MILAN – Emre Belözoğlu and Okan Buruk were the two guests of today’s Inter Calling episode, Inter TV’s series that recalls parts of the Club’s history through the memories and anecdotes of former Nerazzurri players.
To open the episode, Okan recalled his emotions on arriving in Milan after winning the UEFA Cup with Galatasaray: “We won the UEFA Cup in 2000 and then reached the Champions League quarter-finals in 2001 with Galatasaray, and that European success gave us some fame. Given his age and talent, Emre was one of the most sought-after and eye-catching youngsters in Europe, Inter noticed him and started to then take an interest in me too. It was very exciting to come to a club like Inter, which has always had great players.”
Their Nerazzurri debut was unforgettable, as Emre said: “Our first match was on matchday one of the league, and we both came off the bench. Naturally, we were pumped up and enthusiastic. The most important thing was to win the first game of the season and we managed to do it against Perugia. Okan and I came on when it was 2-1 and at full time it was 4-1. Okan was a particularly energetic player and I learned a lot from him. Overall, we felt we made a difference coming on in that game, which was nice.”
Many great champions wore Inter’s shirt in those years: “If I had to choose one,” Emre began, “I’d say El Fenomeno, Ronaldo. Other than him, there were players like Zanetti, Vieri, Recoba and Seedorf. We played with some incredible players, and I don’t like choosing one in particular but those are the first names that came to mind.”
Okan also mentioned several names: “Obviously there were some great players. We had a young Adriano, who went on to do great things in his career, and of course Ronaldo was a true great, he was the best of that era. The one who impressed me the most during my three years at the Club, and who is an example that I still quote now as a coach, was Javier Zanetti. His constant presence in both training and matches was incredible, and he always gave his best in everything he did: during my three years, he never missed a training session nor match. Of course, talent and skill are two crucial factors, but I also want to emphasise Zanetti’s professionalism.”
Thanks to their dedication and passion, both players earned the Nerazzurri fans’ affection:
“Yes, we had passion,” Okan recalled, “and we never stopped running when we were on the pitch. Thanks to our approach and the fact we knew each other very well, we always applied the same strategy that we did at Galatasaray, that is to say the intense pressing. We ran everywhere, we pressed our opponents and always fought hard, we had to show our dynamism and perhaps that’s why we were so loved. Sometimes Cuper would yell at us from the bench, “Hey! Where are you two going! Stay in your position!” We had a lot of passion, we put the team first and ran non-stop with great energy.”