He made a firm decision to join Inter and then went on to win it all. Not everyone would’ve done what Dejan Stankovic did back in January 2004, when he turned down a move to Juventus due to his desire to succeed with the Nerazzurri. “It’s going to be great,” said the Serbian midfielder during his presentation alongside Giacinto Facchetti, with his claims consequently coming true.
Deki’s temperament was always a key component of his career. “Son, you aren’t right for us. But you can try if you want and play for some other minor team.” This was the reaction when he first tried out for a small club as a young lad. Another player would’ve given up, although by the time he was 18, he’d become both a starter and captain for Red Star Belgrade, who were the biggest club in his country. He then went on to join Lazio, just missing out on the Scudetto during his first season, before then playing a key role as they triumphed the following year.
He was a rare example of a player who could cover all types of midfield positions, always putting in a fine performance. He could supply goals, assists and precise through balls, while also demonstrating grit and determination. He joined the club with Zaccheroni in charge, before then becoming a fundamental figure for Mancini and indispensable for Josè Mourinho, the latter making him one of the main protagonists of his invincible Inter side. According to some newspapers at the time, Mou could’ve sold him straight away, although he instead became one of his most loyal servants.
The San Siro fell in love with him instantly, celebrating his remarkable technique and also his tendency to go through games showing the same intensity as the fans. He was the perfect match for Inter. Deki was without compromises, never providing words just suited for the occasion, whether that be in victory or defeat.
He also scored some remarkable and crucial goals for the club, notably in derbies and key Champions League encounters. His list of goals includes one from 60 metres against Genoa in the league, catching the ball on the volley following a mistake from Amelia. “Pure luck,” some said, although any cynicism was soon silenced as he scored almost in identical fashion in the Champions League quarter-finals with Manuel Neuer in goal.
He left the San Siro as a true legend, almost a decade after his first game as an interista. It’s a shirt that still remains on him today, worn just like a second skin.
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