Inter’s German connection – Poldi’s predecessors

The name Internazionale is not an ironic one. Founded nearly 110 years ago, the club’s very existence is based on an idea of “footballers without borders”. This quote, which can be read as a quasi-mission statement, is attributed to an unnamed founder of the club:

Questa note splendita darà I colori al nostro stemma:
Il nero e l’azzurro sullo sfondo d’oro stelle. Si chiamerà
Internazionale, perché noi siamo fratelli del mondo.

For those of us that do not sprechen Italienisch:

This wonderful night will give us the colors for our crest:
Black and blue against a backdrop of gold stars. It will be
called Internazionale, because we are brothers of the world.

To underscore this point in the 2010 Champions League final victory over FC Bayern, Inter’s starting 11 featured no Italians and it was only in 2nd half stoppage time that the lone Italian, defender Marco Materazzi, entered the match for the Nerazzurri; both goalkeeper Francesco Toldo and striker Mario Balotelli remained as unused substitutes.

Last week Inter Milan announced the signing of 2014 World Cup winner Lukas Podolski on loan from Premiership side Arsenal for the remainder of the season. Podolski had been used sparingly thus far this season for the Gunners and was keen to make the move away from London to Lombardy in search of more first team football. A day after his move was completed, he made his debut as a 2nd half substitute in a 1-1 draw with Juventus and played the full 90 minutes in a 3-1 win at the San Siro over Genoa.

Podolski became the latest to join a rather exclusive fraternity of Germans to ply their trade at Inter. Here then is the story of those that have previously donned the famous black and blue.

Hermann Xavier Marktl – 1908-09 – 3 Appearances

Hermann Marktl is an interesting case as some sources list him as a German while others list him as being a Swiss national, but for argument’s sake we’ll grant him German citizenship. Marktl made only 3 appearances for Inter decades before any semblance of a league structure was introduced to Italy; all of those matches were losses. He was the club’s first ever captain and was also the first player, of any nationality, to play for both Inter and AC Milan as he was a member of the Rossoneri in 1907.

That’s one heck of an answer for a pub quiz final round isn’t it?

Horst Szymaniak – Midfielder – 1963-64 – 12 Appearances

You’d likely be excused if you hadn’t ever heard the name Horst Szymaniak before (I know I didn’t that’s for sure) but the midfielder was one of the standout German footballers in the late 1950’s and into the early 1960’s alongside the likes of Helmut Rahn, Uwe Seeler, and Karl-Heinz Schnellinger. From 1957-61 Szymaniak was not only rated by Kicker magazine as “world class” but he was also shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or, all the while playing for a pair of innocuous clubs in Wuppertaler SV and Karlsruher SC.

Szymaniak moved from Germany to Genoa in 1961, where he stayed for 2 seasons before heading to Inter in 1963. In spite of his tangible and proven talent, Szymaniak’s time in Milan can be summed up as disappointing, although none of it was his own doing. Due to strict restrictions on the number of foreign players allowed in a starting 11, 2 to be precise, Szymaniak was unable to feature often, if at all, in the league; manager Helenio Herrera preferred to use Spanish midfielder Luis Suarez and Brazilian winger Jair with his foreign player allotments.

In Europe however no such restrictions existed and Szymaniak would make 5 of his 12 total appearances for Inter in the 1963-64 European Cup, which they ended up winning by defeating Real Madrid 3-1 in Vienna. Szymaniak did not feature in the final but did play against his fellow countrymen Borussia Dortmund in the 1st leg of the semi-final. This would be Szymaniak’s final match for Inter as he would depart for Serie A newcomers AS Varese where he would play only 1 season.

For more on Szymaniak see this piece by Rob Fielder.

Hansi (Hans-Peter) Müller – Midfielder – 1982-84 – 68 Appearances – 13 Goals

Long time Stuttgart midfielder Hansi Müller made the move to Milan from Swabia in the wake of the 1982 World Cup, where he was runner up with West Germany. Müller got off to the best possible start to his Inter career scoring in his 1st 2 league matches but multiple injuries would keep him in and out of the lineup during the course of the 1982-83 season. The following season featured Müller’s most lasting memory with Inter when he scored the 2nd goal in a 2-0 derby win over AC Milan but once again his season was plagued with injuries. In what would be his final match for Inter, Müller scored twice in 2 minutes in a 6-0 home thrashing of Catania.

In his own words Müller not only loved, but felt at home in Italy even though he only played there for 3 seasons (2 seasons at Inter and 1 at Calcio Como); this was no doubt aided by the fact that he picked up the language very quickly and was doing interviews in Italian after only 3 weeks. He also endeared himself to the team, officials, and most importantly the fans. Even to this day when Müller returns to Milan he feels as though he’s never left.

Here are some of the goals Müller scored during his time in Italy.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge – Striker – 1984-87 – 107 Appearances – 42 Goals

After an illustrious 10 year career at FC Bayern Karl-Heinz Rummenigge transferred to Inter for the 1984 and would play in Milan for 3 seasons. In his 1st season he helped Inter to a 3rd place finish in Serie A and to respective semi-finals in the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup, scoring 18 times in all competitions. Rummenigge would replicate his 18 goals in all competitions in his 2nd season at Inter, which resulted in another semi-final appearance in the UEFA Cup.

His 3rd and final season was marred by injuries which kept Rummenigge out of more than half of Inter’s Serie A matches. His final match was a 1-0 defeat away to Brescia in which Rummenigge played only 7 minutes before injuring a tendon and being forced out of the match. He left Inter at the end of the 1986-87 season to play out the rest of his career with FC Sion in Switzerland.

Lothar Matthäus – Midfielder – 1988-92 – 153 Appearances – 53 Goals

Lothar Matthäus’ career at Inter was sandwiched by his 2 spells at FC Bayern. He came to Inter at the start of the 1988-89 season and his impact was felt immediately as Inter won the Scudetto that season. Of the 9 league goals he scored the most important was Matthäus’ late winner in a 2-1 victory over (Maradona’s) Napoli on the 30th match day that ended up being the title clinching goal as Inter took the title with 4 matches to spare.

The following season Inter would finish 3rd in Serie A but that was secondary to Matthäus captaining the West German side to victory at World Cup 1990. This would not be the end of his winning ways as Inter would go on to win the 1990-91 UEFA Cup with Matthäus as the star, scoring 6 times including converting a penalty in the 1st leg of the all Italian final vs AS Roma.

Following a disappointing 8th place finish in the 1991-92 season, Matthäus would bid Milan arrivederci and would return to Bayern. 1992 was also a landmark year for Matthäus as it was also the year that the 1st of his 5 marriages would come to an end.

Andreas Brehme – Defender – 1988-92 – 154 Appearances – 13 Goals

Like Matthäus, Andreas Brehme made his way to Inter Milan by way of FC Bayern for the 1988-89 season and was a member of both the Scudetto winning side and the squad that won the pre-season Italian Super Cup. The following season was his most prolific in terms of goal scoring as Brehme found the back of the net 6 times in 32 league matches. His biggest goal in Italy however would not come in Inter colours.

After 85 minutes of scoreless and chippy football, Rudi Völler was brought down in the penalty area. Brehme stepped up and calmly dispatched the penalty past Sergio Goycochea in the Argentina goal. West Germany were World Champions and Brehme was the hero on “home soil”.

Brehme would play another 2 season at Inter, emulating Matthäus once again in this regard, hoisting the UEFA Cup in 1991 before playing a season at Real Zaragoza and then finishing his career at FC Kaiserslautern.

Jürgen Klinsmann – Striker – 1989-92 – 123 Appearances – 40 Goals

Departing from Stuttgart Klinsmann’s arrival in Milan a year after both Brehme and Matthäus completed the German Holy Trinity, although it meant that he missed out on winning the Scudetto. Klinsmann had a very respectable goal scoring record in Serie A, 34 goals in 95 appearances or just over a goal every 3 matches, but was less prolific in European competitions where he was completely overshadowed by Matthäus. Nevertheless, Klinsmann was rather well liked by the Inter faithful, much like Hansi Müller, having learned the language relatively quickly.

Klinsmann would leave with his German compatriots at the end of the 1991-92 season making his way west to France (Monaco) instead of north to Germany.

Matthias Sammer – Midfielder – 1992-93 – 12 Appearances – 4 Goals

If Hansi Müller’s time at Inter was considered the ideal, Matthias Sammer’s time there would be the polar opposite. Like Müller and Klinsmann before him, Sammer moved to Inter in 1992, as the replacement for the aforementioned German Holy Trinity, from Stuttgart fresh off a Bundesliga title with VfB. But unlike the others Sammer had a difficult time acclimatising himself in Italy and with Italian culture and promptly had his contract mutually terminated after only half the season. His return to Germany with Borussia Dortmund served him well as he won multiple Bundesliga titles and a UEFA Champions League Title in 1997.

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Born in Toronto, Adrian is a first generation Canadian by way of Bavaria and the Black Forest. After some intense football soul searching he's now a fully fledged member of the Church of Streich. Follow @AdrianSertl

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