FC Internazionale Milano atoned for their defeat in the previous season's two-legged decider with a 3-0 win against SS Lazio in the 1998 UEFA Cup final, staged for the first time as a one-off fixture at Paris's Parc des Princes.
It was understandably an emotional occasion for Inter's France striker Youri Djorkaeff. "Lifting the trophy at Parc des Princes was such a great thrill, because I was playing for Inter, one of my favourite clubs, along with the final being in Paris, which is really symbolic for me," he told UEFA.com. "We lost the season before that, [against FC Schalke 04]. So 1998 was a big year for me: the UEFA Cup in May, the [FIFA] World Cup in July. We had lost the [Serie A] title to Juventus two matchdays before the end. It was a very busy and beautiful season."
Luigi Simone's side made light work of their Italian rivals in the final. Iván Zamorano put them in front after five minutes, with Javier Zanetti (60) and Ronaldo (70) taking the game beyond Sven-Göran Eriksson's men. "Ronaldo was phenomenal," remembered Djorkaeff, 46. "He proved that he was a cut above the rest that season. I remember his goal against Lazio – he took on the keeper and managed to put him on his back without touching the ball. It was incredible, but he did tricks like that in every training session. We were used to it.
"We played perfectly in the final," Djorkaeff added. "It was a very special win. We went down the Champs-Élysées with the Inter team afterwards – we walked it for fun, just for 50 metres. I didn't know that three months later I would be doing that again with France."
France's World Cup campaign was a long way from Djorkaeff's mind as he negotiated his way through the UEFA Cup with Inter, accounting for Neuchâtel Xamax FC, his home-town side Olympique Lyonnais, RC Strasbourg and then in the quarter-finals Schalke, the Nerazzurri's conquerors 12 months before. "A good thing with Italian teams is that you learn fast," Djorkaeff smiled. "You could be certain that we wouldn't make the same mistake twice." Two Ronaldo goals in chilly Russia then completed a semi-final success over FC Spartak Moskva.
"We had a good team and Ronaldo added that little extra for us to be a great team," Djorkaeff said. "Our coach Luigi Simoni always ended every training session with a small game, he enjoyed seeing the technical skills of his players so much." European football helped hone those talents. "Playing every three days is the best thing," Djorkaeff noted. "If you lose, it doesn’t matter because three days later you have another big game. If there was no travelling it would be heaven. At the end of my career, when I only had one game a week, I was bored to death."
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