Lothar Matthäus, the esteemed former Inter midfielder and Bundesliga ambassador, shared his insights into Inter Milan’s recent success, attributing it to the club’s profound sense of identity. In an exclusive interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, Matthäus delved into the essence of Inter’s resurgence under Simone Inzaghi, shedding light on the team’s remarkable journey and prospects for the future:
Matthäus, did the Scudetto push come against Juve?
“Inter deserved it, they showed themselves to be superior. They took the advantage, but you always have to watch your back. What gives me confidence, and should give it to all the fans, is that this team wasn’t born today: they’ve been playing so well for two or three years, they’ve done an exceptional job that has brought them a step closer to the Champions League. I think it can do it again because it is a complete team: the right players, the right coach, the right mentality and also the right substitutes who keep up the quality in place of the starters.
For you, where is the Nerazzurri secret?
“In the fact that the most important thing has been recovered, the Inter DNA. And so it has become more or less what Bayern was in Germany in recent years, or what Juve was in Italy. The reference formation, which drags a whole movement. I am always happy when a former team of mine wins trophies, in this case even playing well, in a precise style. It will never be that of Barcelona, Real or Bayern because Inter is…. Inter’.
And how exactly is this Inter?
‘It’s different: it’s solid, but also very creative. It plays offensive football, scores and maintains solidity at the back. It shows this strength on big nights, against the best opponents: Inzaghi has managed to create something very similar to what Xabi Alonso put together at Leverkusen, a group of brothers in the right environment, with precise leadership from the bench. It is no coincidence that they are two of the most interesting teams at the moment. And in some ways they are similar: they both play with a three-man defence, but Bayer likes ball possession more’.
Speaking of his former teams, Marcus Thuram comes from Borussia Mönchengladbach, but he became a different player altogether…
“He too found the ideal club to explode. The intelligence of the player you see in his ability to adapt and exploit the quality of his teammates, which is much higher than before. He knows that his work is often aimed at getting Lautaro, who has become one of the best strikers in the world, on goal.”
Tomorrow at the Stadio Olimpico ‘Toro’ will meet former friend Lukaku: how much has it helped the Argentine to break away from the Belgian?
“Now he plays with a different centre forward, which allows him to look for the goal in a new position. Then there will be something psychological, linked to individual maturation: the whole world sees him more confident, involved as captain in the coach’s choices, a symbol of the whole team. Now he is in the best moment of his career: he is the strongest Lautaro ever’.
It’s Roma-Inter time: does that ring a bell?
“Now it’s a chance to consolidate the lead, to mine a great Uefa final. I remember everything about that 1990-91 edition, the path and then the double match for the trophy with so many Germans: me, Klinsmann, Brehme at Inter, Voeller and Bertold at Roma. I scored on a penalty in the first leg and in the return, especially in the final minutes, we suffered terribly”.
Apart from the forwards, is there anyone else who has surprised you in Inter’s orchestra?
“Of Barella I have often spoken, he is the engine. But Calhanoglu and Mkhitaryan have surprised me: as youngsters they were with us, in Germany, but now that they are much older, especially Micki, they have an amazing performance, they keep the level high match after match.”
Do you also agree that Inzaghi has the best midfield on the planet?
“Yes, the way they work for each other, everyone knows how to be on the pitch at all times. You can see that they are well coached, in a precise system in which even the youngest manage to fit in immediately: one of the ‘pluses’ is precisely the coach who has given them a soul. There are 22 brothers, not just 11, behind him: no one gets angry because he doesn’t play, everyone is focused on winning the Scudetto. I repeat, the Inter coach is showing the same ability to involve everyone that Xabi Alonso has at Leverkusen’.
Tomorrow, Bayer, who have not lost in 30 games, have a chance to escape in the Bundesliga: Bayern, who are two points behind, arrive in Leverkusen…
“Leverkusen has scored 52 points in 20 matches, is in the semi-finals of the German Cup and also in the Europa League. They play with one touch, with intelligence and pace: a pleasure for the eyes, at times they look like Guardiola’s Barcelona. In this beautiful match the pressure will be all on Bayern, the challenge will also have psychological importance. How nice, though, that the Bundesliga is so exciting, with two teams that will compete until the end.
Do you see Bayern declining this season?
‘It has perhaps had less continuity, but it will find injuries and it has Kane, the showcase player for all German football: over the years we have lost Bellingham, Haaland, Lewandovski, but we have found another champion. After 11 national titles in a row, however, they are perhaps aiming more at the Champions League. Lazio were not lucky in the draw, although Tuchel must be very careful: Sarri’s team is not among the best at the moment in Italy, but they have quality’.
Does Xabi, on the other hand, already see him heading to Liverpool?
“I think his work at Leverkusen is not finished: he was a coach before he sat on the bench and that helps him. It would be difficult to repeat Kloop’s results immediately, while in the Bundesliga he is more protected to grow and win. Then there will be time to go to a big team, maybe Real Madrid…”.
To close, Beppe Bergomi, interviewed for his 60th birthday, said that his strongest partner was not Ronaldo, but you. Is he right?
‘A great compliment from a great man and champion. Having a captain like Uncle gave us peace of mind, he took care of me from the first moment I arrived. He came into the room and spoke to me a little in Italian, a little in English and a little in German: the important thing was to understand each other. I played 21 years, but I had the best time at Inter’.