Home Exclusive #19 – Julio “El Jardinero” Cruz

#19 – Julio “El Jardinero” Cruz

0

In our countdown of the Top 20 Inter players in the last 20 years, we recognise title winning forward Julio Cruz in 19th spot.

Julio Cruz was a fantastic attacking player for Inter during the early and mid 2000’s. Mostly used as a rotational player for the likes of Christian Vieri, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Adriano during his career. This was due to Inter always competing in both European midweek football and domestic Italian football.

Tough start –

After three decent seasons at Bologna, Inter decided to add some depth to their squad and bring in Julio Cruz.

In Cruz’s first season with Inter in 2003/04, he really struggled to get a starting position as there was a lot of chopping and changing. In the league, Cruz managed to score 7 goals from 21 appearances.

The second season was riddled by niggling injuries and again lack of playing time. Only being able to manage 5 goals in 21 appearances, with all goals coming in the last 10 fixtures of the season.

When Cruz first signed from Bologna there was hope he could transform into a 20+ goal a season striker. Unfortunately this never came about, as Cruz never seemed to get the opportunity in his first couple of seasons to show his worth.

Greatest Julio moment –

There is no doubt, it’s in the Derby D’Italia against Juventus in 2003/04 when Julio scored a brace.

The first goal was setup by Martins being fouled just outside the box. Cruz grabs the ball and starts pacing back to his mark ready to take the freekick. Slowly walks up and smashes the ball into the top corner BOOM! Buffon stood no chance to save it!

The second goal was setup by a trademark Zanetti run through the midfield. Then laying the ball onto Cruz who had his first shot saved by Buffon. However, the deflection went straight back to Cruz who was able to slip the ball into the back of the net.

Inter up 2-0 thanks to Cruz, and the final score finishing 3-1.

As quoted by Cruz “It wasn’t an easy time for us, but we played the perfect match that day”. Yes, they really did considering it was away from home too. Incredible!

The Transformation –

Inter manager at the time Mancini made a decision that Cruz would be used as a super sub. This was the best thing that could’ve happened to Cruz.

It finally looked like El Jardinero found his calling, as he was perfectly suited to the role. In the first three games of the 2005/2006 season, Cruz had only managed a total of 55 minutes, but somehow found a way to score 3 goals.

Julio had most arguably his greatest season of his career. Managing to score 15 goals from 31 appearances in the league, and 4 goals from 7 appearances in Europe.

The Argentine kept his positive attitude throughout his Inter tenure. Still to this day, he is among many of Inter’s fans favourite players from the decade.

His favourite strike partner?

The Argentine was quoted was saying “Of all the partners I’ve had, Zlatan was the one who I got on with the best”.

Quite fascinating to hear this as Cruz played with some fantastic players over the years and Zlatan wasn’t known for being the most bubbly of teammates.

Considering the two played together for three years and managed to win 3 Scudetti, then you can understand why the two had such a great rapport with each other.

Who’s next?

We will be visiting number 18 next on our countdown. Who would you like to see in that number 18 spot for the Top 20 Inter players in the past 20 years?

As always Forza Inter!