It might only be half-time, but Inter Milan are looking at flights to Istanbul after their 2-0 over AC Milan in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday night.
It was built up as the ultimate Derby della Madonnina, and Edin Džeko scored a goal to match the size of the fixture with just eight minutes on the clock at the San Siro.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan got the second by running through into the box and unleashing a shot that gave goalkeeper Mike Maignan no chance.
This completely overturned any talk of this being a conservative game, with both teams happy to shadow box as opposed to showing their full hand.
This is exactly what happened when they met in the semi-finals of the 2002/03 Champions League, and AC Milan went through on away goals after Andriy Shevchenko squeezed the ball at the end of the first half in the second leg.
There is truth in those prophecies that goes beyond what happened 20 years ago. The two greatest Inter sides had one thing in common; stern defences and rapid counter attacks.
The First Grande Inter Team
Helenio Herrera created modern day Inter Milan by winning back to back European Cups and two Intercontinental Cups in the 1960s. I Nerazzurri were also Italian champions three times during that decade, and they reached a third European Cup final in 1967.
He is the godfather of catenaccio, a style of football that involves defending and stopping opponents from scoring at all costs.
His team became known as 'Grande Inter' and they played in a 5-3-2 formation that had a sweeper working alongside four defenders.
Herrera isn’t the creator of catenaccio, he just used it to conquer the world.
This team came to a slow end, starting with the defeat to Celtic in the 1967 European Cup final in Lisbon. Inter also lost out on the Scudetto on the final day of the season and they finished fifth the following year.
It came to a sort of natural end, as Tarcisio Burgnich explained: “After many years we were somehow used to it, but, by that stage, even we had reached our breaking point.”
The Second Grande Inter Team
José Mourinho arrival at the San Siro in 2008 marked the second coming of Grand Inter, a period that would accumulate in a historic treble. The coach only spent two years in the north of Italy, and he brought five trophies to the club, with only the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup missing from the collection.
His most frequent weapon in Europe was a 4-2-3-1 formation that emphasised a strong defence and rigid midfield. Their main attacking threat was quick transitions as they looked to break with pace and catch other teams out on the counter.
Nothing summed this up more than their opening goal in the 2010 Champions League final as a long ball was sent over the top and broken down to Diego Milito, who fired in.
It was route one football and the whole move lasted less than just a few seconds.
That wasn’t even their biggest result of the season, it was their victory over reigning European champions Barcelona that wrote their names into football folklore.
The Catalans dominated both legs, with Inter having just 15.3% of the possession at the Camp Nou. None of this mattered as they won 3-2 on aggregate and qualified for their first Champions League final since 1972, when they lost to Ajax 2-0 in Rotterdam.
It mightn’t have been catenaccio, but a distant relation that bridged the gap between generations.
The Inter team of 2023 has won four trophies over the last two years and they now have one foot in the Champions League final.
They tore through the competition this season, scoring 18 goals since the group stage started. Inter are also the second top scorers in this season’s Serie A with league champions Napoli the only team with a better record.
Simone Inzaghi created that by breaking away from tradition and having these players play his way.
They are now 90 minutes away from a chance at immortality, and joining the Grande Inter teams with a throne built in their own vision.