Former Inter boss Roy Hodgson has had a decorated career, but the current Crystal Palace coach had a tough time ever getting to Milan to join the club in 1995 and feared for his life en route.
Then in charge of Switzerland, Hodgson received a call from south of the border inviting him to negotiate with the Nerazzurri and set off on a torturous drive through the Alps to make his morning meeting in Northern Italy.
“I’d been playing golf in Neuchatel where I’d been living and I came home and there was a message on my answer phone,” Hodgson remembered in a conversation with The Italian Football Podcast. “It was a very brief message, and I didn’t speak Italian at the time. But I knew enough to interpret the phone call. The message just said: ‘Sono Facchetti, chiama mi’ [meaning: ‘I am Facchetti, call me’].
“So I knew that he wanted me to call him, which I did. And then we had a little conversation, which was difficult although Giacinto spoke a little bit of French and I was a French speaker. And I understood a bit of Italian mainly through watching Domenica Sportiva for a few years while I was living in Neuchatel.
“So the conversation took place and the idea was that I would go to Milan, he would send me an address and I would find my way to Inter president Massimo Moratti’s offices right in the centre of Milan.
“I’d decided I would travel the night before because it was an early meeting at 9am and I was going to drive there. But my job took me to a game in Basel. Basel were playing Grasshoppers in a massive playoff match in front of 50,000 people
“I’d also been invited to a fantastic restaurant in Basel called Stucki with a friend of mine.
“So by the time I set off to go to Milan it was already past 10 pm and then, of course, by the time I get to St Gotthard it was closed so I had to go over the top of the mountains.
“It started to first rain and then snow so it was an unbelievably hair-raising experience. I remember thinking about all the headlines that would come the next morning about my death on the mountain.
“I stopped in a motel at Bellinzona for a three or four-hour sleep and, goodness knows how then found my way into the centre of Milan and found my way to Massimo’s. And that was magical because I couldn’t possibly describe the steps that I took to get me there. But I got there.
“Massimo invited me to dinner that evening and he offered me the salary he thought was appropriate. I never had an agent them, I’ve never dealt much with them. And I thanked him and said I would come.”
Hodgson hasn’t allowed Roberto Carlos’ recent criticism of him to go unchallenged, with the Englishman firing back at the former left-back, whom he worked with during their time together at Inter.
The former Real Madrid star, while celebrating his 47th birthday recently, accused Hodgson of ruining his career in Serie A.
Roberto Carlos claimed that Hodgson had played him out of position at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, which prompted his exit in order to move to the Spanish capital.
“Well that’s nonsense,” Hodgson said. “Anybody who watched us play at that time, he no more played left-wing than I did.
“Every game he played for Inter when I was there was at left-back.
“What I remember, when I was at Inter, he scored four goals I think in the first six or seven games from freekicks. During the rest of the season, he took about 28 free kicks and never scored one. So I don’t know if that was my fault as well.
“But him playing out of position? Unless he wasn’t a left-back, but that’s where I was told he played and what he came to the club as. He was a very attacking left-back, he was much better going forward than he was defending.”
Going on with the discussion, Hodgson heaped praise on Javier Zanetti, who arrived as part of another signing and went on to become one of Inter’s greatest ever players.
“Well, he wasn’t signed to be an all-time great,” Hodgson confessed. “He was signed because Inter wanted to sign a forward called Sebastian Rambert and Zanetti came along as part of the deal.
“He had an incredible physical capacity to run, to keep running, to never give up. The other great ability he had was his ability to get out of tight situations.
“Javier’s great career started in those two seasons with me but it got better and better as he got older. I can’t truthfully say that I saw in him the player that he became.
“He made himself the player that he became because he was such a dedicated footballer and he was very wise in knowing what he could and couldn’t do and making the very best out of it.
“I would draw a direct parallel between Zanetti and James Milner, who is now at Liverpool.”