Inter key in Bernardini's development


MondoFutbol looks back over the career of one of the game's greats. An innovator always a step ahead of the rest

MILAN - Fulvio Bernardini was an innovator both as a player and coach. In the spring of 1926, the Lazio man, 20, was one of the best Italian midfielders around. A year earlier the Roman, from the city's Monti neighbourhood, had become the first Italian from the South to play for the national team.

Bernardini had given up playing in goal due to injury but was blessed with technique, the ability to make late runs and terrific vision. Those attributes brought him to the attention of two big clubs in the shape of Inter and Juventus. Despite lucrative offers from both parties, Fulvio opted for the Nerazzurri. Besides the pay packet and a job in the bank (Bernardini obtained his high-school leaving certificate in accounting), he also had the chance to study economics at Milan's prestigious Bocconi university. The midfielder even paid 20,000 Lira out of his own pocket - with the help of his older brother Vittorio - to leave Lazio.

He would spend just two years at Inter yet his experience there proved crucial both in terms of his football and life in general. It was there that his genius - later admired all over the country at his various stop-offs - would begin to take shape. He studied with excellent results in Milan, moved out of his parents' house and wowed the crowds with his ability. His coach, Arpad Weisz, another very cultured man who knew his football inside-out, moved him from deep-lying playmaker to forward. And the results were there for all to see.

In his two-year spell at Inter, Bernardini consistently found the net, scoring 10 goals in his first season and 17 in his second. One of his first strikes came in a 6-3 victory over AC Milan on 19 September 1926. Fulvio scored to make it 2-1 but, above all, he scored in the friendly to open the San Siro. In 1980, that ground would be named after Giuseppe Meazza, a young man Bernardini knew well. He watched him as barely more than a kid in the Inter academy and convinced his coach Weisz to try him out in the first team. The Hungarian took his advice and "Peppin" never stopped thanking Fulvio, later going on to become a legend at Inter and in Italian football in general. Meazza and Bernardini would also play together for a solitary season, 1927/28, as the latter - who had become a man in Milan - returned to the capital to represent Roma until 1939. The club also named their training ground after him posthumously.

The end of his playing career saw him travel up and down the country as a successful journalist, before he moved into management (he served as the FIGC's special commissioner in 1944 under Ottorino Barassi) and finally coaching. Bernardini revealed that he fell in love with coaching after watching Italy v England at San Siro in 1939, with the visitors operating in the WM system. After tweaking it to suit his playing staff, Fulvio would win the Scudetto in 1956, before doing likewise with Bologna in 1964.

In the city in Emilia, where his mentor Weisz was greeted like royalty, Bernardini achieved his greatest triumph. Yet another. He won the league in 1964 with a tactically intelligent team, carefully assembled over time from 1961, with the focus on good footballers. That was the only championship to be decided by a play-off. In the crucial game played in his hometown Rome, the team led by Giacomo Bulgarelli and strikers Pascutti and Nielsen beat Inter - under another brilliant coach Helenio Herrera - 2-0. It would be his last piece of silverware even though "Fuffo", as he became affectionately known, stayed in the football world for another decade. He even worked for the national team, preparing the training ground for Enzo Bearzot. Forever a football man. Always a step ahead. A man with Nerazzurri roots.

Roberto Brambilla

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