Despite their recent dominance in Italy, FC Internazionale Milano's lack of success on European football's biggest stage in the modern era has long rankled with their supporters, especially given the achievements of rivals AC Milan.
However, as Saturday's UEFA Champions League final approaches, José Mourinho could be the man to lead the club to victory in Europe's top club competition for the first time since 1965. "For Inter it would be something different than it is for Bayern, for Barcelona, for Manchester United, for Real Madrid," the coach told UEFA.com. "To win the Champions League in modern times with Inter would be something great."
It is a feeling shared by long-serving captain Javier Zanetti, who will play his 700th game for the Nerazzurri against FC Bayern München in Madrid. "After waiting so long, I think everybody has been dreaming of this final," the 36-year-old explained. "We have managed to get this far by beating strong teams and suffering, but in the end I think we deserve it."
Playmaker Wesley Sneijder also believes Inter's great desire can push them to victory. "I wasn't even born when they last won," the 25-year-old Dutch international said. "A big club like Inter are very hungry to win the Champions League and that's good.
I don't know if we're going to win it this year, but we are getting better and better and for sure we're going to win it in the future. However, we are so close now so we have to take it."
While some players feel the burden of Inter's past, others like midfielder Esteban Cambiasso are determined to focus only on the present. "It's true it means a lot to the club, to the fans, but we shouldn't take this burden of over 40 years of history on us," the Argentinian international said. "
Reaching a final after 38 years means a lot to the club, and for the fans, especially the young ones who will see Inter playing a final for the first time. It's good to know the team will give everything to lift that trophy."
Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o, who scored in the two finals he won with Barcelona in 2006 and 2009, knows only too well that too much pressure can lead to trouble. "This has to be a dream, not an obsession," he said. "I know there are thousands of Inter fans dreaming about that moment. It has to stay a dream. If it turns into an obsession, we will miss it."
Inter won the title in 1964 and 1965, under coach Helenio Herrera, but have not been back to the final since losing to AFC Ajax in 1972. Two other past winners believe this could finally be their year. Former Milan striker Pierino Prati, who scored a hat-trick for the Rossoneri when they defeated Ajax in the 1969 final at the Bernabéu, reckons Inter have struggled in the past compared to Milan because they were not as technically gifted. This year, he says, things have changed. "I think they are the best team at the moment," he said. "Other teams are worried about Inter having players in attack who can make the difference personally, on an individual level."
Sandro Mazzola, who scored twice in Inter's 3-1 final triumph against Real Madrid CF in 1964, also feels Inter's time has come, if only for his own unique reasons. "When you say 45 years, it doesn't seem to me that long ago; maybe because I experienced it, it seems closer. But the number 45, it's four plus five, and that makes nine, and the number nine is a lucky number, at least for me, so it could be a good year."
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