MILAN - There were still five months left until Christmas, but 27 July 1997 was just like the morning of the 25th of December for Inter fans all over the world. A day they’d been anxiously awaiting for weeks, with the same anticipation and excitement you get when opening a present. There was indeed the most wonderful of presents waiting for Nerazzurri fans, one which walked out onto the pitch at San Siro, greeted by scores of young Inter fans. These children showed the emotions that every Nerazzurri fan was feeling inside: pure amazement and joy.
And so it was that on 27 July 1997, Ronaldo set foot on the hallowed turf at San Siro for the very first time with the Nerazzurri number 10 on his back. Il Fenomeno. Luis Nazario de Lima. The occasion: the second edition of the Pirelli Cup. Our opponents: Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, just like the preceding year. Before the game however, our players were presented by the trio of Nerazzurri comedians: Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo.
A party, beautiful and pure, with more than 50,000 fans in the stands. Intense moments, with the players called out to the pitch one by one. All the way until Ronaldo, with Aldo’s teasing introduction and the warmest of embraces by all of the children in Inter shirts on the pitch, as Il Fenomeno came out of the tunnel to a sea of black and blue at San Siro.
It was a special evening 23 years ago today. Ronaldo played his first 17 minutes in an Inter shirt before being replaced by Simoni, who wanted to give Il Fenomeno a run-out but also preserve his fitness, with the Brazilian having just arrived at the Club. So Ronaldo off, Zamorano on. “My first meeting with the Inter fans was so beautiful. I can see that San Siro is the ideal place to play football,” were Ronaldo’s first words, surrounded by photographers and journalists at full-time. “I’m happy. Now I have to work to build up my stamina so I can play a full 90 minutes.”
In a match that finished 1-1 with goals from Butt and a Gary Neville header into his own net, Simoni tested out that summer’s new arrivals, but also sent out a much-awaited player onto the pitch at San Siro. Nwankwo Kanu, who was thought to have said his goodbye to football the year before. A heart operation in Ohio and a return to football, with the whole Nerazzurri world delighted at his first steps back onto the pitch.
PIRELLI CUP 1997, MILAN - 27 JULY 1997
Inter 1–1 Manchester United (Inter win 4-1 on penalties)
Scorers:15’ Butt, 70’ G. Neville (own goal)
Penalty sequence: Recoba goal; Sheringham goal; Berti goal; Jordi Cruyff saved; Mezzano goal, Butt saved; Cauet goal.
Inter: Pagliuca, J. Zanetti (61’ Moriero), Sartor (46’ West), Fresi (46’ Bergomi), M. Paganin (46’ Galante), Tarantino (46’ Cauet), Djorkaeff (61’ Berti), Simeone (81’ Mezzano), Zè Elias (61’ A. Winter), Ronaldo (17’ Zamorano, 81’ Kanu), Ganz (61’ Recoba).
Coach: Luigi Simoni.
Manchester United: Schmeichel, Irwin (72’ McClair), May (24’ G. Neville), Johnsen, P. Neville, Scholes, Keane, Butt, Solskjær (67’ Cole), Giggs (67’ Jordi Cruyff), Sheringham.
Coach: Alex Ferguson.
Referee: Bazzoli (Merano)
THE PODCAST ON RONALDO: LISTEN NOW
Among the new podcasts launched by Inter in the past few days, our latest series is dedicated to the great number 10s of Nerazzurri history. Among these, of course, comes Ronaldo, who wore the No.10 shirt for just one season in 1997/98 as he inspired Inter to UEFA Cup success. Listen to the episode dedicated to Il Fenomeno now!
Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/it/podcast/10-number-10s/id1524043449
Google Podcasts: https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuc3ByZWFrZXIuY29tL3Nob3cvNDM1OTkyNi9lcGlzb2Rlcy9mZWVk