Four Scudettos (including one assigned), three seasons of domestic dominance and an outspoken Portuguese coach – all culminated in a record breaking season that saw Inter create history, by becoming the first Italian team to win the treble – the League title, the domestic cup and the European cup.
Transfers and pre-season…
Orialli and Branca began the transfer season even before the final whistle of 2008-09 seasons was blown. In came Diego Milito and Thiago Motta from Genoa for a combined fee of 20 million Euros plus a few youth players and Robert Acquafresca.
July saw the club going on an annual pre-season tour of the United States, where Milito made a fantastic debut scoring a brace against old foes Milan. However Inter lost the other game against Chelsea, now managed by another old foe – Carlo Ancelotti.
Inter hero Diego Milito – a shrewd signing!
However, the biggest transfer coup of the season was reserved for first week of August, when Inter somehow managed to get their hands on 47 million Euros and Samuel Eto’o for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, in what should rank as the best or worst transfer of the season, depending on which side you are looking from.
Accomplished Brazilian defender Lucio was also signed from Bayern Munich for 5 million Euros. Yet another transfer masterstroke was completed just four days before the close of window when Inter signed up Wesley Sneijder for a reported fee of only 15 million Euros.
Inter started the season badly losing 1-2 to Lazio in the Italian Supercup, despite dominating the entire game. The first game of the season produced a drab 1-1 draw at home against newly promoted Bari. However, all talk of trouble was banished in the next game when Inter thrashed cross-town rivals Milan 0-4 in front of their own fans.
The Champions league draw saw Inter pitted against three other league winners in a potentially tricky group. The first game of the season saw Inter drawing 0-0 at home to Barcelona, with the defenders producing a classy performance. Domestically, Inter carried the momentum of their win against Milan by winning the next three games before losing away against Sampdoria.
European fight back..
Giornata (round) 7 of Serie-A season saw the resumption of normal service as Inter went top of the table with 16 points. However, the European season was turning into a nightmare, with three successive draws in the first three games, including two draws against Barcelona and Kiev.
Europe’s fourth matchday saw Inter needing to win away at Kiev to stay in contention for the next round. With 86 minutes on the clock Inter found themselves down 0-1 and facing certain elimination (especially with a trip to Camp Nou to follow). However, the team pulled out the ‘Houdini act’ by scoring two last gasp goals courtesy Milito and Sneijder as Inter lived to fight another day.
Matchday 5 saw a Barcelona side sans Messi and Ibrahimovic giving Inter a thrashing, but a home win against Rubin Kazan on Matchday 6 sealed progression to next round where they were to meet English league leaders Chelsea.
Business, as usual, in the league..
The league saw Inter maintain their ruthless consistency in grinding out regular wins, save for a loss at Turin in the Derby d’Italia due to an uncharacteristic Julio Cesar error.
In between, Inter produced some scintillating football, thrashing Genoa 0-5 at the Marassi, and winning 5-3 at home against Palermo. When the league took its winter break, Inter were top of the table with 39 points from 17 games, 6 points ahead of second placed Milan, and in pole position to retain the Scudetto.
The club also signed up Goran Pandev and Macdonald Mariga in the winter transfer window while letting go of David Suazo.
Number one – Coppa Italia champions!
The (nearly costly) wobble..
Inter resumed the league campaign with an unconvincing away win over mid-table Chievo. Giornata 19 saw Inter take on lowly Siena at home. With 88 minutes on the clock, Inter found themselves losing 2-3 (and with it Jose Mourinho’s home record, stretching back to 2002). Once again, last gasp goals by Sneijder and Walter Samuel saw Inter win 4-3 and snatch yet another win from the jaws of defeat. The game also saw controversy as the free-kick from which Sneijder scored the equalizer was dubious to say the least.
Giornata 21 saw yet another display of mental strength as Inter won 2-0 against Milan, despite ending the game with 9 men. The next 30 days saw Inter playing 8 games in a grueling schedule and causing a near decisive wobble. After Juventus and Fiorentina were dispatched in the Coppa Italia, Giornata 23 saw Inter take on Parma at home. What should have been a routine win turned out to be a hard fought draw.
Giornata 24 saw Inter play a goalless draw against Napoli at the very hostile San Paolo. The game also saw the infamous handcuff gesture made by Mourinho which resulted in him getting banned for three games and paying a huge fine as well. Combined with, what was seen by many Inter fans and management alike as unfair refereeing and scheduling standards, Inter imposed a media blackout.
The next game saw a domestically struggling Inter take on Chelsea at home. All notions of form were thrown out of the window as Inter produced a handsome performance to win 2-1 to take the battle to London. However the team suffered domestically due to the coach’s suspension, by losing to Catania for the first time in forty-five years.
Mourinho returned to the bench at Chelsea, receiving a hero’s welcome at his former stomping grounds. However, the home fans were to be left disappointed as Inter produced another strong European performance winning the match 0-1 and the tie 1-3 on aggregate.
Giornata 29 saw Inter held to a draw at Palermo, but the next game at home against relegation threatened Livorno was won easily. By Giornata 30, Roma had quietly crept closer to Inter after going on a 21-game unbeaten run. Giornata 31 saw Inter lose at Roma for the lead to be cut to just one point.
In Europe, regulation victories over CSKA Moscow meant that the club had reached their first semi-final in 7 years, to face a formidable opponent in Barcelona.
Domestically, an away draw against Fiorentina in giornata 33 meant that Inter lost the first place in the league table allowing Roma to leapfrog and become favourites for the scudetto. A regulation home win in the Derby d’Italia served as a precursor to the performance of the season when Inter blew away the much fancied Barcelona 3-1 at home. The return leg saw Inter produce their best defensive performance of the season as they lost 1-0 to a late goal, winning the tie 3-2 on aggregate.
Number two – Champions of Italy!
Domestically, giornata 34 saw Roma surprisingly lose at home to Sampdoria. With Roma losing and Inter winning at home to Atalanta, Inter regained the initiative.
Giornata 36 saw Inter expectedly cruising to a win at Lazio – a game in which the home fans cheered for Inter, as they didn’t want Lazio’s city rivals Roma to win the Scudetto. Win in giornata 37 set up a tense and exciting finale as Inter needed to win away against Siena to retain the scudetto.
Wednesday, the 5th of May, saw Inter lift their first trophy of the season as they beat Roma courtesy a Diego Milito goal in the Coppa Italia. The last round saw a tense game for Inter fans as Siena played to stop Inter from scoring. With Roma winning 2-0 at halftime and Inter drawing 0-0, the scudetto was heading to Rome. However, at the hour mark, Diego Milito finally broke the deadlock sending Inter fans wild. That set up a tense 30 minutes as Inter held on to win the Scudetto for a record fifth time in a row.
The last game of the season saw Inter Milan take on German giants and fellow treble aspirants Bayern Munich. However, it was another classic performance from Jose Mourinho’s team, as Inter played superb counterattacking football winning 0-2 thanks to a Diego Milito brace.
Inter achieved what no other Italian team had ever achieved – they had won a historic treble of trophies.
Number three – Champions of Europe!
Looking forward to next season..
By all means, this was a historic season. The team won its fifth consecutive scudetto, equaling the record held by the great Juventus side of the 30s and the Grande Torino side of the 40s. The team also won the unprecedented treble, something which hasn’t been achieved in Italy before. Finally, the team shed its underachiever tag in Europe, and quite possibly, have also got rid of the mental baggage.
As someone said, “It is cold up there, but the view is great”. Philosophically speaking, the only way forward for this club is down. The current moment is all to savour, after all that the club has gone through over the last two decades.
With Juventus going through a healthy and much-needed revamp, and the likes of Napoli and Palermo strengthening further, the next season promises to be even better. The fans will be looking forward to knowing who the next manager will be.
Saying Farewell to a legendary manager..
Jose Mourinho arrived at Inter carrying his trademark swagger. He leaves the club next only to the legendary Helenio Herrera in achievements and greatness. He has written his name in the history of the club and in the history of Italian football. Unfortunately, it took many fans (including this author) a season and a half to warm up to him, but before long, he was gone in search of his next conquest.
Jose Mourinho wrote himself into Inter folklore
The people (journalists, FIGC officials) who gave him a hard time will be missing him the most next year. Yes, he ruffled quite a few feathers. Yes, he saw conspiracies when possibly none existed. Yes, he sometimes insulted other managers (Ranieri for example). But in spite of all that, Italian football will definitely be poorer without this controversial, yet brilliant, tactician.
“Grazie Jose. Godspeed, wishing you all the success at Madrid. Inter fans hope that Real Madrid doesn’t cross path with Inter, because that will be the only time they won’t be able to wish you luck. In case you change your mind next season, the door at Appiano Gentile will always be open for you.”