Great Calcio Sides: Inter 2006-2010
When Inter completed their historic treble against Bayern Munich in the Champions League Final in 2010 it was the culmination of four years of domination claiming four consecutive Serie A titles en route, yet it has always been difficult to assess coming in the wake of the Calciopoli scandal of 2006.
Juventus’ demotion arguably became the catalyst for the Nerazzurri’s success seizing Patrick Vieira and Zlatan Ibrahimovic from the Bianconeri with the latter unparalleled as he became the focal point and top scorer over the next three seasons.
With AC Milan also deducted eight points for their involvement, and notable punishments for Fiorentina and Lazio, Roberto Mancini’s side were handed an instant advantage for the 2006-07 campaign and it showed.
During their charge to the Scudetto, top spot was never surrendered as they broke Roma’s record of 11 consecutive Serie A wins – eventually reaching 17 – as the set a record points total of 97 (22 ahead of closest challengers Roma).
Their domestic dominance couldn’t quite stretch to a double though as an astonishing 6-2 first leg loss to the Giallorossi ended in a 7-4 aggregate defeat in the Coppa Italia final.
As a depleted Juventus returned and with others starting on equal ground, 2007-08 was the first real test for Mancini and Inter were quick to prove the doubters wrong with Ibrahimovic at his imperious best as the Scudetto was secured suffering just three defeats.
Impressively the club had made just one significant signing the previous summer with the €16 million acquisition of Cristian Chivu from Roma, however, with Massimo Moratti’s backing Mancini had already constructed one of the strongest squads in Europe.
Once again the Coppa Italia eluded the Nerazzurri and again it was the Giallorossi who had scuppered a domestic double for Mancini’s group.
However, it was their inability to progress in the Champions League the ultimately proved Mancini’s downfall, the 3-0 aggregate defeat to Liverpool in the Last 16 seen by many as the final straw for Moratti and he was eventually replaced by Jose Mourinho.
Under the Portuguese coach Inter reaffirmed their Serie A dominance, finishing 10 points ahead of Juventus and Milan, Ibrahimovic again highlighting his importance to the side with another 30 goals, but despite spending around €47m failed to better the Nerazzurri’s Champions League fortunes.
In 2009-10 that would all be forgotten as Moratti again backed Mourinho with €100m that summer, even if the departure of talisman Ibrahimovic to Barcelona caused initial concern.
The changes were inspired as the incoming Diego Milito, Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto’o more than covered for the absence of the Swede, the Argentine alone matching his 30 goal tally.
It was Ibrahimovic’s new side who provided the last hurdle to a Champions League final and although momentous, their semi-final contests will be remembered more for their importance over the quality of football witnessed.
A hard fought 3-1 win at San Siro saw Mourinho head to the Spain intent on ensuring that that two goal advantage would be enough to advance and was rewarded by near perfect display of determination and resilience.
Those efforts did mean that with four games remaining Inter fell behind Roma in the title race, however, with the Giallorossi losing to Sampdoria, four consecutive victories were enough to clinch another Scudetto – Milito with the solitary strike against Siena in their final match.
The 30-year-old became the difference between failure and success in those last few weeks as 12 days before his double defeated Bayern in Madrid to return to the top of European football for the first time in 45 years it was his goal that saw the Nerazzurri end their Roma curse in the Coppa Italia final.
It was somewhat fitting to see Javier Zanetti hold aloft the famous trophy, at 36 still playing such a prominent role, participating in 55 matches and completing the most minutes on the pitch with 5265.
However, in the instant aftermath of the victory it became clear that Mourinho would be remaining in the Bernabeu dugout by joining Real Madrid and by the beginning of the next campaign the exertions of a trophy laden season and an exhausting World Cup had taken its toll.
With the promising Mario Balotelli joining Mancini at Manchester City, incoming coach Rafael Benitez was left with the difficult task of motivating a group of players with little left to give.
Whilst that Champions League victory became the pinnacle of their achievements success at the 2010 FIFA World Club Cup over TP Mazembe later that year suddenly became a symbolical last act of one of the greatest sides in Italian history.
Follow Kevin Pogorzelski on Twitter: @rabbitrabbiton