Calcio Debate: Who Were Greater – Inter Milan 1989 Or 2009?

The Nerazzurri are almost certain to win yet another Italian championship this season. Carlo Garganese looks back 20 years to Inter’s famous 1989 Scudetto winners, and asks if they were better or worse than the team of today...

With just four games remaining of the current Serie A season, Inter are seven points clear of city rivals Milan. Jose Mourinho’s men require just six points to clinch a third straight Scudetto on the pitch.

This year will also be the 20th anniversary of another famous Inter title triumph. Back in 1988-89, the legendary Giovanni Trapattoni was on the bench, Walter Zenga in goal, Riccardo Ferri and Giuseppe Bergomi in defence, Aldo Serena in attack, while German stars Andreas Brehme and Lothar Matthaus had arrived from the Bundesliga.

The Nerazzurri romped to the Scudetto, winning 26 of their 34 games, losing just two, scoring 67 goals, and conceding only 19. All this was achieved in the then strongest league in the world, a championship that contained the Milan of Gullit, Rijkaard and Van Basten, the Napoli of Maradona and Careca, Juventus of Laudrup and Rui Barros, Fiorentina of Baggio and Borgonovo, and Sampdoria of Vialli and Mancini.

Let’s match up the Inter teams of 1989 and 2009 to see who are the superior.

Inter 1989 v Inter 2009

Walter Zenga v Julio Cesar

Both world class goalkeepers with the gift of making seemingly impossible saves. Zenga was suspect on crosses, as all Argentina fans will point out, but Spiderman’s reflexes and agility were astonishing. Julio Cesar has single-handedly won Inter games over the past few years, so this duel is too close to call.

1-1

Giuseppe Bergomi v Maicon

Maicon is quite possibly the best right-back in the world currently, but, unfortunately for him, he is up against one of the greatest defenders who ever lived. A teenage wonderkid who won the World Cup in Spain at the age of 18, man-marking Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in the final, Bergomi wore the shirt of Inter with supreme distinction for 19 years.

2-1

Andrea Mandorlini v Walter Samuel

Another excellent Inter servant, Mandorlini wore the Nerazzurri colours from 1984 to 1991, making almost 200 Serie A appearances. Having said this, he was fortunate enough to be surrounded by some great players. Samuel, despite some injury problems, has been a brick wall for Inter when he has played in the last two seasons, and the team are so much stronger with him in the line-up.

2-2

Riccardo Ferri v Christian Chivu

Along with Zenga and Bergomi, and Milan’s Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini, Ferri was another Milanese member of the brilliant Italy 1990 World Cup defence that went the first five-and-a-half games without conceding a goal. A fantastic man-marker who would stick to a forward like glue, Ferri was a key reason why Inter conceded just 19 goals in 34 games in 1988-89. There is no doubting Chivu’s talent, but the Romanian is too often injured, and even when fit, he is nowhere near Ferri.

3-2

Andreas Brehme v Davide Santon

Oh how brilliant German players used to be! Brehme was an attacking full-back, who was outstanding at set-pieces, could shoot, cross and pass with both feet, and was quite simply one of his country’s greatest ever left-backs. Scored in both the semi-final and final of Italia ‘90, including the winner in the Rome showpiece. Santon, at just 18, will surely become one of Inter's and Italy’s next great stoppers, but he is just starting out.

4-2

Gianfranco Matteoli v Javier Zanetti

Matteoli holds the record for the fastest goal in Serie A history, achieved after just nine seconds against Cesena in November 1988. The six-capped Italy international scored a few decisive goals that season, but he is no match for the almighty Zanetti, who is still going strong after 14 legendary years in the fashion capital.

4-3

Alessandro Bianchi v Esteban Cambiasso

Most famous for scoring a UEFA Cup winner against Aston Villa in a 1990 comeback victory, Bianchi served Inter for eight years, also winning nine Italy caps along the way. Cambiasso is an irreplaceable member of the current Inter team, protecting his defence like almost no other player in the world. The Argentine wins this one comfortably.

4-4

Lothar Matthaus v Sulley Muntari

With 150 international caps, spanning 20 years and five World Cups, one of which he lifted as captain, Matthaus is perhaps Franz Beckenbauer’s only rival as Germany’s greatest ever player. The 1988-89 campaign was Matthaus’ first season at Inter, but he was an instant star, driving the club to the Scudetto with his technical, tactical, physical, mental, attacking, and defensive machinery. Muntari has had a sound first season at Inter, but that’s where the comparison ends.

5-4

Nicola Berti v Dejan Stankovic

It is fair to say that I was never Berti’s biggest fan, perhaps due to the injury-plagued last five years or so of his career. However, as a youngster, particularly in the late 1980s and early '90s, this tireless box-to-box midfielder was a symbol of the Inter team, scoring a number of crucial goals, including two in separate UEFA Cup finals. Stankovic also shares Berti’s sense of goal, as well as his critics. This match-up is close, but the boy with the side-parting shades it.

6-4

Ramon Diaz v Mario Balotelli

Diaz only spent one season at Inter, but it was a memorable one as he thumped home 14 goals to help lead the side to the title. Diaz had an excellent seven-year career in Serie A, and will be remembered for his rocket of a left foot. Would have won the 1986 World Cup too had a feud with Diego Maradona not seen him banished from the Argentina squad. Balotelli, at the age of just 18, has all the tools to develop into a world class forward, although he will need to sort out his attitude problem. Like Santon, Balotelli is still too raw to beat the then 29-year-old Diaz.

7-4

Aldo Serena v Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Serena had an eventful club career as he played for Inter four times, Milan twice, and Juventus once, winning Scudetti with all these giants. The tall striker was top-scorer during the 1989 championship-winning campaign with 22 goals, but sadly he is best remembered by Calcio fans for missing a crucial penalty against Argentina at Italia ’90. While Serena’s goals were vital to Inter in 1989, everything about Ibrahimovic is crucial to the current Nerazzurro team – his goals (21 of them this term), assists, and personality. Inter’s next top-scorer after Ibra has just six goals (Balotelli), which says it all really.

FINAL SCORE: Inter 1989 7-5 Inter 2009

Inter 2009 certainly have a stronger substitutes' bench than the team of 20 years ago, as they can count on the services of Cordoba, Materazzi, Maxwell and Vieira. It must be remembered though that squads were much smaller back in the day, so the bench is more equal in relative terms, and Giovanni Trapattoni’s men still possessed the more than useful Giuseppe Baresi and Pietro Fanna.

Most importantly though, it must be recognised just how formidable Serie A was in the late '80s. As mentioned earlier, this was the period of Diego Maradona’s Napoli, and Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan, a team considered by some to be the best club side of all time. Serie A today is perhaps at its lowest point since the 1970s, and Inter have not had to be an outstanding team to win the Scudetto yet again.

Inter 1989 all the way for me.

What are your views on this topic? Who were greater – Inter 1989 or Inter 2009? Goal.com wants to know what YOU think…

Carlo Garganese, Goal.com