In our countdown of the Top 20 Inter players in the last 20 years, we recognise title winning forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 16th spot.
For the younger generation who only knows of Zlatan in recent years at Milan, he was an absolute beast for Inter back in the day. With Zlatan leading the line, Inter managed to win the league in 3 consecutive seasons.
If it was a countdown of top 20 egos in the last 20 years, then Zlatan would’ve been positioned number one. We all definitely know that!
Let’s look a bit further at Zlatan’s Inter journey.
One teams cheating is another teams fortune!
After Juventus were relegated to Serie B for cheating, Inter would sign Zlatan from Juventus. The transfer costing Inter €24.8mil, which was well worth it for the skill and age of Ibrahimovic.
The main reason Inter signed another striker was because of Adriano’s inconsistencies off the field. There were issues with Adriano’s partying and the inability of him being able to look after his body. So it was smart by management to bring some extra depth to the squad competing both in Europe and Italy.
The signing would pay off, as Zlatan would go on to score 15 goals and provide 5 assists from 27 Serie A appearances in his first season. Inter would also go on to win the league with Zlatan as the clubs highest goal scorer for that season, even though he only featured in three of the last ten fixtures to end the campaign.
Zlatan now had his first Serie A title under his belt, as the two previous Scudetti won at Juventus were stripped from them.
Welcome to the world stage –
The season of 2007/08 was the one where Zlatan made his mark. Prior to this season, he was always considered a great striker but never in that world class bracket.
Massimo Moratti, owner of Inter at the time, put forward a contract which Zlatan could not decline. It was a contract extension and upgrade which would make Zlatan the highest paid footballer in the world per season.
The annual salary being close to the €9.5mil, which exceeded the wages of both Kaka and Messi at the time. I know what you’re thinking, “Inter had money?!”. Yes, and plenty of it back then.
Unfortunately, Ibrahimovic would experience recurring knee problems throughout the season to keep him off the pitch. Even with these issues, he would go on to score 17 goals and provide 12 assists in 26 matches.
Also adding 5 goals from 7 matches in the Champions League, as Inter again bombed out in the round of 16.
Face to face with your idol –
As everyone does growing up, you idolize a player who you build your game around. People these days would look up to either Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.
For Zlatan, his man-crush was on the original Ronaldo “Il Fenomeno”, and like many people who grew up in the 80’s and early 90’s it was the same. If you speak to Inter fans from that generation, they’ll tell you the reason they followed Inter was because of Ronaldo.
There is a match where Zlatan is playing for Inter and Ronaldo playing for A.C Milan. The second half is about to begin, Inter are down 1-0 and Zlatan is seen just staring at Ronaldo with a massive grin on his face.
Inter would go on to win the match 2-1 with Ibrahimovic scoring the winner, so maybe that half time fanboy moment was exactly what Zlatan needed to get in the zone. I’m guessing he didn’t realise he was even doing it.
Just shows you that everyone is human… Even Zlatan!
The defining moment –
Let’s set the scene. It’s the final matchday of the 2007/08 season and Inter are playing away to Parma. Roma is playing away at Catania. Inter started the day one point ahead of Roma in the title fight, and Parma and Catania are fighting to stay out of the relegation zone.
Roma take an early lead in their game, as Inter are struggling to create any definitive chances of goal in their match. As it stands, Roma are going to win the Scudetto and overtake Inter on the final day of the season.
With the score still remaining at 0-0, Mancini needs to change both his and Inter’s fortunes. In comes Zlatan Ibrahimovic injected into the game on the 51st minute for Brazilian midfielder Cesar.
Just over 10 minutes later, Stankovic gets the ball in Parma’s half and passes to Ibrahimovic still with a lot of work to do. He would beat the first defender with a silky move, and take another touch ahead to line up a shot from distance.
Zlatan shoots from about 10 yards outside the box, and next thing you know the ball is smashing into back of the net. Inter now up 1-0, and one hand on the Serie A trophy.
Zlatan would double the lead only 15 minutes later, as Maicon swooped on a ball from a poor Parma clearance. Maicon would run the ball up to the edge of the box to put in a pinpoint cross to find Zlatan at the back post. Zlatan would make no mistake as he belted the ball into the top of the goal.
The final score finishing 2-0, as Ibrahimovic gives Inter the title on the final matchday. A moment we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives!
We will be visiting number 15 next on our countdown. Who would you like to see in that number 15 spot for the Top 20 Inter players in the past 20 years?
As always Forza Inter!