As it’s the international break (or rather it was - ideally I’d have had this ready for a week ago), I thought it would be a good time to discuss something slightly different, which we wouldn’t perhaps have the time to discuss while the club season is hurtling along – professional footballers that support Inter.
As far as I’m aware nobody has ever bothered to put their names down on a single, easily accessible list, and yet there appear to be many of them out there, so given that we’ve little else to talk about until Sunday I have attempted to do just that (with a particular emphasis on the word ‘attempted’). Because it’s always nice to make new friends, no?
Below, therefore, you will find Part 1 of a 100% unofficial and incomplete list of footballers who are currently playing either in one of Italy’s top three divisions or abroad, who have either a) confirmed on the record that they are an Interista, or b) provided a sufficient number of clues on their various social media profiles [who they follow, what posts they ‘like’ etc.] to put it beyond any reasonable doubt. Part 2 will be up sometime next week.
To be clear, I haven’t included anyone who currently plays for Inter as I’m assuming everyone will know about them already - nor have I included anyone who’s played for Inter in the past, for the same reason.
(For the record, I believe there are two current members of our squad who were genuinely Inter supporters before having anything to do with the club in a professional sense: Andrea Pinamonti and Daniele Padelli.I know Icardi said recently that he liked Inter as a child because of Adriano, but I don’t think he was saying that he was a proper fan.)
Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo)
When Domenico Berardi scored the last-gasp winning goal for Sassuolo in an historic victory against Inter at San Siro, back in January 2016, he was asked in his post-game interview whether he had just scored his first goal as a Juventino, given that he strongly was rumoured to be heading to Turin the following summer. His answer should not have come as any kind of a surprise: “no.”
To Berardi the idea of being described as a Juventino must have been completely and utterly repulsive, because he has been a die-hard Interista ever since childhood and he has never attempted to hide it. The quite ridiculous record he has against Milan - 8 goals scored in 7 games played - is a case in point...
Berardi’s decision to reject the Bianconeri’s advances and remain at Sassuolo in the summer of 2016 - the second time he had rejected Juventus, having already done so as a 12 year-old (‘I was too scared to leave home’) - was officially put down to fears over how little game-time he would get, but you can’t help but wonder if his love for Inter had a little bit to do with it as well.
“I was born with a black-and-blue heart”, he told Gazzetta dello Sport in an interview he gave back in May, “because certain things are passed down from your parents - on this occasion it was my father Luigi and my brother Francesco that won out over my mother Maria, who supports Juve.” Thank goodness for that.
“As a child I was mesmerised by Ronaldo, Il Fenomeno, while aged 15 it was Milito’s turn to amaze me; on the night of Madrid I took my scarf and went out into the street to celebrate with my friends. Every child that loves football has a favourite team, no? I revealed mine a long time ago, long before people started to link me with a move to Inter.”
Having been courted very heavily by the Nerazzurri 18 months ago it now looks highly unlikely that Berardi will get to fulfil his dream of playing for Inter, but it’s equally unlikely that that will dampen his enthusiasm for the club. Good man.
Kevin Lasagna (Udinese)
Looking back, January 2016 really was a peculiar month for Inter. As well as it being the month in which our promising start to the 2015-16 season began to spectacularly fall apart, it was also the month in which we received two stabs in the back in consecutive home matches.
A fortnight after the defeat to Sassuolo it was lowly Carpi’s turn to come to San Siro, and just like the Neroverdi they snatched an unlikely result in stoppage time thanks to a goal scored by a lifelong Inter supporter. Picking up from Berardi had left off was Kevin Lasagna, a man who was playing in the amateur leagues before joining Carpi at the age of 22, whom he helped to obtain an historic first ever promotion to Serie A in 2015.
Asked which team he was most looking forward to playing in Italy’s top flight, Lasagna responded “I’m an Interista, so I’d love to play against Inter at the Meazza”, with a half-bashful, half-gleeful smile breaking out across his face (from 1:08 on this video). As if he knew of the pain and humiliation he was about to inflict upon us.
Having gone back down to Serie B with Carpi and spent another season with them, Lasagna moved to Udinese last summer and is due to return to San Siro in just over a month’s time, with Inter-Udinese scheduled for Saturday 16 December. Go easy on us this time Kevin, if you wouldn’t mind...
Daniele Baselli (Torino)
After Berardi and Giaccherini, the most high-profile Interista currently playing in Serie A is surely Torino midfielder Daniele Baselli. Having spent 13 years at Atalanta between the academy and the first team (with a two-year stint at Cittadella in the middle), Baselli signed for the Granata in the summer of 2015 and was one of their most impressive players when they held Inter to a 1-1 draw before the international break.
Interviewed by GianlucaDiMarzio.com back in 2013, Baselli was asked about his footballing idols, his hobbies, his musical preferences and finally about which team he had always supported. “I’m Interista”, he replied, “although it’s better not to think about that at the moment - my team-mates keep making fun of me for it in the dressing room...” [The interview came out the day after Inter’s Europa League exit to Tottenham under Andrea Stramaccioni, to provide some sort of context. Our end-of-year meltdown was well under way by then.]
Piero Ausilio was closing monitoring Baselli at one stage and considered bringing him to Inter (Piero seems to keep tabs on every footballer who supports Inter, regardless of their talent), but that ship would appear to have sailed. At least now he’s achieved his dream of playing in front of 70,000 Interisti at San Siro - not to mention his dream of kung-fu kicking a Juventus player...
Paolo Faragò (Cagliari)
From someone who’s just played against Inter to someone who is about to - Paolo Faragò, Cagliari’s jack of all trades who signed from Novara during the January transfer window.
Saturday 25th November will not be like any other day for ‘Pancri’, lover of literature and a keen fisherman in his spare time, because after missing Cagliari’s 5-1 defeat to Inter back in March this will finally be his first chance to play against the team he has supported since birth.
“All of my family are Interisti,” he told GianlucaDiMarzio.com last year. “My idol has always been Ronaldo, Il Fenomeno: the best there’s ever been. Whenever I’m feeling down I go and watch some of his videos on YouTube - che spettacolo! I remember when he gave himself that hideous razor haircut in 2002 [this one, for the record], I told my Mum that I wanted to do my hair like that - she was having none of it, but it gives you an idea of how in love with him I was. In a footballing sense, obviously...”
It’s not just Ronaldo that Paolo waxed lyrical about, though: “Ronaldo was the player who really made me fall in love with Inter as a child - him and Recoba, another stratospheric player who was never able to properly express all of his incredible talent. When you’re young you tend to focus more on the players with flair and talent, but over the years I’ve learned to appreciate players for their temperament as well, such as Cambiasso and Stankovic who I remain attached to.”
Now that he’s transformed himself from a midfielder into a marauding wing-back, though, there’s only one man who can be his role model: “In my position Javier Zanetti is the best there’s been for years: versatility, consistency and real heart. Serious, steady, a great worker, never a word out of line - you never heard about him for antics off the pitch whereas on the pitch he never played a match below 6/10. An alien. For charisma and commitment to the shirt he represents true ‘interismo’.”
A man known also for his eternal wanderlust, he will be tasked with travelling up and down the wing against Inter next Saturday as Cagliari look to continue their revival under returning head coach and former club captain Diego Lopez. Whatever the final score at the Sardegna Arena, it’ll be a night he’s unlikely to forget in a hurry.
Pietro Iemmello (Benevento)
For Pietro Iemmello, currently of Benevento but formerly of Sassuolo, Sunday 14th May 2017 was what Saturday 25th November 2017 promises to be for Faragò.
With Berardi taking a back seat after his heroics in 2016, it fell to another Interista to condemn Inter to a second straight home defeat against Sassuolo, as Iemmello scored a brace to deepen our end-of-season woes.
“Scoring two goals and receiving the applause of San Siro as I went off are a dream come true for me,” the striker told reporters in the mixed zone afterwards. “I’m an Interista, I used to come here to watch their games as a child.”
Thanks, Pietro. Really appreciated.
Cristian Dell’Orco (Sassuolo)
On the bench that day was yet another Inter supporter (they do get through them at Sassuolo, don’t they?), who didn’t get to play on that occasion but did start for Sassuolo in the reverse fixture at the Mapei Stadium.
Unlike Iemmello however, Cristian Dell’Orco’s impact on the match with Inter in December was of a negative sort. At the beginning of the second half he lost Antonio Candreva at the far post before his attempted clearance landed at the Italian’s feet, enabling him to smash in the only goal of the game and condemn the Neroverdi to their second defeat in a week.
Nonetheless it was a nice day for left-back Dell’Orco, as he is another man who comes from a family of Interisti and this was his first opportunity to play against the Nerazzurri. “Playing against the team I’ve always supported was a stupendous feeling” he told reporters in March.
Gianluca Mancini (Atalanta)
On Sunday Inter will play Atalanta at San Siro, and on the Bergamaschi’s bench will be Gianluca Mancini (no relation to Roberto), another Serie A defender with a lifelong passion for the Nerazzurri.
Born in Pontedera, an industrial town in Pisa, Tuscany, it was only natural that Mancini spent a couple of seasons in Fiorentina’s youth system, and that he made his top-flight debut at the Stadio Artemio Franchi two months ago - but instead of playing for the Viola he was playing against them, having replaced the injured Rafael Toloi after 25 minutes in Atalanta’s 1-1 draw there.
Mancini spent two years with Perugia in Serie B before moving to Bergamo this summer, and shortly after that he also made his debut for Italy’s under-21s, in a friendly match against Spain. He’s unlikely to play on Sunday, but he’ll be present in the stadium he’s always dreamed to play at.
Filippo Costa (SPAL)
If playing against the team you’ve always supported in the stadium you’ve always loved is a special feeling, goodness knows what it must feel like to do that and make your Serie A debut, for the club you’ve been a part of for over a decade, all in one go.
Let’s ask Filippo Costa, seeing as that’s the honour he was granted back in February 2016 when Inter beat Chievo 1-0 at San Siro. “It’s an indescribable emotion,” the wing-back said in the mixed zone after the game. “To find myself making my debut for Chievo at San Siro, La Scala del Calcio, against Inter, the team I’ve supported since I was child, is a genuinely inexplicable feeling. The manager sent me to warm up with Gennaro Sardo and after a couple of minutes he called me back to bring me on - I just tried to do the best I could.”
Costa only played the final 8 minutes of the match but that was enough time for him to almost provide the assist for an unlikely equaliser - unfortunately for him (and fortunately for us) Sergio Pellissier turned his cross wide and the chance disappeared, so in the end he had to settle for just the debut.
Now aged 22, Costa was a major player in the Chievo side that won the club’s first ever Primavera Scudetto back in 2014 and currently plays for newly-promoted SPAL, having joined them while they were still in Serie B back in January. On 10 September he returned to San Siro and played the full 90 minutes in SPAL’s 2-0 defeat, but again offered a promising performance.
The only black mark on his career to date is an unsuccessful six-month loan spell with Bournemouth in 2015, where he failed to play a single minute of football with the first team. “It gets dark there very early”, apparently.
Marcello Trotta (Crotone)
Another Italian who spent time in England as a youngster is Marcello Trotta, now playing as a striker for Crotone, although his time there was somewhat more successful.
Trotta scored 32 goals in 89 league and cup appearances between spells at Wycombe, Watford, Fulham, Brentford and Barnsley, although the incident he is most remembered for in England involved a goal he didn’t score, when he missed a 94th-minute penalty (on the final day of the season) that cost Brentford automatic promotion to the Championship in 2013. (Worth watching [here] if you’ve got a minute - a quite remarkable sequence of events...)
In an interview with Calciomercato.it in 2014, Trotta said “since I was little I’ve always been an Inter fan. My idols from Italian football are Vieri and Ronaldo, whereas from England I’ve always admired Didier Drogba.”
Since returning to Italy Trotta has played in Serie B for Avellino and in Serie A for Sassuolo and Crotone, where he has resided since the start of last season (on loan). He played twice against Inter during the 2016-17 campaign, providing the assist for Diego Falcinelli’s second goal in the Calabresi’s 2-1 win, while he was an unused substitute for the Nerazzurri’s win in September.
Federico Ceccherini (Crotone)
Last but not least, a player who has never explicitly said he supports Inter but has declared a certain preference for them. The player in question is Federico Ceccherini, formerly of Livorno and now of Crotone, where he has become the leader of their defence since arriving in the summer of 2016.
Ceccherini said in a 2014 interview that “Inter have always fascinated me as a club,” before salivating at the prospect of following in the footsteps of Armando Picchi, who spent his formative years at Livorno before becoming the Inter legend everybody knows him as - “if only, that would be a dream...”
Add to that the fact he ‘likes’ the majority of the posts that Mauro Icardi and Javier Zanetti publish on their Instagram accounts, and I think we’ve got just about enough evidence to include him on this list.
And that’s that for Interisti playing in Serie A - at least I think it is. If you know of any others then please let us know in the comments section; this was purely a personal investigation and I could very easily have missed somebody out.
Before we finish, though, there’s one more player that deserves a mention. He doesn’t really qualify for the list because he doesn’t appear to support Inter anymore - but my word, he certainly did back in the day...
Emanuele Giaccherini (Napoli)
Now this I did not expect.
He may have won two Serie A titles with Juventus between 2011 and 2013, but believe it or not it is the Bianconeri’s deepest, darkest and dirtiest rivals who have always been closest to Emanuele Giaccherini’s heart.
At least... they were.
Before his move to Turin, while he was still playing for Cesena, the Italian spoke about his love for the Nerazzurri on countless occasions, suggesting it’d be a dream to be able to play for them one day. From some internet digging I’ve found six different interviews from during the 2010-11 season in which he talked about being an Interista, and there might have bee more still.
“I love being here at Cesena”, he told Gazzetta dello Sport in October 2010, “but I’m an Interista. If they called me and asked me to be back-up for Eto’o I’d go there running - and then I’d try and convince them to play me alongside him.”
Three months later he went even further, when appearing on Sky Italy’s Mondo Gol program: “My dream is to play for Inter one day: how many times I went to San Siro as a child to watch them play. Scoring at San Siro was an incredible feeling [Giaccherini scored against Inter that season when Cesena lost 3-2, before being sent off], but as an Interista I enjoyed it more when I scored against Milan at the start of the season (!).”
Amongst his other comments that season were “if I could go to Inter it would be a dream come true” (January), “I’ve always adored Ronaldo” (June) and “it would be a dream to sign for Inter, I support Inter” (July) - but then Antonio Conte came calling and he signed for Juventus instead. And suddenly he found himself in an awkward spot.
“I’ve always said I was sympathetic to Inter”, he said in his introductory press conference in September 2011, “but that’s normal. Now I’ve become a professional footballer, my soft spot for Inter was just when I was younger. I used to support Inter, but now I’ll play against them and do everything I can to beat them.”
Next he was asked about being born on 5 May (what a day for an Inter supporter to have their birthday, goodness me...): “I remember 5 May 2002 well. I turned 16 that day and my birthday was a bit... [horrific?] but still, perhaps it was written in the stars I’d come to Juve. At this moment in time Inter don’t interest me.”
Needless to say that did not go down particularly well with Inter supporters, with some drawing comparisons between Giaccherini’s comments and what Leonardo Bonucci said when signing for Inter (although in fairness, Bonucci denied ever being an Inter fan, whereas Giaccherini didn’t).
It’s for that reason I wasn’t sure whether I should include Giaccherini in this list - he doesn’t seem to support Inter anymore, and even if he did he pretty much burned his bridges with all other supporters in that press conference. Having said that, after leaving Juventus to sign for Sunderland Giaccherini started being nice to Inter again, in a way that suggested he hadn’t entirely lost his love for them.
Asked who he felt had made the best moves in the mercato during the summer of 2014, he spoke about Roma and then brought Inter into the conversation of his own accord - “nobody’s really talking about Inter, but they’ve reinforced really well and I’m convinced they could challenge for the Scudetto.” And then when Roberto Mancini returned to the club in November, he said: “he’s a great coach and will be able to take Inter back to where they deserve to be.” ‘Deserve’...
His last mention of Inter came in an interview with Corriere dello Sport back in February 2016, while playing for Bologna: “I come from a family of Interisti and I grew up with the legend of Ronaldo, Il Fenomeno.”
He didn’t specify whether he still supports Inter or not, but I’m guessing he doesn’t. Some may argue that nobody who agrees to play for Juve can be classed as a true Interista anyway - after all, rejecting them is why Berardi is now so popular. Oh well.
Part 2 will be up sometime next week, and will focus on players from Serie B, Serie C and abroad.