There is only one Zlatan

I have to state right from the outset that I am an Inter fan and have been since 1990.  I’ve seen some great player’s over the years, the likes of Giuseppe Bergomi, Lothar Matthäus, Jürgen Klinsmann, Rubén Sosa and Ronaldo but there’s only one Zlatan Ibrahimović.  Born in Malmö, Sweden of Bosnian heritage, the talented striker is in the form of his life.  Ibrahimović scored a brace overnight to secure Scudetto number 16 for Inter.

Inter were in great domestic form for most of the season until they hit a snag after defeat to Liverpool in the first knockout round of the UEFA Champions League.  Following their exit manager, Roberto Mancini, announced his intention to quit at the end of the season, then did a back flip after Club President, Massimo Moratti talked him out of it.

Now there is fresh speculation that a very special manager has been lined-up to take his place, the one and only, José Mourinho.  Mourinho was quoted in the media recently, stating he will be working in “one month or so” but did not indicate where.  I guess we’ll have to wait and see if it’s with the reigning Serie A champions.  Reports in the Italian media suggest Mancini might stay now.  Inter’s website quotes Moratti saying, “We will talk soon and see what to do,” in response to Mancini saying they will have to speak together.

Inter had an 11-point lead in February, how they allowed it to get down to one and a title-decider in the last round is questionable.  To be fair Ibrahimović has been sidelined with a knee injury, he made his comeback last night against Parma starting on the bench.  Mancini introduced him early in the second-half and he immediately added a much needed attacking presence in the final third.

The match was headed for a nil-all draw but both Parma and Inter needed a win for different reasons: Parma to avoid relegation and Inter to win the title.  The pressure was on as Roma, who had kicked-off simultaneously, were up 1-0.  When Ibrahimović came on, he knew he had to score or the Scudetto was going to the capital.

The rain started to pour as the stakes were mounting, you couldn’t help but think Inter was going to throw the title away as they did in 2002.  Inter needed a talisman, a heroic figure to release the dreams of the few fans wearing black and blue.  His name: Zlatan!

On 62 minutes a strike from outside the penalty box unleashed pandemonium.  The sheer relief turned to jubilation 17 minutes later when Ibrahimović bagged his second, volleying home a pinpoint cross from Maicon.  Inter were champions, three seasons in a row (two on the pitch).

Sadly, the Inter fans were banned from entering the stadium due to security concerns but some were creative enough to figure out a way to get in with thousands waiting outside praying for a victory.  I could not believe my eyes when the final whistle blew.

Argentina international and Inter captain, Javier Zanetti, was swamped by fans in celebration, in what looked more like a riot than a show of support.  Italian fans are nuts, passionate but nuts!  Zanetti was kissed, hugged and lifted onto the shoulders of many proud fans, and fair enough, but don’t suffocate the guy.  They wonder why they have such a bad reputation in Italy, go figure.  Nevertheless, the Stadio Ennio Tardini was packed with Inter fans celebrating with their team.

It was heartbreak for Parma, who went down to Serie B for the first time in 18 years.  They held on and fought hard but just couldn’t put the ball into the back of the net.  Sacking former Inter manager, Hector Cuper, last week probably didn’t help, add the financial troubles and it was hardly a surprise.  However, playing at home with relegation staring them in the face, a more attacking mentality wouldn’t have done any harm in the end.

Roma’s gallant run without enigmatic captain, Francesco Totti, was commendable, their match with Catania ending 1-1.  The Scudetto was staying put in Milan.  Inter fell over the line but won it all the same, we can thank Ibrahimović for his inspirational performance.

He’ll go down in Inter’s history books and so he should, we love him!  He copped criticism for his performances against Liverpool but breaking-down a Rafa Benítez constructed defence is not easy for one man on his own.  My guess is there’s more to come from Ibrahimović in Europe next season, he’s a class act.

Inter have been the perennial underachievers of Serie A, until now.  Winning three titles in a row has made the aristocrats from Milan the team to beat in Italy.  Something tells me there will be changes in the off-season, maybe some standout performances in this year’s European Championships will attract even more talent to Milan or maybe, just maybe, there is something special arriving on the bench very soon.

Success in next season’s UEFA Champions League is not an unrealistic expectation but for now let’s enjoy the moment.  Finally, finally, it’s great to be an Inter fan!

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