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The history of Inter Milan in European Finals: will they upset the odds and pick up a fourth European title?


On Saturday night, Internazionale Milano will face Manchester City in İstanbul in the UEFA Champions League Final.

This’ll be I Nerazzurri’s sixth appearance in a Champions League Final, and 11th across all European competitions.

Read all about the history of Manchester City in European Finals here.

Inter 3-1 Real Madrid: European Cup Final 1964

Back in 1963, Internazionale won their first Scudetto in nine years, therefore qualifying for the European Cup for the very first time.

Wins over Everton, Monaco, Partizan Belgrade and Borussia Dortmund saw Inter become the third Italian club to reach the final, after both A.C. Milan and Fiorentina had lost all Real Madrid in the last 1950s.

This clash at Praterstadion was just be just the ninth European Cup Final, with los Blancos having featured in seven of them, winning each of the first five.

This time though, it was Inter who prevailed, with Sandro Mazzola scoring twice while Aurelio Milani was also on target.

This kick-started a period of domination for Helenio Herrera’s team, known as Grande Inter.

Inter 1-0 Benfica: European Cup Final 1965

The following season, as reigning champions, Inter were back in the European Cup Final again, this time having eliminated Dinamo București, Rangers and Liverpool.

This year, they enjoyed the privilege of playing the final at their home stadium San Siro, taking on 1960 and 1961 winners Benfica.

Manager Helenio Herrera is most famous for pioneering his defensive style of play, known as Catenaccio, which literally translates as “door-bolt”.

This system featured a libero, or sweeper, in-between the two centre-backs, and this final victory was Catenaccio at it’s peek.

Brazilian winger Jair, who’d won the World Cup in 1962, was the only scorer as Inter took the lead just before half time, before parking the bus and seeing out a 1-0 win.

The following season, I Nerazzurri were dethroned, beaten in the semi-finals by Real Madrid, although they wouldn’t have to wait too long for another final appearance.

Inter 1-2 Celtic: European Cup Final 1967

In 1967, Inter were back in the European Cup Final, having swatted aside old adversaries Real Madrid in the quarter-finals, before a replay victory over CSKA Sofia in the semis.

Their opponents in Lisbon were to be Jock Stein’s Celtic, who’d become the first British club to reach a European Cup Final, doing so with a revolutionary, swashbuckling, attacking brand of football.

This was a classic clash of styles, and most expected old-school Catenaccio to win out against a team who scored a frankly ridiculous 196 goals that season, picking up a domestic quadruple.

This feeling was further enhanced when, in the first six minutes, Inter were awarded a penalty and Sandro Mazzola cooly slotted past Ronnie Simpson.

That was that then, when Helenio Herrera’s team take the lead they never lose.

Well, on this occasion, David did defeat Goliath, with Tommy Gemmell equalising on the hour mark, before Stevie Chalmers poked home the winner towards the end.

Celtic’s victory was reported world-wide as a victory for football, was the end of la Grande Inter’s strangle holder over the European football, and signalled the start of an era of attacking football around the globe.

Inter 1-2 Ajax: European Cup Final 1972

Five years later, now led by rookie manager but legendary player Giovanni Invernizzi, Inter were back competing for club football’s biggest trophy.

Following Helenio Herrera’s departure, I Nerazzurri spent a few seasons in the wilderness, finishing as low as fifth, before reclaiming the Scudetto in 1971.

In the subsequent European Cup, they enjoyed wins over AEK Athens, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Standard Liège before a penalty shootout victory at Celtic Park in the semi-finals.

This was a sweet moment for the Inter players and supporters, given what had come before.

However, Inter were then beaten 2-0 by Ajax in the final, with Johan Cruijff, who you may have heard of, scoring both, with this the second of their three consecutive European Cup titles.

As mentioned before, the 1970s was an era dominated by free-flowing attacking football, overthrowing Inter’s Catenaccio, making this final symbolic, given that Dutch Total Football was at the forefront of this revolution.

Inter 2-1 Roma: UEFA Cup Final 1991

Having featured in four European Cup Finals in just nine seasons, it would then take Inter almost two decades to get back to a final on the continent, this one coming in the UEFA Cup.

The 1990s was Serie A’s golden age, with an Italian club featuring in in ten of the 11 UEFA Cup Finals between 1989 and 1999, while four of these matches all Serie A-affairs.

One of these came in 1991 when, having overcome Rapid Wien, Aston Villa, Partizan, near-neighbours Atalanta and Sporting CP, Inter would face Roma over two-legs.

While they weren’t presented with the trophy that night, Giovanni Trapattoni’s team, more or less, rubber stamped victory in the first leg, prevailing 2-0 at San Siro, courtesy of Lothar Matthäus’ penalty followed by Nicola Berti’s tap-in, poking home Jürgen Klinsmann’s cut-back.

A fortnight later, Roma did rally and, despite winning 1-0 at Stadio Olimpico, the outcome was never in much doubt, with captain Giuseppe Bergomi hoisting the trophy aloft in the Italian capital.

Inter 2-0 Casino Salzburg: UEFA Cup Final 1994

Three years later, Inter’s growing love-affair with the UEFA Cup intensified further, reaching another final.

Now led by Gianpiero Marini, they took the scenic route to the final, enjoying wins over Rapid București, Apollon Limassol, Norwich City, Borussia Dortmund and Cagliari; quite the collection of clubs!

Awaiting Inter were surprise finalists Casino Salzburg, as they were known for sponsorship reason, who’d overcome Eintracht Frankfurt on penalties and Karlsruher on away goals to get here.

However, Salzburg’s luck ran out in the final, as Inter won both legs 1-0, with Nicola Berti, as he’d done three years earlier, scoring in the first leg, before Wim Jonk was on target at San Siro.

Inter’s XI for both legs of this final featured a certain Dennis Bergkamp who, shortly after, was cast aside by the club before joining Arsenal.

Inter 1-1 Schalke: UEFA Cup Final 1997

The trend of Inter reaching the UEFA Cup Final at three year intervals continued, with a team now managed by.... checks notes, Roy Hodgson (yes really!) getting to the 1997 final.

Hodgson was under pressure to deliver silverware, having guided I Nerazzurri to a third-place finish in Serie A, ending up six points behind fierce rivals Juventus, largely as a result of failing to win either Derby d’Italia.

Nevertheless, given their recent UEFA Cup success, Inter went into this final as favourites to beat Schalke, with this still the case, even after losing the first leg 1-0 at Parkstadion.

A fortnight later, a comeback was widely expected at San Siro, but die Königsblauen held firm, clinging on with all their might, only for Iván Zamorano to score six minutes from the end, forcing extra time and ultimately penalties.

Zamorano would then be the villain, seeing Inter’s first spot-kick saved by Jens Lehmann, before Aron Winter skewed his effort wide meaning, when Marc Wilmots sent Gianluca Pagliuca the wrong way, Schalke had completed the upset.

Hodgson was sacked the following day.

Inter 3-0 Lazio: UEFA Cup Final 1998

12 months later, now with Luigi Simoni at the helm, Inter reached a fourth UEFA Cup Final of the ‘90s, once again meeting Italian opposition, with Lazio their opposition in a one-off clash in Paris.

This final is often sighted as one of the best performances from any team in a European Final in modern-times, as Inter absolutely crushed Lazio 3-0 at Parc des Princes.

Ronaldo had lived up to his O Fenômeno nickname during this run, scoring twice in a 2-1 semi-final victory over Spartak Moscow in Russia, despite playing on a pitch that lacked any semblance of grass.

In the final, Iván Zamorano broke the deadlock, avenging the ghost of 12 months earlier, Javier Zanetti doubled their lead, before Ronaldo sealed the victory, scoring a majestic clincher, sitting down goalkeeper Luca Marchegiani before rolling the ball home.

Just 67 days later, a mere eight miles across Paris at Stade de France, Ronaldo would also feature for Brazil in the World Cup Final, although that one didn’t quite as well, with his team losing 3-0 while R9 was ineffective, having suffered a convulsive fit the night before.

Inter 2-0 Bayern Munich: UEFA Champions League Final 2010

With José Mourinho at the helm, 2009/10 is, and probably always will be, Inter’s most successful season ever.

13 years ago, I Nerazzurri became the first, and so far only, Italian side to complete the treble, pipping Roma to the Scudetto by two points, whilst also beating Claudio Ranieri’s I Giallorossi 1-0 in the Coppa Italia Final.

Meanwhile, in Europe, they actually nearly fell at the group stages, drawing their first three games before only sneaking through by beating Rubin Kazan 2-0 on matchday six.

Nevertheless, after that, Mourinho’s men overcame his former club Chelsea in the round of 16, before that iconic dethroning of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in the semi-finals.

Inter came from a goal down to win the first leg 3-1 at San Siro, so travelled to Camp Nou the following week very much with the intention of parking the bus.

Their task then got significantly harder when, mid-way through the first half, Thiago Motta was controversially sent off for two bookable offences.

Nevertheless, Mourinho’s team used all the dark arts and, despite Gerard Piqué getting one back, held on for a famous 3-2 aggregate win.

In one of the classic Champions League Finals of modern times, they faced Bayern Munich at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu; a grandeur overload if ever there’s been one.

That night in Madrid, Diego Milito wrote his name into the history books, scoring both in a 2-0 win, completing the treble, with Mourinho disappearing in the carpark to become Real Madrid manager shortly after full time.

Inter 2-3 Sevilla: UEFA Europa League Final 2020

If you’ve completely forgotten about the behind-closed-doors Europa League Final of 2020 don’t worry... you’re not the only one!

2019/20 was Antonio Conte’s first season as Inter manager, tasked with ending Juventus’ decade of dominance that he himself had started.

However, back-to-back defeats immediacy before the Covid-19 lockdown, losing to Lazio and then in a surreal behind-closed-doors Derby d’Italia against Juve, all but ended their Scudetto aspirations.

So, having ignominiously finished third in an admittedly tough Champions League group, Inter’s only hope of silverware came via the Europa League.

In August 2020, the competition was to to be concluded in Germany with a series of “geisterspiele” games.

Inter took care of Getafe and Bayer Leverkusen before demolishing Shakhtar Donetsk 5-0 in the semi-finals, with Romelu Lukaku scoring six goals in their five Europa League tie.

However, in the final in Köln, Conte’s team came up against Sevilla who, as we know, are unbeatable in Europa League Finals.

Sure enough, the Spanish side prevailed 3-2, with Lukaku opening the scoring early, before inadvertently deflecting home the winner at the wrong end.

On Saturday, Internazionale Milano will face Manchester City at Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadı in the Champions League Final, so can Inter upset the odds and claim their fourth European Cup title?



Ben Gray

Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".


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