europe, Inter were left behind, with some mediocre positions in the standings, their worst finishes being in 1993-94 when they were just 1 point from relegation. Nevertheless, they achieved some European success in that decade with 3 UEFA Cup victories in 1991, 1994 and 1998.
With Massimo Moratti's takeover from Ernesto Pellegrini in 1995, Inter were promised more success with many high profile signings such as Ronaldo, Christian Vieri and Hernán Crespo, with Inter twice breaking the world record transfer fee in this period.[citation needed] €19.5 million for Ronaldo from FC Barcelona in 1997 and €31 million for Christian Vieri from Lazio in 1999. However the 1990s remained a decade of disappointment and is the only decade in Inter's history in which they failed to win a single Serie A championship. For Inter fans it was difficult to identify who in particular might be to blame for these troubled times and this led to some icy relations between president, managers and even some individual players.
Inter chairman Massimo Moratti later became a target for the fans, especially when he sacked much-loved coach Luigi Simoni after only a few games into the 1998/99 season, after having just received the Italian Manager of the Year award for 1998 the day before, Massimo Moratti decided to end his contract. In the 1998/99 season Inter failed to qualify for any European competition for the first time in almost 10 years, finishing in a poor eighth place.
In the 1999/00 season, Massimo Moratti made some major changes, once again with some high-profile signings. A major coup for Inter was the appointment of former Juventus manager Marcello Lippi. Inter were seen by the majority of the fans and press to have finally put together a winning formula. Other signings included Italian and French legends Angelo Peruzzi and Laurent Blanc together with other former Juventus players Christian Vieri and Vladimir Jugovic. Inter were also seen to have an advantage in this season as they had no European "distraction". Once again they failed to win the elusive Scudetto. However they did manage to come close to their first domestic success since 1989 when they reached the Coppa Italia final only to be defeated by Lazio allowing them to win the Scudetto and domestic cup double.
The following season more disaster struck. Inter impressed in the Supercoppa Italia match against Lazio and took the lead through new signing Robbie Keane – however, they lost 4-3. Overall, though, they were looking good for the season that was about to start. What followed was another embarrassment, as they were eliminated in the preliminary round of the Champions League by Swedish club Helsingborgs IF. Alvaro Recoba was given the opportunity to draw the sides level with a last-minute penalty, yet he missed, hitting the post, and Inter found themselves back at square one as Marcello Lippi, the manager at the time, was sacked after only a single game of the new season following Inter's first ever Serie A defeat to Reggina. Throughout this period, Inter suffered mockery from their neighbours AC Milan; Milan were having a period of success both domestically and in Europe. They also seemed to be suffering from a series of non-ending defeats at the hands of their city rivals, including an unfortunate 0-6 defeat in the 2000/01 season -- their worst "home" result in history. Marco Tardelli, chosen to replace Lippi, failed to improve results, and is remembered by Inter fans as the manager that lost this match. Other members of the Inter squad during this period that suffered were the likes of Christian Vieri and Fabio Cannavaro, both of whom had their restaurants in Milan vandalised after defeats against AC Milan.
Inter fans' protests throughout this period ranged from vandalism to banners being unfurled in the stadium to protest against certain players. In some cases fans arranged for the Curva Nord, a section of the stadium to be empty for entire matches. Inter were in this period often deemed to be one of the favourites for the championship. This led to a popular AC Milan chant against Inter – "Luglio Agosto" (July and August); this was because during the summer months according to the press Inter had won the championship before it had even begun, only for them not to realise their promise.
In 2002, not only did Inter manage to make it to the Uefa cup semi-finals, they were also only 45 minutes away from capturing the Scudetto, when they needed to maintain a one-goal advantage over SS Lazio at Rome's Olimpico stadium in the final match of the season, and Inter were top of the Serie A table at kick-off. However, a defeat would see Juventus, who were second, or even AS Roma, in third place, take the title from them, should these sides win. As a result, some SS Lazio fans were actually openly supporting Inter during this match, as an Inter victory would prevent their bitter rivals AS Roma from winning the championship. Inter were 2-1 up after only 24 minutes. SS Lazio equalised during first half injury time and then scored two more goals in the second half to clinch victory that eventually saw Juventus win the championship after their 2-0 victory away to Udinese. The date of this match -- 5th May 2002 -- still haunts Inter.
2002/03 saw Inter take a respectable second place and also managed to make it to the 2003 Champions League semi finals against AC Milan. Although they drew on aggregate 1-1 with AC Milan, Inter lost on the away goals rule, even though both matches were played in the same stadium. It was another disappointment but they were finally on the right track.
However, once again Massimo Moratti's impatience got the better of him, Hernán Crespo was sold after just one season, and Hector Cuper was fired after only a few games. Alberto Zaccheroni stepped in, a life-long Inter fan but also the man who had been in charge of SS Lazio's 4-2 win over Inter in 2002 - the fans were sceptical. Zaccheroni brought nothing new to the side, apart from two fantastic wins over Juventus 3-1 in Turin and 3-2 at the San Siro and the season was again nothing special. They were eliminated from the UEFA Champions League in the first round after finishing 3rd in the group. Furthermore, they only just managed to qualify for the Champions League by finishing in 4th place, only a point ahead of Parma. Inter's only saving grace in 2003/04 was the arrival of Dejan Stankovic and Adriano in January 2004, both solid players that filled the gap left by the departures of Hernán Crespo and Clarence Seedorf.

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