MILAN – Inter Legends is back on Inter Channel with an episode dedicated to Walter "The Wall" Samuel that traces his arrival in Milan to the triumph in Madrid.
"Giacinto Facchetti was there to meet us and I made sure I stayed close to him during the presentation. It was an honour because he left a huge mark on Inter's history."
Samuel's first competitive match for Inter was in the Italian Super Cup at home against Juventus, while he played his debut league game against Chievo Verona and chipped in with a decisive goal: "Luis Figo, who joined at the same time I did, swung over a great cross for me. It was good, I couldn't have made a better start."
Due to injury and Marco Materazzi being in superb form, Samuel didn't play that often during the following season in 2006/07 – the first time he had spent time on the sidelines in his career: "Even when I was at Real Madrid and receiving criticism, I always played. I knew Marco was turning in fantastic performances but it wasn't easy for me. I started to think more about the team than myself, I was always willing to help and the experience was extremely beneficial."
Despite limited playing time it was actually Walter's most prolific season as a goalscorer: "It wasn't my job to score goals but I had a few chances and got lucky. I was annoyed at not playing back then, but I was young and as I grew up I realised how important that period was."
The 2007/08 season began on a good note both for Samuel and Inter as a club but in the Derby della Madonnina a few days before Christmas he injured his cruciate ligament: "I knew something bad had happened but I carried on until I couldn't run any more. It was tough but I don't think about it much these days. I was just disappointed not to be involved. I'd often go to the stadium and watch my team-mates without being able to help out."
That summer saw Roberto Mancini depart to be replaced by Jose Mourinho, which coincided with Walter's return to action: "I wasn't expecting it initially, even though I had played in some friendlies. Normally I'm calm before a match but on the eve of the Udinese game I couldn't sleep to be honest. However, as soon as the game began I was just thinking about playing. Paradoxically the injury probably extended my career.
"We were playing really well in that period, even when we played away from home the opponents showed us respect. That was very satisfying."
Thus we come to the treble-winning season. In the group stages of the Champions League, Samuel popped up with a vital goal against Dynamo Kyiv at San Siro: "It's true but the Champions League is always difficult. We faced Barcelona in that group as well when they were probably the best team in the world."
Before the knockout round of Europe's premier club competition, there was just as important a match against Siena. In the dying moments of the game, the score was 3-3 and Inter were bombing forward with Marko Arnautovic, Alen Stevanovic, Wesley Sneijder, Goran Pandev, Diego Milito and a certain Argentine up from the back: "I was lucky to find myself there at that moment. Just think that when Wes equalised I wanted to go back in defence! The shirtless celebration was nice, it's stayed in people's memories. It was spontaneous."
Back in Europe and Inter faced the prospect of a Round-of-16 clash against Chelsea with Didier Drogba in his prime: "We knew we couldn't give him an inch. He's a beast, the man has so much strength and can score from anywhere. Lucio played tremendously in that game as well."
Later in the same competition there was the famous semi-final against Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Barcelona: "He used to be a big player for us at Inter as well. It wasn't easy resisting the pressure and playing for so long with ten men during the second leg. Everyone's aim was to get to Madrid."
Inter had waited for 45 years for another chance to lift that trophy and yet the team went into the game calm and almost convinced they would win: "We prepared for the game well with the coach. When we stepped onto the pitch it was a unique experience. At that moment everyone knew what they had to do even though we went through some difficult moments in the game."
Even after those massive victories, Samuel still found some personal satisfaction like his tenth derby victory in ten Serie A encounters with AC Milan, even scoring a goal in that game: "I didn't know that until I read it in the papers. Scoring in a derby was an incredible experience. It had never happened to me before for Inter."
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