Istvan Nyers: Inter’s prolific Hungarian
When remembering Inter’s great players, it is easy to focus on those who spent the most time with the Biscione. One Hungarian deserves to be widely recognised as being among the greats
To be a record holder at a club like Inter is a difficult feat. There are so many legends that have worn blue and black down the years that the list reads like a who’s who and they would all fare well on critical-reviews.
Giuseppe Meazza, the club’s top scorer, is so celebrated that the stadium the Nerazzurri play in now bears his name. More recently, Javier Zanetti’s longevity propelled him to the top of a number of the club’s lists.
Longevity is paramount. Meazza’s 198 league goals came over 14 war interrupted years. He retired in 1947, after scoring just twice the previous season and left Inter’s striking options looked somewhat paltry. Over the next two summers, the two men who sit behind him in the all-time scorers list arrived at the club. First Benito Lorenzi and then, in 1948, Istvan Nyers.
Although Hungarian, Nyers was born as to an immigrant family in North-Eastern France, moving to Budapest in his teenage years, which is where his footballing begain in earnest.
Progressing through to Ujpest, he eventually moved back to France and joined Inter from Stade Francais, whom he had joined for their first venture in France’s national competition. There he was coached by Helenio Herrera, a man who went on to have a deep impact on Inter as well.
While successful in France, not much was known of Nyers in Italy. That began to change early, when he earned rave reviews on his debut. Not only did he outshine fellow new signing Amedeo Amadei in the friendly against Modena, he scored in the 2-1 win.
It was to prove something of an omen. The following week, when it mattered, he grabbed a hat-trick against Sampdoria; as Nyers was deployed as either winger or striker, his pace and control, allied with a fierce low shot made him a nightmare to deal with for defenders.
In what became a season of goals for Inter, Nyers was always at the forefront. When the Nerazzurri put Bari to the sword 9-1, he got two, just as in the 4-4 draw in the derby with AC Milan. The poor previous season was washed away by the free-scoring new Inter who ended up finishing second to the Grande Torino side who perished tragically at Superga.
With 26 goals in his debut season, Nyers won the Capocannoniere title, finishing four ahead of his teammate and nearest challenger Amadei. Something was beginning at Inter, though it took a while to come to fruition.
The same year Istvan moved to Inter, his younger brother Ferenc joined Lazio. While the younger sibling was not quite as successful; the two scored for opposite sides in December 1949 – a 2-1 win for Inter.
In 1949-50, it was more of the same for Inter’s Hungarian import. He was the main goalscorer in blue and black; vital in a number of the thrashings the side doled out and a pivotal cog in the team that beat Milan 6-5 in another thrilling Derby della Madonnina – though it was Amadei that completed what La Stampa described as ‘the rumba of goals’.
Despite finding the net regularly, including a Christmas Eve hat trick at Como and four strikes in a 4-0 win over Bari, he missed out on the top scorer’s crown to Gunnar Nordahl that season, with Juventus’ John Hansen finishing third; the first time Serie A’s top three scorers hailed from outside Italy.
That pattern continued. Over his first four seasons in Italy, Nyers amassed a huge 115 goals in just 137 appearances as the free-flowing side kept pace with the goals flying in at Juventus and Milan, but not the trophies.
September 1952 brought a fundamental change. President Carlo Masseroni turned to Sampdoria’s coach Alfredo Foni, who changed the Nerazzurri’s tactics. Instead of the gung-ho goalscoring, Foni’s side became experts at victories through minimal effort; limiting their opposition, and in turn holding back a little themselves, techniques that were to become familiar with Inter the following decade.
After scoring an average of 94 goals in each of the previous four years, Foni’s side managed fewer than half that total – just 46. Yet results had improved dramatically. After a Nyers equaliser brought a 1-1 draw at Lazio in April 1953, Inter were on the brink.
Nyers opened the scoring in a 3-0 win that sealed the Nerazzurri’s first Scudetto since 1940 with three games to spare. The defensive style was not universally liked and Foni has come to become synonymous with Herrera and catenaccio, though both could point to their triumphs when criticism came.
Despite just scoring 15 goals in the first title season, Nyers was Inter’s top scorer, though he managed just eight the following campaign – winning another Scudetto in the process. He left Inter in the summer of 1954 for Roma, helping the Giallorossi to a third placed finish in his first season.
Meanwhile, Lorenzi stayed on for another four seasons, requiring each of them to end up with 138 Inter goals – five ahead of his long-term teammate.
Istvan Nyers may not have had the longevity of Zanetti, and he may have been less prolific than Meazza, but his place in Inter’s history is in no doubt – indeed, despite playing just eight seasons, he remains 25th on the list of all time Serie A scorers.