Inter’s 2010 Treble-Winning Season | A 45-Year-Long Dream
The 2008/09 European Champions League season was a turning point in football history. It was marked by the success of Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi’s Barcelona, and by the triumph of tiki-taka. This new and iconic playing style, devoted to ball possession and vertical play, gave way to the beginning of a new football era. Italian entrepreneur and football-team owner Massimo Moratti had long been dreaming of following the footsteps of his father Angelo and bringing his beloved Inter Milan to victory in the UEFA Champions League. However, given these premises, at the beginning of the 2009/10 season Moratti’s 45-year-old dream was not getting any closer. To add fuel to the fire, Inter’s best player, the legendary Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimović, had just decided to leave the team and join Barcelona in order to win himself a Champions League trophy.
Dreaming on the Edge
Despite Ibrahimović’s departure, Inter’s manager José Mourinho showed up at the starting line of the football season with one goal: to fulfill Moratti’s 45-year-long dream. The Portuguese Mourinho already had a strong record of victories in Europe and filled the void left behind by the Swede by adding the likes of the Argentinian Diego Milito (nicknamed ‘the Prince’), the Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder, and the Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o to the already competitive group of players captained by Javier Zanetti. However, after three consecutive ties in the Champions League group stage, and with an away game against the mighty Barcelona coming up, things were starting to get heated.
On 4 November 2009, down one goal to zero in Kyiv in the eighty-fifth minute, the Nerazzurri – the ‘Black and Blues’ – found themselves on the brink of elimination, but history was yet to be written. A sudden spark of hope coming from the left foot of Diego Milito tied the match, while three minutes later, a tap-in from Wesley Sneijder completed the comeback. The subsequent defeat against Barcelona brought the players back to a harsh reality, but with a final victory against Rubin Kazan, they managed to secure a place in the knockout stage, keeping the dream alive.
The Sound of the Enemies
At the turn of the season, an unfavourable Champions League draw put Inter up against Chelsea. The London team, managed by Carlo Ancelotti and fielding the likes of Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, was one of the most feared in Europe. Yet, the psychological work undertaken by José Mourinho was already bearing fruit, and with two strong performances the Nerazzurri came out victorious. In the meantime, Claudio Ranieri’s Roma was putting up a serious challenge to the Serie A title. After trailing behind for most of the season, the Giallorossi inflicted on Inter a critical defeat on 27 March 2010. Two weeks later, they moved to the top of the table, taking advantage of their rival’s tie against Fiorentina, the club from Florence.
Of Ashes and Smoke
With Roma now leading the Serie A race and a new, decisive fixture against Barcelona awaiting Josè Mourinho’s side on the path toward the Champions League final, the Nerazzurri’s 45-year-long dream was once again on the verge of crumbling down. Inter and Ibrahimović’s paths crossed again in Milan on 20 April 2010. On the eve of the match, Barcelona’s success had not been in doubt. The only thing troubling the Catalans’ sleep had been an enormous cloud of ash and smoke. Provoked by the eruption of the Eyjafjöll volcano in Iceland, the cloud had blocked all air routes in Europe and had forced the Catalans to travel to Italy by bus.
Despite this bad omen, not long after the start of the match, Pedro’s goal put Barcelona ahead. Yet, after resisting the Catalans’ impetus, Inter tied the match with a surgical crosskick from Wesley Sneijder. Pushed forward by their fans, the Nerazzurri shocked Barcelona twice more in the second half and brought home the victory.
The Sweetest Defeat
Bent but not broken, Ibrahimović and Barcelona returned home promising revenge. One week later, however, Inter arrived at Camp Nou in Barcelona with renewed strength of mind. Roma’s defeat by the hand of Sampdoria had in fact allowed them to jump back on top of Serie A. The Catalans constantly pushed forward for more than 90 minutes, but only managed to score once. It was not enough, and, despite the defeat, Inter emerged victorious from the clash. Mourinho, celebrating among the sprinklers of Camp Nou with his finger raised into the air, already knew what was coming.
A Prince’s Legacy
What happened in the next month went down in history as one of the most outstanding achievements in Italian football. On 5 May, Inter faced Roma again in the Italian Cup final and defeated the Giallorossi 1-0. Eleven days later, a victory against Siena by the same score allowed the Nerazzurri to win the Serie A title. Finally, on 22 May, Inter defeated Bayern Munich 2-0 in the Champions League final held in Madrid. All goals were scored by ‘the Prince,’ Diego Milito.
Inter completed a historical first treble in Italian football and fulfilled Massimo Moratti’s 45-year-long dream.