Darko Pancev

'My biggest mistake was joining Inter – I could've gone to Madrid, Barca or Man Utd' - Pancev regrets Italy move

Former European Golden Boot winner Darko Pancev has confessed that his biggest career regret is joining Inter in 1992.

In 1991 the Yugoslavia international was flying high, having won the European Golden Boot with Red Star Belgrade and finished second in the Ballon d'Or voting behind Jean-Pierre Papin.

Pancev's form earned him a transfer to Inter as he entered his prime at age 27. But the move did not work out as Pancev struggled at San Siro, ultimately joining ​VfB Leipzig on loan in 1993 before sealing a permanent transfer to Fortuna Dusseldorf in 1995.

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Pancev has lamented his move to Italy, saying he should have joined a different side having drawn interest from some of Europe's biggest clubs.

"My biggest mistake was joining Inter," Pancev told Goal. "Because I went to a team that had a bad atmosphere, a team that played defensively and as a stranger – they looked at me differently, and I think that they weren’t supportive enough for me to adapt easily.

"But the mistake is mine, because I could have gone to teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United, which were looking at me during that period."

Pancev, who would also play for Macedonia at international level after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, said the Italian press did not help matters during his time with Inter.

"Yes, absolutely," he said when asked if the Italian media was too harsh on him. "Not nice at all, but, I will repeat again, looking back nowadays it is clear for me that their journalists will firstly protect Inter instead of me. And I was a victim to that whole game."

Having been a prolific goalscorer in his era, Pancev has stated that two legendary goal-getters in the current era, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, may not have experienced the same level of success had they played in the 1980s and 1990s, when he says strikers were not as protected.

"Ronaldo is a bigger scorer than Messi, and on the other hand, Messi is more creative, with a bigger sense in a game," Pancev said when asked to compare the two.

"Everyone who has followed football in the last 20 to 30 years can clearly recognize the difference, and notice that in my time until 2005 I would say, the players were not as protected, they were put to the test," Pancev continued.

"Nowadays, playing in front is a great satisfaction, because the way of defending has changed. The duels are less rough, the penalty area is more watched and it is easier to score goals."