Massimo Moratti is 75 today. Ten years ago, Moratti marked his 65th birthday with a trip to the Stadio Artemio Franchi as Inter took on Siena on the last day of the 2009/10 season. A goal from Diego Milito handed the Nerazzurri their 18th Scudetto title and their second piece of silverware in that extraordinary season. Six days later, in Madrid, Inter would clinch the Champions League to complete an historic treble. Born in Bosco Chiesanuova on 16 May 1945, Moratti served as Inter president from 1995 to 2004 and again from 2006 to 2013 and was honorary president until 2014. The Nerazzurri won 16 trophies during his tenure. Today, on his birthday, Letters to Inter features a letter from Moratti to all Inter fans. President Steven Zhang and everyone in the Nerazzurri family wish Moratti many happy returns on this special day.
I never lost sleep before the big games, but Inter was often the last thing I thought about before dropping off. They were happy thoughts, football fantasies… I would visualise the moves and pieces of skill our players might produce the next day. I would think like a fan – I found it relaxing. Then, the next morning, I would switch to more practical matters: choices, decisions, commitments.
The responsibility of leading the club was always accompanied by a sense of love for our colours.
And despite the fact that I was well aware that the happiness of our fans was dependent on our results, I never once came to see my role as a burden or struggle. Of course, the defeats hurt more than the wins felt good, because they were harder to forget. But I always looked ahead with confidence.
I always tried to be at the matches. You’re not alone when you’re at the stadium and it gives you a chance to ease the tension by interacting with other people. It all helps to distract you a little from the importance of the game. Watching from home, on the other hand, was always much harder for me – first and foremost because I was disappointed not to be there in the flesh. But it was also harder because I had nobody to share it with, nobody to get angry alongside. Paradoxically, when things were really not going well, I would even take issue with the president, as any passionate fan would, despite knowing all too well that I myself was the president.
Did I ever really lose my temper? On a few occasions, yes – I have to admit. The angriest I ever got – and the time that I really made my feelings known, because I felt it was necessary and my duty to do so – was after we were knocked out of the Champions League by Manchester United in 2009. I was always ready to accept it when we lost, but on that occasion I knew that it was time for us to make the step up and go for it.
All these experiences helped us to develop. Aside from the wonderful performance and great goals, I remember the derby of August 2009 because it came after a tricky start to the season for us in which we’d lost the Super Cup and drawn with Bari. It was Sneijder’s first game. I saw a strong team, a team with increased belief. It’s what fans dream of: a team that knows its own strength.
Yet the derbies I remember most are the ones we really had to suffer for. The second derby that year was extraordinary in its own way. We were 1-0 up at half time – but down to ten men. The tension was running high around the stadium and I could see that the players were not happy. I wanted to help – I thought my presence in the dressing room would provide a show of support for the players. That was something I didn’t do often – rarely, in fact. When I got down there, I was shocked by the scene I found: the players were sitting down, quietly.
In the middle of the room was Jose Mourinho. The only thing I could do was remain silent and listen to his instructions. They were precise and useful – tactical instructions to help us deal with being a man down. But they were full of motivation too: “You’ll see, we’ll get the chance to score the second goal.”
Kiev and London were crucial moments in that run. I didn’t go to Ukraine. We were up against a certain Shevchenko, who had always caused us problems. It was important that we didn’t make the same mistakes again – it was in Kiev that we’d let the chance of qualification slip away a few years previously. The finale of that game lives on in the memory, with Diego Milito having a hand in both goals. He was a terrific player. Then, against Chelsea, we produced a real coming-of-age performance.
As for Barcelona v Inter, often it’s the final whistle that’s remembered… my celebration and the way I composed myself to shake hands with the Barcelona president.
But a few minutes before that, before the cameras found me, something else happened.
I felt a pang in my heart.
Time stood still. I could hear no sound. I saw the referee take a step, turn around and give a free-kick. It was only then that time began moving again and the colour flooded back into view. On my right, Joan Laporta had jumped to his feet and was celebrating. From my seat, I tapped him on the left arm. “It’s been disallowed,” I told him. It was true: Bojan’s goal had been chalked off.
We had a wonderful group. It was united and full of good people. I’m thinking of Chivu and his terrible injury, for example. Dr Combi played a vital role in realising what was happening, then Chivu responded very well and showed real bravery in returning so quickly. That sent out an important message. Maicon did the same, every time he played. When we signed him, we didn’t think he would get so good, but he was like an extra forward for us – it was extraordinary.
Ten years ago today, I was travelling to Siena, full of hope. A hope shared by our fans. I knew it was going to be a battle, on a small pitch, in a stadium we knew well. It turned out to be a pretty good birthday, I have to admit – arduous at times, but exciting. And we still had to put the icing on the cake, in Madrid.
If you have ever lost somebody you’ve loved, you’ll know that you often find yourself thinking about them. It was the same for me – still is. In the build-up to the Bernabeu game, and as Milito was scoring his two goals, and while everything was coming to fruition, my mind strayed to three people.
Peppino Prisco, with his cutting remarks that seemed to just stick, with his dry wit. An Inter man through and through.
Giacinto. I felt a deep sense of disappointment, because he truly deserved to see those triumphs. I missed my chats with him. I missed asking his advice on signings. I missed everything.
My father, Angelo. I always had a very close bond with him. He taught me everything and formed my way of thinking. I couldn’t not dedicate this sweetest of successes to him. In his memory, I decided to let my son bring the trophy back to Milan.
When the final whistle blew at the Bernabeu, all I felt was happiness. The sense of joy was full, complete.
I saw Mourinho two days later, when I invited him to have dinner at my home in Milan. I surprised him with an unusual centrepiece for the table: the Champions League trophy, with my newborn grandson – the most wonderful gift – snug inside. It was a lovely evening, full of warmth and affection. It was then that we spoke about the secret that everyone had been talking about but that we’d never mentioned before – because that was what was right.
This all happened ten years ago. The memories haven’t faded, nor have the emotions lost their edge. Now, there is a new family at the helm of Inter – a family that shares our passion. Steven Zhang has often spoken to me of how proud he feels to be the president of this club. He’s young, intelligent and perceptible. He’s an Inter man.
There’s only one way to describe Inter fans: in love. We have all the qualities, the flaws and the virtues that come with that. Ours is an unconditional love for the black and blue of Inter.
And it will always be so.
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