INTER HALL OF FAME 2018 | Meazza – Ronaldo – Altobelli
Every country has a footballer that everyone knows about. He encapsulates what the Nerazzurri spirit is all about. We had complete faith in him. He was the one who could win the match for us. He was incredible in the box. He’d score with his right, his left, his head, overhead kicks… An incredibly cunning player. He was a genius, one of the best three players I’ve ever seen. He was one of those players who reinvented the game; he didn’t just play it. He was the best player ever. There was no one better, not even now. When you mention Meazza, everyone knows that he played for Inter. He was an Inter icon. Meazza was an amazing player, truly amazing. So nippy and with a fabulous eye for goal. He was very elegant too, even back in the day, always dressed in a suit and tie. Meazza was the best of the lot and the way everyone used to talk about him… It was, “My God, that Giuseppe Meazza…” In the collective imagination, Giuseppe Meazza is the very essence of football. For those who aren’t so young, for grandparents and grandchildren who have heard about ‘Peppin’ Meazza from their fathers. I remember my dad talking about him. He told me about a match he watched. Inter were at home to Genoa on the last day of the season and needed a win to secure the title. Meazza scored a brace and basically won the game single-handedly. He always said that Inter was his team and he became an even bigger Interista when the derby came around. He’d say that he was twice as good in the derby. He said he was capable of the extraordinary because the derby got him so fired up but at the same time he maintained the calm he needed to do incredible things. Meazza was one of the first players, the first stars, to induce a real sense of awe among the Nerazzurri faithful. That was the power he had. And the fact he was from Milan made him all the more popular. I tried to give everything I had. And I think in the end I was able to give that to the people who loved me. He had some huge seasons. I think for three years he was the best centre forward in the business. What really struck you was the way he moved around the pitch, with and without the ball, and his physical prowess. He was nicknamed The Needle so he was slender but sturdy and nimble. He was fast too – and very skilful. All those things together made him one of the best strikers I ever saw. When he had the ball at his feet, if he got a yard of space and went past the first man he could cause huge problems for you in defence. And he was so good at playing with his team-mates. He knew where the ball was going to end up. Mind you, he played with a guy who used to play him some pretty handy passes who went by the name of Evaristo Beccalossi. Those two were made for each other. I have wonderful memories of him because we knew each other from a young age. And the brilliant thing was we didn’t need to prepare anything on the training ground because it all came to us naturally. It was still 0-0 at the end of the first half. We then scored four in the second half, and against Juve. I remember their defence made a couple of mistakes. Altobelli was quick to capitalise on those. That’s the sort of player he was. There’s no better example of that than this game. It was a huge turnaround, winning 4-0 at the San Siro and seeing all the fans enjoying this great game, because in those days beating Juve meant beating the best side. They were already winning things then. I won’t say it was the game of the year, but it was a great one to play and take a leading role in, because you’d be up against top players and a top side. So it was even more satisfying to win. Altobelli was incredible. He also scored off a back-pass, got the better of Brio, and so on. He got a hat-trick. It was the pinnacle for him and Inter, who’d then win the 1979/80 Scudetto, which ended with the famous 2-2 draw in the last game with Roma at San Siro. On that day, I think he knew exactly what the Inter fans wanted from him and he responded to that as a fan himself, an Inter fan who goes on to be their striker, wearing the Nerazzurri shirt with the No.9. He was an incredible player who was a big part of Inter’s history. Looking at him individually, Altobelli is one of the best centre forwards I’ve ever seen. He was greeted with the usual Italian snobbery when he came. A player who’d done well abroad because they don’t know how to defend abroad. But actually, he came here and did even better than he’d done at Barcelona. I think only Massimo Moratti could have dreamed of bringing Ronaldo to Milan. It was an unbelievable deal, in the truest sense of the word. He was my idol. He was absolutely outstanding. I was lucky enough to spend six months with him, perhaps his best spell at Inter, before I went to Tottenham. In the 1997/98 season, when he came, I was on the bench while he was producing these moments and I’d just get up and applaud him spontaneously. He was a phenomenon, the first to show such technique at such a speed. I’d never seen anything like it, even in training, and that is one thing, but then in games he’d be even better. Ronaldo was a phenomenon and deserving of the name. I played with many top players but he was the best. When he was fit, no one could get close to him. Ronaldo with the ball, he gives it to Zamorano. Ronaldo again, Ronaldo! What a goal! Outstanding from Ronaldo! It was an awful pitch and the ball was bobbling about like it had a rabbit inside. He managed to bring it under control, beat the defenders and score. It was one of those goals beyond the realm of football. It was an extremely tough situation because the pitch was terrible. He was against a good side, with some fearsome defenders. He managed to beat three men, feint to take it round the keeper, then score. You could try a billion times and not manage. That day it felt like Ronaldo was not of this world. I saw pace and movement of the ball and him gliding around like only he could do. It was just unheard of, in that snow and on that horrendous pitch. I saw that shaved head, with the Nerazzurri shirt, moving like that, the defenders tumbling like skittles, and he scores. I mean, what happened on that legendary night? In the Moscow snow, on that awful pitch, it was as if he emerged from the ground, as if the pitch itself had spawned him and he was at one with the game. He was part of the grass, the pitch, as if he’d always been there. He was football in person. So he can’t have found it that hard. Nicknames don’t always fit perfectly but Ronaldo was a phenomenon and will always be O Fenomeno.