What was going on at Giuseppe Meazza this morning? Inter Milan after 13 years is back with the Champions League final.
Not noisy, even too unpopular, “Nerazzurri” entered the final of Europe’s most prestigious tournament when no one dared to expect this at the beginning of the season.
The power of the few
The story of Inter kicking two rounds of the Champions League semi-finals with a shirt without a sponsor is not new anymore. But looking deeply into the story behind that unusual disappearance, we can see how short of money Inter is now and see how remarkable the “Nerazzurri’s” Champions League final victory is.
It started with jersey sponsor Digitalbits. This is a company operating in the field of virtual currency (crypto). For a variety of reasons, mostly market volatility, Digitalbits could not afford to pay Inter as originally agreed.
The Italian team was willing to accept the debt, but after Digitalbits failed to pay the fee of only 2 million euros at the end of April, Inter decided to remove the name of this unstable sponsor from the shirt. That was the first “poverty” of Inter, which was almost extinct in the Champions League finalists in the past 20 years.
The second “poor” is more obvious: 6 out of 11 players who played in the two legs of the Champions League semi-finals were brought back by Inter for less than 5 million euros. 3 of these are free contracts (Onana, Calhanoglu, Mkhitaryan).
The most expensive player Inter spent money in the squad at the moment is Alessandro Bastoni (31 million). In the context of the whole world running after the money race with the value of the player being pushed to an unimaginable level, Inter seems to live in a different world with less famous players but their effectiveness on the pitch far exceeds expectations.
Like Onana for example. The Cameroonian goalkeeper, after taking the wrong drug from his wife while playing at Ajax, was banned for 9 months for being positive for doping. Aware of the situation, Inter approached and brought Onana to Giuseppe Meazza for free earlier this season with the goal of gradually replacing the aged Samir Handanovic. Result: Onana kept eight clean sheets in the Champions League this season, five of which came in the knockout stages, sending Inter into the final.
Francesco Acerbi is another strange case. The 35-year-old defender joined Inter on the last day of the summer transfer window 2022 with a loan deal with an option to buy for 2.5 million euros from Lazio. Acerbi is just a contract of fire after the “Nerazzurri” suffered a painful defeat to Juventus in the race to sign Gleison Bremer. Acerbi’s original position is the bench. Now the defender, who suffered from testicular cancer, is the leader of the Inter defense. At the most stressful time of the season, Acerbi kicked 10 consecutive matches for 90 minutes, carrying Inter through the storm.
Darmian is also a strange case. The Italian defender was sent to Parma by MU for only 2 million euros. Inter in Conte’s time took Darmian back to rotate with the wingers. Now, Darmian is nailed to the right-side centre-back position. Vice President Javier Zanetti when asked which Inter player shirt he would like to get answered quickly: “Darmian. He is quiet and really good.”
Such cheap contracts are the fulcrum for Inter to go to the final match in the Champions League. PSG have spent approximately 1 billion euros in the past few seasons to achieve their dream of conquering the Champions League. Despite having Messi, Neymar, Mbappe, the French capital team only reached the final once.
Inter in the past few seasons almost ran every meal, had to sell all the brightest stars (Lukaku, Hakimi, Skriniar) to get money to maintain operations, now also reaching the Champions League final with Edin Dzeko, Mkhitaryan, literal old men.
Inter has proven that having money is not a good thing. People with little money turn out to have power.
Any chance for Inter in the final?
Many neutral spectators will likely fall asleep watching the second leg semi-final against Inter and Milan. In 90 minutes, these two clubs in the same city together created 37 fouls. That is only about 2 and a half minutes, referee Clement Turpin will have to cut the whistle once.
The Champions League semi-final was almost shredded. Inter wants this to reduce the opponent’s excitement, Milan also understands that Inter will do this to protect the advantage. The two sides understand each other too well, which means that the second leg semi-final takes place on a boring level with neutral fans.
If you just look at this picture of Inter and the playing branch is too soft (Porto, Benfica, Milan), it is too easy to judge whether it meets Man City or Real Madrid, Inter will be beaten. In fact, Milan is a special opponent because it understands Inter too well.
Man City or Real Madrid are not. Last season, Inter also of Simone Inzaghi played fair, even winning Liverpool at Anfield with a pressing game that was not inferior to Premier League clubs.
Inter has enough manpower to do this. Simone Inzaghi is also a coach who knows how to play big games in the Champions League playground. The victories over Liverpool and Barca are proof.
But either way, the chance for Inter in the Champions League final will certainly be very moderate. But that’s not at all important. The party was opened in the fashion capital Milan. Inter really reached the Champions League final in the season they lost 11 matches in Serie A, losing from the size of Empoli, Bologna to Spezia, Monza…
Such a miracle with an empty wallet is indeed a dream victory.
Nhat Anh | 10:05 May 17, 2023