History of Inter Milan
Foundation and early years (1908–1960)
The club was founded on 9 March 1908 as Football Club Internazionale, following the schism with the Milan Cricket and Football Club (now A.C. Milan). The name of the club derives from the wish of its founding members to accept foreign players as well as Italians.
The club won its very first championship in 1910 and its second in 1920. The captain and coach of the first championship winning team was Virgilio Fossati, who was later killed in battle while serving in the Italian army during World War I.
In 1922, Inter remained in the top league after winning two play-offs. Six years later, during the Fascist era, the club was forced to merge with the Unione Sportiva Milanese and was renamed Società Sportiva Ambrosiana. The team wore white jerseys during this time with a red cross emblazoned on it. The jersey’s design was inspired by the flag and coat of arms of the city of Milan. In 1929, club chairman Oreste Simonotti changed the club’s name to Associazione Sportiva Ambrosiana, however supporters continued to call the team Inter, and in 1931 new chairman Pozzani caved in to shareholder pressure and changed the name to Associazione Sportiva Ambrosiana-Inter.
Giuseppe Meazza still holds the record for the most goals scored in a debut season in Serie A, with 31 goals in his first season (1929–30)
Their first Coppa Italia (Italian Cup) was won in 1938–39, led by the iconic Giuseppe Meazza, after whom the San Siro stadium is officially named. A fifth championship followed in 1940, despite Meazza incurring an injury. After the end of World War II the club regained its original name, winning its sixth championship in 1953 and its seventh in 1954.
Grande Inter (1960–1968)
In 1960, manager Helenio Herrera joined Inter from Barcelona, bringing with him his midfield general Luis Suárez, who won the European Footballer of the Year in the same year for his role in Barcelona’s La Liga/Fairs Cup double. He would transform Inter into one of the greatest teams in Europe. He modified a 5–3–2 tactic known as the “Verrou” (“door bolt”) created greater flexibility for counterattacks. The catenaccio system was invented by an Austrian coach, Karl Rappan. Rappan’s original system was implemented with four fixed defenders, playing a strict man-to-man marking system, plus a playmaker in the middle of the field who plays the ball together with two midfield wings. Herrera would modify it by adding a fifth defender, the sweeper or libero behind the two centre backs. The sweeper or libero who acted as the free man would deal with any attackers who went through the two centre backs. Inter finished third in the Serie A in his first season, second the next year and first in his third season. Then followed a back-to-back European Cup victory in 1964 and 1965, earning him the title “il Mago” (“the Wizard”). The core of Herrera’s team were the attacking fullbacks Tarcisio Burgnich and Giacinto Facchetti, Armando Picchi the sweeper, Suárez the playmaker, Jair the winger, Mario Corso the left midfielder, and Sandro Mazzola, who played on the inside-right.
In 1964, Inter reached the European Cup Final by beating Borussia Dortmund in the semi-final and Partizan in the quarter-final. In the final, they met Real Madrid, a team that had reached seven out of the nine finals to date. Mazzola scored two goals in a 3–1 victory, and then the team won the Intercontinental Cup against Independiente. A year later, Inter repeated the feat by beating two-time winner Benfica in the final held at home, from a Jair goal, and then again beat Independiente in the Intercontinental Cup.
In 1967, with Jair gone and Suárez injured, Inter lost the European Cup Final 2–1 to Celtic. During that year the club changed its name to Football Club Internazionale Milano.
After Helenio Herrera era (1968–1990)
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 Cruyff’s Ajax in 1972. During the 1970s and the 1980s, Inter also added two to its Coppa Italia tally, in 1977–78 and 1981–82.
Led by the German duo of Andreas Brehme and Lothar Matthäus, and Argentine Ramón Díaz, Inter captured the 1989 Serie A championship. Inter were unable to defend their title despite adding fellow German Jürgen Klinsmann to the squad and winning their first Supercoppa Italiana at the start of the season.
Mixed fortunes (1990–2004)
The 1990s was a period of disappointment. While their great rivals Milan and Juventus were achieving success both domestically and in Europe, Inter were left behind, with repeated mediocre results in the domestic league standings, their worst coming in 1993–94 when they finished just one point out of the relegation zone. Nevertheless, they achieved some European success with three UEFA Cup victories in 1991, 1994 and 1998.
With Massimo Moratti’s takeover from Ernesto Pellegrini in 1995, Inter twice broke the world record transfer fee in this period (£19.5 million for Ronaldo from Barcelona in 1997 and £31 million for Christian Vieri from Lazio two years later). However, the 1990s remained the only decade in Inter’s history in which they did not win a single Serie A championship. For Inter fans, it was difficult to find who in particular was to blame for the troubled times and this led to some icy relations between them and the chairman, the managers and even some individual players.
Moratti later became a target of the fans, especially when he sacked the much-loved coach Luigi Simoni after only a few games into the 1998–99 season, having just received the Italian manager of the year award for 1998 the day before being dismissed. That season, Inter failed to qualify for any European competition for the first time in almost ten years, finishing in eighth place.
The following season, Moratti appointed former Juventus manager Marcello Lippi, and signed players such as Angelo Peruzzi and Laurent Blanc together with other former Juventus players Vieri and Vladimir Jugović. The team came close to their first domestic success since 1989 when they reached the Coppa Italia final only to be defeated by Lazio.
Inter’s misfortunes continued the following season, losing the 2000 Supercoppa Italiana match against Lazio 4–3 after initially taking the lead through new signing Robbie Keane. They were also eliminated in the preliminary round of the Champions League by Swedish club Helsingborgs IF, with Álvaro Recoba missing a crucial late penalty. Lippi was sacked after only a single game of the new season following Inter’s first ever Serie A defeat to Reggina. Marco Tardelli, chosen to replace Lippi, failed to improve results, and is remembered by Inter fans as the manager that lost 6–0 in the city derby against Milan. Other members of the Inter “family” during this period that suffered were the likes of Vieri and Fabio Cannavaro, both of whom had their restaurants in Milan vandalised after defeats to the Rossoneri.
In 2002, not only did Inter manage to make it to the UEFA Cup semi-finals, but were also only 45 minutes away from capturing the Scudetto when they needed to maintain their one-goal advantage away to Lazio. Inter were 2–1 up after only 24 minutes. 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. The next season, Inter finished as league runners-up and also managed to make it to the 2002–03 Champions League semi-finals against Milan, losing on the away goals rule.
Comeback and unprecedented treble (2004–2010)
On 8 July 2004, Inter appointed former Lazio coach Roberto Mancini as its new head coach. In his first season, the team collected 72 points from 18 wins, 18 draws and only two losses, as well as winning the Coppa Italia and later the Supercoppa Italiana. On 11 May 2006, Inter retained their Coppa Italia title once again after defeating Roma with a 4–1 aggregate victory (a 1–1 scoreline in Rome and a 3–1 win at the San Siro).
Inter were awarded the 2005–06 Serie A championship retrospectively after points were stripped from Juventus and Milan due to the match fixing scandal that year. During the following season, Inter went on a record-breaking run of 17 consecutive victories in Serie A, starting on 25 September 2006 with a 4–1 home victory over Livorno, and ending on 28 February 2007, after a 1–1 draw at home to Udinese. On 22 April 2007, Inter won their second consecutive Scudetto—and first on the field since 1989—when they defeated Siena 2–1 at Stadio Artemio Franchi. Italian World Cup-winning defender Marco Materazzi scored both goals.
Inter started the 2007–08 season with the goal of winning both Serie A and Champions League. The team started well in the league, topping the table from the first round of matches, and also managed to qualify for the Champions League knockout stage. However, a late collapse, leading to a 2–0 defeat with ten men away to Liverpool on 19 February in the Champions League, threw into question manager Roberto Mancini’s future at Inter while domestic form took a sharp turn of fortune with the team failing to win in the three following Serie A games. After being eliminated by Liverpool in the Champions League, Mancini announced his intention to leave his job immediately only to change his mind the following day. On the final day of the 2007–08 Serie A season, Inter played Parma away, and two goals from Zlatan Ibrahimović sealed their third consecutive championship. Mancini, however, was sacked soon after due to his previous announcement to leave the club.
On 2 June 2008, Inter appointed former Porto and Chelsea boss José Mourinho as new head coach. In his first season, the Nerazzurri won a Suppercoppa Italiana and a fourth consecutive title, though falling in the Champions League in the first knockout round for a third-straight year, losing to eventual finalist Manchester United. In winning the league title Inter became the first club in the last 60 years to win the title for the fourth consecutive time and joined Torino and Juventus as the only clubs to accomplish this feat, as well as being the first club based outside Turin.
Inter enjoyed more success in the 2009–10 Champions League, defeating reigning champions Barcelona in the semi-final, and then beating Bayern Munich 2–0 in the final with two goals from Diego Milito. Inter also won the 2009–10 Serie A title by two points over Roma, and the 2010 Coppa Italia by defeating the same side 1–0 in the final. This made Inter the first Italian team to win Treble. At the end of the season, Mourinho left the club to manage Real Madrid; he was replaced by Rafael Benítez.
Decline and changes in ownership (2010–)
On 21 August 2010, Inter defeated Roma 3–1 and won the 2010 Supercoppa Italiana, their fourth trophy of the year. In December 2010, they claimed the FIFA Club World Cup for the first time after a 3–0 win against TP Mazembe in the final. Inter thus completed Quintuple, becoming the third team in the world to do so, after Al-Ahly in 2006 and Barcelona in 2009. However, after this win, on 23 December 2010, due to their declining performance in Serie A, the team fired Benítez. He was replaced by Leonardo the following day.
Leonardo started with 30 points from 12 games, with an average of 2.5 points per game, better than his predecessors Benítez and Mourinho. On 6 March 2011, Leonardo set a new Italian Serie A record by collecting 33 points in 13 games; the previous record was 32 points in 13 games made by Fabio Capello in the 2004–05 season. Leonardo led the club to the quarter-finals of the Champions League before losing to Schalke 04, and lead them to Coppa Italia title. At the end of the season, however, he resigned and was followed by not-so-successful new managers Gian Piero Gasperini, Claudio Ranieri and Andrea Stramaccioni.
On 1 August 2012, the club announced that Moratti to sell a minority interests of the club to a Chinese consortium led by Kenneth Huang. On the same day, Inter announced an agreement was formed with China Railway Construction Corporation Limited for a new stadium project, however, the deal with the Chinese eventually collapsed. Walter Mazzarri was also appointed to replace Stramaccioni on 24 May 2013. The 2012–13 season was the worst in recent club history with Inter finishing ninth in Serie A and failing to qualify for any European competitions.
On 15 October 2013, an Indonesian consortium (International Sports Capital HK Ltd.) led by Erick Thohir, Handy Soetedjo and Rosan Roeslani, signed an agreement to acquire 70% of Inter shares from Internazionale Holding S.r.l. Immediately after the deal, Moratti’s Internazionale Holding S.r.l. still retained 29.5% of the shares of F.C. Internazionale Milano S.p.A. After the deal, the shares of Inter was owned by a chain of holding companies, namely International Sports Capital S.p.A. of Italy (for 70% stake), International Sports Capital HK Limited and Asian Sports Ventures HK Limited of Hong Kong. Asian Sports Ventures HK Limited, itself another intermediate holding company, was owned by Nusantara Sports Ventures HK Limited (60% stake, a company owned by Thohir), Alke Sports Investment HK Limited (20% stake) and Aksis Sports Capital HK Limited (20% stake).
Thohir, whom also co-owned Major League Soccer (MLS) club D.C. United and Indonesia Super League (ISL) club Persib Bandung, announced on 2 December 2013 that Inter and D.C. United had formed strategic partnership.
During Thohir era the club began to modify its financial structure from one reliant on continual owner investment to a more self sustain business model although the club still breached UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations in 2015. The club was fined and received squad reduction in UEFA competitions, with additional penalties suspended in the probation period. During this time, Roberto Mancini returned as coach on 14 November 2014.
On 6 June 2016, Suning Holdings Group (via a Luxembourg-based subsidiary Great Horizon S.á r.l.) a company owned by Zhang Jindong, co-founder and chairman of Suning Commerce Group, acquired a majority stake of Inter Milan from Thohir’s consortium International Sports Capital S.p.A. and from Moratti family’s remaining shares in Internazionale Holding S.r.l. According to various filings, the total investment from Suning was around €270 million. The deal was approved by an extraordinary general meeting on 28 June 2016, from which Suning Holdings Group had acquired a 68.55% stake in the club.
The first season of new ownership, however, started with poor performance in pre-season friendlies. On 8 August 2016, Inter parted company with head coach Roberto Mancini by mutual consent over disagreements regarding the club’s direction. He was replaced by Frank de Boer who was sacked on 1 November 2016 after leading Inter to a 4W–2D–5L record in 11 Serie A games as head coach. The successor, Stefano Pioli, didn’t save the team from getting the worst group result in UEFA competitions in the club’s history. Despite an eight-game winning streak, he and the club parted away when it became clear they would finish outside the league’s top three for the sixth consecutive season. Primavera coach Stefano Vecchi took over for the last three rounds of the season. On 9 June 2017, former Roma coach Luciano Spalletti was appointed as Inter manager, signing a two-year contract.