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Berti: “I’d rather lose the derby than be a Milanista”

Interista through and through.

Nicola Berti of Inter Milan

Cut Nicola Berti open and he bleeds black and blue. He’s proved it countless times in the past and this week, when he sat down with Gazzetta dello Sport ahead of Sunday’s Milan derby, he proved it again.

Find out what one of the most popular midfielders in Inter’s history had to say ahead of this weekend’s big match below. If this doesn’t fire you up for this weekend then it’s unlikely anything will...

Gazzetta dello Sport, 27 February 2018, p. 6.

The years pass and yet the motto remains the same: “it’s better to lose the derby than to be a Milanista. But on Sunday we’re going to win and it’s Inter who will qualify for the Champions League.” Nicola Berti opens his shirt (figuratively) and shows off his black and blue chest. He who scored twice against the Rossoneri in his career, in 1990 and in 1993, bringing Inter a win (in stoppage time) and a draw (with Ruud Gullit later scoring the equaliser) respectively.

Will you be at the stadium?

“I don’t think so - I don’t like seeing certain colours live in the flesh. I’ll be watching from the sofa...”

Milan arrive at this match unbeaten in 13 games between league and cup: are you worried?

Nicola Berti of Inter Milan
How much could Inter do with someone like Nicola Berti in midfield on Sunday...

“It could be a worry for us, I admit that. I’m using the conditional tense but they did very well against Roma, the team is very much alive. They’ve found energy and malice, they have the eye of the tiger that they previously didn’t have.”

All Rino Gattuso’s work?

“I think so, before he came in they were lost. Now on the other hand they’re running everywhere and they’re in a very good physical condition. And they fight from the beginning to the end of every match. Rino has injected intensity into everyone around the club.”

Inter on the other hand were unconvincing against Benevento and have only won 2 of their last 13 games...

“Luciano Spalletti knows all too well that he needs to find some alternatives to how we were playing at the start of the season, when we were able to get the most of Candreva and Perisic out wide. Now everyone has worked us out and they anticipate all of our moves. We need to play with more runs from midfield, and there are various solutions in that department such as Rafinha, Brozovic, Borja Valero and even Candreva himself.”

What would you do?

“I don’t want to tread on the coach’s toes, but against Benevento we already saw Candreva in the middle. It could be a good solution going forward. By the way, for me Antonio is untouchable, he should always play. I adore him, he runs his socks off. I hear a lot of criticisms about his crossing but let’s think for a moment: lots of his crosses have ended up being precious assists for his teammates.”

How do you prepare a derby like this when the two teams seem to be in completely opposing moments, despite Inter being a long way ahead in the table?

“It’s precisely this which makes Sunday’s derby so exciting. Besides, derbies are easy to prepare, your motivations are glaringly obvious: you only need to think about the colour of the other team’s shirt and you feel the urge to start running. I’d happily play this weekend...”

Mauro Icardi should make his return on Sunday.

FC Internazionale v AC Milan - Serie A
It would be fair to say Mauro Icardi enjoyed last October’s derby.
Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

“Mauro is vital for this team. He’ll be full of motivation and hunger after missing four games through injury. And this is the ideal game to come back for - normally players ‘mess up’ the second game after returning from injury, not the first.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the derby though, it makes no difference, you always want to get straight back into the thick of things.

Icardi will be filled with enthusiasm the moment he sees certain colours on the other side of the pitch. He’ll be desperate to do his bit for the team, who he wants to help get back into the Champions League, and for himself, in order to try and reach 100 goals in Serie A.”

What did you make of Ranocchia and Skriniar both scoring at the weekend after their mix-up against Genoa?

“It’s a beautiful story, I’m really happy for them. Andrea deserved his goal and I loved it at the end of the game when he reiterated the importance of always putting the group before the individual, in order to reach the objective of getting back into the Champions League. Skriniar is incredible, sometimes he’s enough on his own.”

Who would you pick from the start to surprise Gattuso...?

FC Internazionale v Benevento Calcio - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

“Karamoh. I’d like to see him start against Milan. I’d be a bit of a surprise for Ringhio, he’d have to work out a countermeasure to stop him.”

Have you seen the fixtures this weekend? [Lazio-Juventus, Napoli-Roma, Milan-Inter]

“It’s incredible, the top six are all playing each other. It’s crucial that Inter get a result in the derby because other teams are guaranteed to lose points in the Lazio-Juventus and Napoli-Roma matches.”

You always remind people how the derbies in your day were characterised by banter and not acknowledging any of your Milanista ‘colleagues’ in the city during the days leading up to the game. What advice would you give to today’s Inter players?

“To not hug each other too much in the tunnel before coming out onto the pitch: it’s the derby!”

What I wouldn’t give to have him charging around in the centre of the park on Sunday night...