Ahead of this weekend’s crucial match between Inter Milan and Juventus at San Siro, former Nerazzurri defender Marco Materazzi sat down with Corriere dello Sport to discuss a game he knows a great deal about.
What kind of Derby d’Italia does Matrix expect to see on Saturday night? Can Luciano Spalletti’s men accept anything other than a win if they wish to qualify for next season’s Champions League? And what are his favourite and least favourite memories of matches against Juventus from his playing career?
You can find the answers to all those questions and many more besides in the interview below.
Materazzi, what kind of game should we expect to see on Saturday?
“A great game that every Interista would want to play. Be it on the pitch or... from the stands. I’ll be in the stands to cheer the team on.”
What would you have given to be playing this weekend?
“There’s no price for playing in games like this. When the Scudetto and Champions League qualification are up for grabs your motivation is sky-high.
“It’s been a long time since Inter had the chance to play in a game like this.”
Who’s going to win?
“I’m saying Inter. They have the chance to take a huge stride towards returning to the Champions League and seriously jeopardise Juventus’s Scudetto hopes in the process, and they can’t let it slip through their fingers.
“If they don’t win in Milan they could be overtaken by Napoli on Sunday and it would be a doubly enjoyable weekend for the Interisti.”
Allegri has said that it will be the game which defines Juventus’s entire season. And there are certain games that Juve...
“... Always get right, I know that full well. They’re going to be really fired up and that makes them even more dangerous.
“San Siro is our home though and Juventus cannot win there. Not beating them would really damage Inter’s chances of finishing in the top four.”
Did you expect Juventus to lose to Napoli on Sunday?
“No, but Napoli were good value for the win: they didn’t have too many shots on goal but Juventus offered very little. And now the race for the title has been blown wide open: Allegri still has the upper hand but the trips to Milan and Rome could be very dangerous.”
Are Buffon and co. a little weaker now than they have been in the past?
“They’re still incredibly strong because nobody else has 20 first-choice players like they do.”
How far away are Inter from Juventus and Napoli at the moment?
“We’re talking about teams that are at completely different stages of their development.
“Allegri and Sarri have been working with the same group of players whereas Spalletti only arrived last summer. It’s only right to give him some more time.
“Inter do have some quality players, but without the revenue from the Champions League and with their Financial Fair Play restrictions they can’t afford to make any mistakes in the mercato.”
Does Stefan De Vrij remind you at all of... Materazzi?
“De Vrij is a phenomenal player, a defender who scores 6-7 goals per season and is a leader at the back. He really is a great signing.”
Is there one game against Juventus that you remember more fondly than the rest?
“The one where we won the Supercoppa in Turin in 2005 and Veron scored the winning goal in extra-time.”
And your most painful memory from playing Juventus?
“5 May 2002... I know we weren’t actually playing Juventus then, but it was as if we were.”
Ronaldo said recently that “Inter were fighting against a corrupt system” back then. Do you agree?
“Ronaldo was on the pitch that afternoon on 5 May and I respect his opinion, which really is the same opinion of every Interista. If anything there are other comments that I’d like to say something about.”
“Ceccarini’s comments about Juventus-Inter in 1998. I was only a fan back then so I wasn’t there, but I remember what happened that day very well.
“The comments he made recently [here, if you missed them] were ridiculous because the entire world saw what happened. If he really thinks 20 years later that he should have booked Ronaldo for diving then I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“He was wrong then and he’s still wrong now.”
During your celebrations after the Champions League Final in Madrid you put on a t-shirt that had ‘do you want this back as well?’ written on it [aimed at Juventus, who at the time were trying to reacquire the 2006 Scudetto]. Do you regret doing that at all?
“No, because if you take that kind of banter out of sport then you lose the essence of it. I brought people together: on the one side you had the Interisti with one opinion on me and then on the other side you had everyone else.”
Will Inter make it into the Champions League?
“I hope so. They played well in the games against Milan and Torino but they dropped at least 3 points. Let’s hope those don’t turn out to be decisive.”
Will Lazio-Inter on the final day be decisive?
“Inter have to go to Rome with the aim of winning whatever happens, so whether they get there one point ahead, one behind or three behind doesn’t really change much.
“If on the other hand they get there with a four-point gap... that would be better.”
Lazio-Inter on the final day of the season is going to leave a lot of people thinking back to the Scudetto you lost on 5 May 2002.
“We won the Coppa Italia at the Olimpico on 5 May 2010, our first trophy of the Triplete season, so we exorcised that memory somewhat. Although I’d still really like to play that game in 2002 again...
“Inter’s current team will have the chance to write another page of history: picking up three points there wouldn’t be enough to win them a Scudetto, but getting back into the Champions League would be a big step in their quest to get back in touch with their own history.”
What do you think? Post your comments below!