G iuseppe Bergomi was born on 22 December 1963 in Milan to Giovanni and Franca Bergomi. As a child he was in love with the leather ball and Bergomi started out playing for the youth team of Settala. Such was his prowess for the game, even at the age of 11 he was capable of playing with those in an older age category; on Saturday he would play against those his own age and on Sunday he would take on the big boys. He tended to start the game playing at full back or in a free role, but in reality at this level he was often the driving force even from an attacking perspective - scoring over 20-30 goals a season playing from defence.
As a childhood AC Milan fan, his dreams were about to come true when he was called up for a trial. After impressing on the trial, he was asked to undertake medical tests, where it was discovered that Bergomi has traces of rheumatism in his blood. With his dreams shattered... Bergomi's fame nevertheless spread locally and eventually when Bergomi was aged 14 ... Bussi da Crema, Sandro Mazzola's trusted man, summoned him to an audition for Inter. This time there were no problems. For the Settalese it was a big blow but they were well compensated financially - as long as Bergomi continued the climb in the Inter youth teams. The agreed instalments were collected earlier than expected, because the "Uncle" literally burned through the stages and soon broke into the first team.
It was not all smooth sailing however, as Bergomi caused controversy with his adult appearance lending itself to accusations he was faking his age to play at a younger age group. Arcadio Venturi, coach of the Inter youth team, recalled that when Bergomi landed there: "The shocking thing about that kid is that he wasn't a kid. I found myself in front of him when he was fourteen and I assure you that every Sunday of the championship I spent half an hour convincing the leaders of the opposing team that our number 6 was actually a Pupil: but no one believed me. His companions didn't even bring ID to camp, but woe to him if he was without them, they wouldn't have let him play"
In November 1980 Bergomi was summoned to the National Juniores for the Montecarlo Tournament, one of the most prestigious youth tournaments in the world. He immediately demonstrated his winning predisposition, winning the trophy but it was to be a bittersweet victory as at home, his world was to be turned upside down. The family has always been one of the cornerstones of Giuseppe Bergomi's life, an old-fashioned boy. During the tournament, Bergomi's father - Giovanni who had played an integral role in Bergomi's rise in the game was undergoing a life-threatening operation. Tragically he was to pass away and Beppe was forced to become a man at 16.
The victory in the National Juniores and Bergomi's performances caught the attention of the Nerazzurri coach Bersellini, who decided to bring him into the first team set up. Inter had been reigning champions but their defence of the title was turning into a nightmare. In less than no time after Bergomi started training with the first team, Bersellini sent Bergomi into the field against Como. Ten days later he made his debut in the European Cup against the Red Star at San Siro and when in April against Real Madrid in the semifinals he missed by a whisker the goal that could have brought Inter in the final, the Nerazzurri faithful pretty much considered him a veteran. Inter eventually finished 4th in the league that season, which was looking unlikely at one stage but was a respectable position nonetheless.
The following year, Bergomi became a first team regular and made 38 appearances (24 in the league, 10 in the Coppa Italia and 4 in Europe). He was an integral part of the side which won the 1981/82 Coppa Italia final, starting in both legs against Torino (winning 2-1 on aggregate). Bergomi's rise and precocious ability to play across the backline had not gone unnoticed at National Level and on April 14, 1982 in Leipzig, he made his debut at the age of 18 in the National team under the leadership of Bearzot against East Germany (the Italians were to be defeated 1-0 with Begomi coming on after the 61st minute when the Italians were already behind). Back on the domestic scene, Inter once again struggled in the league and finished 5th.
Having barely played 30 senior matches in the Italian league, national team coach Enzo Bearzot included Bergomi in the 1982 World Cup squad. Bergomi started the tournament on the bench, but came on as a substitute against Brazil in the memorable 3-2 second phase win. He did a great job marking Socrates and Serginho, earning Socrates' jersey at the end of the game.
Semi-Final and Final
Bearzot was ready to throw 'Beppe' into the deep end and he was included in the starting line-up against Poland in the semifinal because Gentile was suspended. Everyone was impressed with how mature he played, helping Italy keep a clean sheet and Bearzot could not drop him for the final against West Germany. Bergomi was given the job of marking the reigning 2x Ballon D'or winner Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and completely took him out of the game.
The German star was substituted in the second half as Italy ran out 3-1 winners with Bergomi taking part in the build up for Marco Tardelli's iconic goal, along with Scirea. Giuseppe was a World Cup winner just over a year after making his first appearance in a senior match! By winning the World Cup at the age of eighteen, Bergomi became a household name at a age when the boys and the champions usually watch them on television. Due to his prominent moustache, intimidating physique and mature persona, he had earned himself the nickname of 'Uncle'.
It is the way of the Gods that just when they seem to promise you the World and everything inside it, they take it away when you least expect it and leave you suffering in the barren abyss. At the age of 18, Bergomi had conquered the international game and was heading into the 1982/83 season as arguably the most accomplished young defender the game had ever seen. The intense pressure surrounding him was beginning to suffocate and overwhelm him. Furthermore the death of his father which he had to suppress during his rapid rise to the top of the game was lurking behind the surface and had not been properly dealt with. Bergomi began to play up and become more violent on the field, earning himself a notorious reputation with the match officials.
Off the pitch during pre-season, Inter infamously allowed Michel Platini whom they had signed on a pre-contract in 1977, go to Juventus, passing up their option to sign him. This was to prove to be a catastrophic error as Inter's championship journey was characterised by many draws and few victories on their way to a third place finish. In the Cup Winners' Cup the Milanese team went up to the quarter-finals, eliminated by the Spanish of Real Madrid , while in the Italian Cup the holders of the trophy were ousted in the semifinals by Juventus then winner of the edition.
In the 1983/84 season, there was yet another change of manager and at boardroom level there was also a significant change: Fraizzoli's place was taken by Ernesto Pellegrini. On the pitch there was also change with it being Walter Zenga's first season as a starter in the Nerazzurri. All these changes did not reap dividends despite Bergomi formed part of the best defense of the championship (23 goals conceded in 30 games). Ultimately the Nerazzurri finished in fourth place in the League and qualifying the UEFA Cup. Outside of the League, Inter were knocked out of the Italian Cup at the Group Stage, and were knocked out of the UEFA Cup in the Round of 16, getting knocked out by Austria Vienna.
Bergomi's rival from the 1982 World Cup, the German striker Karl-Heinz Rummenigge arrived for the beginning of the 1984/85 season. An additional foreign signing was also made, the Irishman Liam Brady, the former Juventus midfielder. Their arrivals and yet another new coach Illario Castagner provided the impetus for a marked upturn in fortunes, as Inter became competitive across all competitions once again. Inter reached the UEFA Cup quarter-finals by eliminating Sportul Studentesc, Rangers and Hamburg. In the League, Inter's rivals were not AC Milan or Juventus who were languishing in 5th and 6th respectively, perhaps in no small part due to the fallout from the 'calcioscommesse' scandal) but Hellas Verona (spearheaded by the fantastic Preban Elkjaer) and Torino managed by their former coach Radice.
After big away defeats to Juventus, Napoli and Roma - Inter finished in 3rd, unable to capitalise on what had been their best season for years. Back in the UEFA Cup, they faced FC Koln who they beat 3-1 at home, overturning a 1-0 deficit. They then faced giants Real Madrid for a place in the final. Things got off to a great start in the first leg with a 2-0 victory in Milan but in the Bernebau the Blancos reversed the situation with a stunning 3-0 victory. During the game Bergomi was controversially struck with an object from the ground but UEFA in analysing the report of the meeting, did not detect any irregularity. The only remaining hope for silverware was the Coppa Italia, but that journey also ended at the semifinals with a defeat at the hands of nemesis AC Milan.
After the 3rd place of the 1984-85 championship , Fanna and Marangon were purchased, just after winning the Italian championship in the Verona ranks, and the experienced Marco Tardelli was taken from Juventus. However despite the promise of the season before, it was to prove to be a false dawn as Inter had a dreadful season. They finished 6th in the league, went out in the Coppa Italia quarter-final against Roma and suffered a humiliation in a rematch against Real Madrid in the UEFA Cup semifinals, losing 5-1 away in the second leg (after extra time) after holding a 3-1 lead in the first leg.
Bergomi was one of the few remaining starters from the 1982 World Cup winning side. The Azzurri bore no resemblance to the opportunistic players who ran off five straight victories after three ties in the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Bereft of Zoff and Gentile, Marco Tardelli and Paolo Rossi, sat on the Italian bench, not even used as substitutes. Nearly four years after winning the last World Cup in soccer, Italy barely snuck through the group stage after a series of sluggish performances relying on a fortunate win against the South Koreans. Their opponents... 1984 Championship Winners... France.
In the 15th minute, Platini infiltrated the famed Italian defense, and was running full tilt when Dominique Rocheteau pushed the ball behind Italy's Antonio Cabrini. Platini tapped the ball past Giovanni Galli for a 1-0 lead. In the second half, Jean Tigana, the midfielder who was born in Mali, showed why some French fans call him ''The Brazilian.'' He dribbled up the middle, drew defenders to him, and dropped a pass to Platini on his right. Platini immediately dished it off farther to the right to Yannick Stopyra, who was all alone, and Stopyra scored to put the game away. Bergomi had a decent game but it was irrelevant, Italy's title defence lay in tatters.
After the disappointment of the World Cup, Bergomi greeted the arrival of Giovanni Trapattoni, a 6 time Serie A winner with Juventus.and 'El Gran Capitan' Daniel Passarella, a fellow 'Primary' defender who was capable of organising the backline and play out from the back. Whilst Inter were playing well and making progress in all competitions, Rummenigge was to suffer a season-ending injury in February. This halted Inter's momentum and they would eventually finish third in the league and only manage to reach the quarter finals in both the Coppa Italia (going out on penalties) and UEFA Cup - losing to Gothenberg on away goals 1-1.
The following summer, Belgian legend Vincenzo Scifo joined the roster. Rummenigge was controversially sold to Servette after picking up an injury the season before. It proved to be a fatal decision. Domestically, Inter struggled from the beginning, failing to convert draws into wins - they would eventually finish 5th in the league. In the UEFA Cup, Inter lost to Spanish minnows Espanyol in the round of 16. At the beginning of 1988 the Nerazzurri launched signs of recovery, with the achievement of the national cup semi-finals, but the entry into the final of Coppa, which could have served as a lifeline for the season, was denied by Sampdoria.
"Once again what had seemed like the revival of Inter as a serious competitor for the big titles in the season prior was followed by a very disappointing season where Inter crashed out of the running for any trophies altogether. "
From Bergomi's perspective, there was never any question of leaving Inter during this barren phase, he was prepared to commit his entire career to Interzionale but going into the 1988 European Championships, he must have been wondering what had become of his career. He was at one stage set to become Italy's most decorated defender of all time and the leader of the new generation post Scirea... now he was having to contend with the likes of Baresi and new upcomers like Maldini and wasn't looking like winning anything of note anytime soon.
Italy injected fresh blood into its veins by moving on from the 1982 World Cup squad altogether. The only remaining survivor from the 1982 starting lineup was Bergomi (though fellow Nerazzuri colleague Altobelli was a substitute in the 1982 final) who now captained the side. Whilst he was the captain, the true leader of the 1988 backline was a young Franco Baresi who had taken over from Gaetano Scirea as Libero. On the other flank to Bergomi was another shy yet tenacious young defender who had broken through into the Milan side, Paulo Maldini. Italy's defence looked formidable once again, and it allowed them to contain the German's in a 1-1 draw.
In their second game against Spain, Italy were the better side but made hard work of securing the result. Midway through the second half, Bergomi burst into space, striding with the ball and whipping in a dangerous cross behind the scrambling Spanish defence only for Gianluca Vialli to volley wide. Four minutes later, though, from almost the same position, Vialli scored. The Italian defence then did what it did best – hold on to a lead. In the final group game, Bergomi was at it again with another accomplished performance - grabbing an assist for the second goal, beating a man down the line and sliding it across the 6 yard box for De Agostini to tap in home and confirm Italy's place in the semi finals.
During the semi final v Russia, Bergomi was initially Italy's best defender during the first half. However Russia's relentless pressure down their left flank began to tell, leaving Bergomi with too much to do. It was a strange tactical ploy from the Russians to target what seemed to be Italy's strongest flank but in retrospect it was a tactical masterstroke. Bergomi was caught out on the first goal, failing to put a tackle in as Lytovchenko burst into the box in the midst of a slaloming run, beating Bergomi and then a few others before putting it in the back of the net.
Minutes later, Russia once again attacked Italy's right flank, with a cut back pass into the path of Russia's second leading marksman of all time Oleh Protasov. Bergomi was out of position and struggling to get back in time such was the speed of the devastating Russian counter attack. Despite the disappointment of crashing out at the semi-final stage and arguably being a pivotal figure in Italy's eventual defeat, such was the strength of Bergomi's overall contribution to Italy's campaign there were no complaints when he was named in the Team of the Tournament. 'Le Zio' had proved he was not a one tournament wonder and had been an exemplary leader, showcasing courage on and off the ball and a diverse skillset which had not been associated with him in national colours.
Despite the summer ending in heartbreak, Bergomi had returned to the domestic scene with a renewed confidence in both his ability and status in the game. Furthermore he was doubly determined to win a major prize for Inter and finally add to what was now fast becoming a barren trophy cabinet. Going into the new season, Inter had retained the services of Giovanni Trapattoni and strengthened his hand by acquiring two all-time level German footballers in their prime: Andreas Brehme, a fullback, and Lothar Matthäus, an all-encompassing box-to-box midfielder. Whilst two legends in their prime had arrived, two legends who weren't quite in their pomp were on their way out - Scifo and Passarella.
The departure of Nerrazzurri stalwart Alessandro Altobelli who had led the line for the best part of 11 years was the end of an era and his loss was further exacerbated by the fact that the initial replacement sought - the Algerian Rabah Madjer did not last for long once it was discovered through medical examinations that his knees were not up to the job. He was swiftly replaced by the explosive left footed forward Ramón Díaz, who eventually dovetailed well with the taller, more consistent Aldo Serena, forming a deadly strike pairing up front.
"However these defeats proved to be a blessing in disguise as it allowed Inter to concentrate on the main prize, Serie A."
Inter started the season relatively well, able to stay unbeaten for almost half of the season but they were knocked out of the Coppa Italia in the second round and in the round of 16 of the UEFA Cup by Bayern Munich. After beating Bayern Munich 2-0 away in the first leg, they spectacularly lost 3-1 in the return at the San Siro in a 12 minute period of madness where all 4 goals were scored. The Fiorentina of Baggio and Borgonovo were the first to beat Inter, on matchday 17.
Whilst in previous years this would have led to a collapse, this Inter were made of sterner stuff. They went on a 8 game winning streak which gave them a significant gap over their rivals. Going into the final month, with five games to spare, the side had collected 26 wins, six draws and two losses. With just five rounds to go, the only side that could still theoretically reach the leading Nerazzurri were Diego Maradona’s Napoli, who were seven points behind and due to face Inter at the San Siro on May 28, 1989.
The game began at a frantic pace and in the 10th minute, some brilliant interplay by Napoli led to Walter Zenga having to produce a magnificent save to keep Careca at bay.
Inter then flexed their muscles with Aldo Serena, and Argentinian Ramon Diaz combining to fail to put an easy chance to put their side ahead. Diaz then hit the crossbar with a header that had left Napoli’s goalkeeper Giuliano Giuliani stranded hopelessly. But just four minutes later, came the moment that silenced the whole Giuseppe Meazza Stadium: Careca controlled a long-range pass by Alessandro Renica and, from 30 meters, delivered a rocket that arrowed into the top left corner. However, all bad omens for the home supporters were cast away four minutes after the break, when a volley by Nicola Berti was fortunately deflected by midfielder Luca Fusi into his own net.
Careca who was a menace throughout was teed up by Maradona, but his razor-sharp left-foot shot could only hit the post. Brehme nearly scored the winner with a trademark 30 yard scorcher which was expertly tipped around the corner. Finally, in the 83rd minute, the San Siro crowd could finally start rejoicing, when the other German... Lothar Matthäus scored from a re-taken free kick just outside the 18 yard box, placing the ball in that perfect spot right on Giuliani’s right.
The win for all intent and purposes confirmed what was the 13th Italian title for Inter, and the final amount of 58 points, a still-unbeaten record for Serie A with 18 teams and two points for a win the ensured that the 1989 vintage would will go down to history as the Inter dei record (“Inter of Records”). In addition, Aldo Serena was the Serie A capocannoniere with 22 goals that season. His next closest competitor was Marco Van Basten with 19. It was a break out year for Inter. What made this win so memorable was that the record-breaking was achieved in the then strongest league in the world, a championship that contained the Milan of Gullit, Rijkaard and Van Basten, the Napoli of Maradona and Careca, Juventus of Laudrup and Rui Barros, Fiorentina of Baggio and Borgonovo, and Sampdoria of Vialli and Mancini.
In the summer of 1989, which followed the record-winning championship, Trappatoni controversially sold Ramón Díaz after only one season, to leave room for the highly rated German Jürgen Klinsmann, thus completing Inter's German triumvirate. Klinsmann started with a bang , especially in the Italian cup, helping Inter to safely navigate the first two rounds. Nevertheless, the offensive duo composed by him and Aldo Serena was less close-knit than the previous tandem Serena-Díaz. The one trophy which still eluded Beppe Bergomi was the European Cup. Inter returned to participate in the European Cup for the first time since 1981.
Their first round opponent were Swedish side Malmö who able to snatch a fortuitous home victory in the first leg . In the return leg at the San Siro, the Italian champions took the lead with Serena but the Scandinavians equalised in the final minutes resulting in a shock elimination in the first round. Whilst the shock from exiting Europe hurt the Nerrazzurri, at the end of November, two months after the European disappointment, the club and Bergomi did manage to lift a new trophy by winning the Italian Super Cup against Sampdoria (beaten 2-0 in Milan). In the league however the team failed to defend the title, suffering from the unrelenting intense competition from Napoli and Milan. They ended up in third place, on a par with Juventus but ahead of them on goal difference.
Italy went into the 1990 World Cup as one of the pre-tournament favourites; they were stacked full of defensive talent and dominating the European club scene, not to mention they had been very impressive in the 1988 European Championships and were the hosts. Once again Bergomi captained his country and the hosts would sail through the group stage, going undefeated and not conceding a single goal to the United States, Austria and Czechoslovakia.
In the round of 16, Italy dominated a rugged and resolute Uruguayan side who were proving tough to breakdown. Eventually Schillaci smashed a left footed shot beyond the despairing Fernando Alves to open the scoring. With La Celeste unable to produce any chances of note, Italy buoyed by the home crowd went on the offensive and after a deep cross from the excellent Bergomi found the head of Serena, they had secured their place in the Quarter Final. In the Quarters, they faced a plucky Irish side who posed rather more of a threat. The Italians grabbed a fortuitous goal through none other than Schillaci in the first half and their rearguard held firm despite the unorthodox nature of the Irish attack.
Despite having gone 450 minutes without being breached, all at their designated home stadium the Stadio Olympico, the Italians made the fatal decision to switch the Semi Final to the Stadio San Paolo in Naples. Diego Maradona’s Argentina at the home of Diego Maradona’s Napoli. The Argentine captain stirred the pot pre-match, calling Neapolitans to support his side instead of their countrymen. Having taken the lead through Schillaci and stretched their defensive streak to 517 minutes – a tournament record that still stands – Claudio Caniggia pounced to level for Argentina, beating Zenga to the ball as the goalkeeper attempted to collect a cross. The complexion of the tie changed.
Defence punctured, Italy kept Argentina at bay for the remainder of the match, and all through extra time. Then, in the penalty shoot-out, Roberto Donadoni and Aldo Serena succumbed to the pressure, in front of the 60,000 spectators there and the millions on television, and Argentina triumphed 4-3. Italy’s World Cup dream was dead but they had earned the love of their nation for their superlative defending having gone a total of 518 minutes without conceding a goal and the best defensive record overall. Bergomi had now been an integral part of two all time level great International defensive units.
After captaining his nation during an emotive World Cup campaign, Bergomi had to rest and refocus for what was the fifth and final season of Trapattoni's tenure. It saw few targeted reinforcements: the free Battistini , the midfielder Paganin , the Pizzi wing and the playmaker Fontolan The team nevertheless still maintained the bulk of the squad from the 1988/89 season and made a good start to the season, being top of the championship by December and producing a series of stunning comebacks to make it to the finals of the UEFA Cup defeating the likes of Austrian Rapid Vienna, Aston Villa and Partizan Belgrade and Sporting Lisbon, the Nerazzurri entered a European final for the first time in 19 years.
The League was lost in early May, with devastating back to back defeats against lowly Genoa and title rivals Sampdoria. Trapattoni then made up for it by winning the UEFA Cup, defeating Roma by a total of 2-1. Inter once again finished the championship in third place, on a par with second placed Milan in terms of points but losing out on goal difference. At the end of the season, after much frenzied speculation, Trapattoni announced his return to Juventus.
During pre-season, Italy's captain was unceremoniously dumped from the International set up. In Oslo a decisive match was played for the European qualifiers, Italy lost against Norway by 2-1 and in the last minute Bergomi was sent off, for the first time in his long career in blue. He made a clumsy tackle from behind which was bordering on reckless, and whilst the referee looked to be reaching for a yellow, Bergomi followed it up with a possible stamp (arguably accidental) on the fallen victim's head. The referee felt he had no choice and brandished the red card that was to send Bergomi into exile. Bergomi was convinced that politics off the pitch were playing a part, given that Arrigo Sacchi was about to arrive on the scene and would probably want to shake up the dressing room and leadership hierarchy.
Things were going to get worse for Bergomi as the manager who had played a major role in him winning trophies at club level Giovanni Trapattoni was replaced by Corrado Orrico whose only experience in Serie A was in 1981 with Udinese. It was no surprise therefore that Inter went into free fall, struggling in the league and falling at the first hurdle in their defence of the UEFA Cup, by Boavista.
In January 1992 the protest of the fans against president Ernesto Pellegrini became strong and the manager was relieved of his duties after a defeat against Atalanta. The legendary Luisito Suárez was appointed caretaker manager. The Nerazzurri were eliminated by Juventus in the Italian Cup quarter- finals, while in the league they continued to sink. They landed in an anonymous eighth place. Bergomi who was now aged 30, could be forgiven for thinking it was now the beginning of the end.
After the disappointing 1991-92 season, Inter hired Osvaldo Bagnoli famous for having won the Scudetto with Hellas Verona in 1984-85 and for having led Genoa to Europe. Inter's new chapter began with selling the German triumvirate, who all returned to the Bundesliga. There was however a new shiny German to play with - Matthias Sammer. In the first half of the championship they scored 23 points. Only Capello 's Milan did better. in the Coppa Italia it was the Rossoneri themselves who were the architects of inter's downfall in the quarter-finals. During the second half of the campaign, Inter were slowed down by a series of draws and the championship ended with a positive second place, just 4 points behind Capello's line-up. Bergomi might have been seen as over the hill by the national set up but he proved that there was still life in the old dog yet.
By this stage of his career, Bergomi had become a right sided centre-back in a back three. Unable to contribute offensively, or defend against pace out wide throughout 90 minutes, it suited the elder statesman to be more central to proceedings and utilise his experience in organising the backline. Whilst in the league , Inter did not replicate the performance of the season before, undergoing a relegation battle as they finished 13th, in the UEFA Cup Inter's new signings came alive and the back three came into its own. They defeated Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals and Cagliari in the semifinals. In the final they faced Austria Salzburg over two legs and kept a clean sheet over both games, winning 2-0 on aggregate. Bergkamp who had struggled domestically won the title of top scorer of the event, scoring 8 goals and Bergomi had now captained Inter to a second UEFA Cup title.
Heading into the 1994/95 season, the spine of Inter's side was ripped up with the likes of Zenga and Ferri sold. Whilst on the pitch there was little to report of note, off the pitch Massimo Moratti (son of Angelo ) succeeded Pellegrini in the role of president. Eventually he started to make waves in the transfer market and the following year Inter brought Ince from Manchester United, the young Argentinian Rambert and Javier Zanetti , the Brazilian Roberto Carlos and Roy Hodgson as manager..
When this yielded no results during the 1995/96 season, Moratti spent further and in came the playmaker Djorkaeff, the defenders Angloma and Galante , the midfielders Sforza and Winter and the Chilean center forward Ivan Zamorano. Finally the upheaval started to bear fruit, as Inter once again made it into a UEFA Cup final, their third in 6 years. Bergomi featured at right back in both legs but unfortunately in what was a tight pair of games, Inter lost out on penalties. Hodgson who had steered Inter to third in the league was replaced by Luciano Castellini, due to his increasingly fractious relationship with the likes of Zanetti and Carlos.
The summer of 1997/98 saw the arrival of the Brazilian Ronaldo from Barcelona. A man who Bergomi was to later declare the toughest player he had ever had to face in training and a player he believed would go on to emulate Maradona and Pele. Other significant signings were made such as Taribo West , Sartor , Moriero , Simeone and Recoba . Despite Bergomi's advancing years, he still managed to feature in 42 games this season, albeit he was having to be rested more than usual. After six consecutive wins in the league during March - including the 3-0 in the Milan derby, left Inter within one point behind Juventus, Inter travelled to Turin on 26 April needing to win.
Bergomi was not selected for this encounter as the hosts went ahead with Del Piero who scored in the 21st minute. In the second half, a contact in the Juventus area between Ronaldo and Iuliano led to Ronaldo claiming what he thought was a stone wall penalty, but the referee Ceccarini did not agree much to the ire of Inter supporters and their manager who got sent off and made to sit in the stands. Once play continued, Juventus were given a penalty which Pagiliuca saved from Del Piero but the damage was done and Inter failed to breach Juventus' defence for the rest of the game. Inter finished the Championship in 2nd position, a place last achieved in 1992-93.
This earned the Milanese club a return - after 9 years - to the top continental competition, renamed the Champions League. The one trophy which had eluded Bergomi was up for grabs again. In the meantime, Inter had qualified for yet another UEFA Cup final, which they duly won 3-0 in Bergomi's absence. Bergomi had been an ever-present during the run to the final but was suspended for the final - he had now won three UEFA Cups.
Bergomi made a surprise comeback to play in his fourth World Cup finals in France in 1998, at the age of 34. Alongside Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Costacurta and Paolo Maldini, he played in three matches as Italy reached the last eight before being eliminated on penalties by the hosts and eventual champions France. . Absent in the matches against Chile and Cameroon, Cesare Maldini brought him off the bench after an injury to Alessandro Nesta against Austria and was duly impressed, selecting him for the remainder of the tournament as his right-centre back. Bergomi produced a series of solid displays ensuring the Azzurri kept clean sheets during the knock out stages, reminiscent of his displays during Spain 82 and Euro 88.
In the quarter-final against France, there was an agonisingly tense 120 goalless minutes in which the game ebbed and flowed, two all time level world class defences holding stellar attacks at bay. It went to a shootout and Bergomi watched on as Baggio exorcised his 1994 demons by slotting his penalty to the right of Barthez. It was ultimately in vain however as Biagio hit the crossbar, ending Baggio's redemption arc and denying Bergomi a fairytale end to his international career after many years in the wilderness.
The victory of the UEFA Cup and the narrow loss of the Scudetto campaign, meant Inter wanted to go all out the season after to win a major title on the tenth anniversary of their last Serie A title. The thirty-one-year-old Roberto Baggio was signed as were the Italians Ventola and Pirlo. Simoni's coaching position was under threat due to the poor start to the season - not helped by the career threatening knee injury suffered by Ronaldo. In Europe the Nerazzurri opened their campaign with a 2-0 loss at the Bernebau. After climbing to second in the group, in the penultimate match of the Champions League group stage, Real were defeated at the San Siro: with two goals from Baggio proving decisive.
Midway through the season, Simoni was sacked and Lucescu was appointed. Inter fought their way to the semi finals of the Coppa Italia where they fell to a strong Parma side, Bergomi being one of three Inter players who were sent off in the first leg for dissent as the Nerazzuri lost their heads. Back on the European trail, Inter faced off against Manchester United, but conceded two goals at Old Trafford in the first leg, in the return Inter went ahead with Ventola and hit a post with Zanetti, before Scholes finished the tie off. Thus ended Bergomi's hopes of landing the elusive European Cup, which alongside the European Championship were the only two trophies to evade him during his glittering career.
A licensed football coach, Bergomi became youth coach of Esordienti at Inter in 2008. In July 2009 he was appointed youth coach of Allievi Nazionali (under-17) at A.C. Monza Brianza 1912, being promoted as head of the Berretti under-19 team, in co-operation with Giuseppe Chieppa, one year later. In July 2011, Bergomi left Monza to accept the same position at Atalanta BC. Additionally, he also worked as a football pundit and commentator for Italian satellite television Sky Italia, often commentating with Fabio Caressa, including in Italy's victorious run at the 2006 World Cup.
Mature beyond his years, the teenage Bergomi was a ready made elite defender equipped to compete at the highest level. Even at this tender age he had the weathered look of a man who could be mistaken for the Ancient Mariner and this served to reinforce that perception that this was a wise yet rugged defender who could be relied upon for water-tight defending.
What made Bergomi an elite defender and not just your average hard-man, was the fact he never needed to be reckless in order to carry out his 'man-marking duties' and he was more of a pre-emptive defender, able to read the opponent and intimidate them with a mixture of implied physicality as well as his unerring ability to seek the ball. Compared to defenders such as Thuram and Vogts, he was less athletic but he was more precise and refined with his tackling. On the ball he was underrated. He lacked the ability to drive with the ball but he was reliable with the ball and composed under pressure. He was efficient and pragmatic in possession, like a typical old school Italian defender.
"Beppe has always been much more mature than his peers, and probably the disappearance of my husband has accentuated his attitude when he grew up. When it happened, my son was sixteen. He was with the National Juniores in Leipzig, he called me as soon as he arrived: "Mom, how did the operation go?" "Well, well, don't worry. The doctors say that everything goes the right way ". After a few hours, my husband Giovanni died. And we had to call Beppe to get him home right away. Beppe reacted from little man to the lack of his father. But inside he suffered so much. He never talks about his father, nor does he want to hear about it ... I know why: he gets excited. Giovanni was very attached to his children ".
"When I was coming to the end of my playing days, Gordon Strachan was the coach of Coventry. He came to me and said 'Ronald Nilsson is leaving, he’s 36 the same as you. If you want to come and join us, we’d love to have you here'. I said no. I wanted to finish my career having played only for Inter Milan. But looking back it’s a big regret. Maybe, if I had accepted, I would now be working as a manager. In England, they always gave you the chance to become the manager of a team in the Premier League or the Championship very quickly. Look at Gianluca Vialli, Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Di Matteo… even Attilio Lombardo was given his chance. But it’s gone.
"I am tremendously shy. Already with the fans or journalists I struggle, let alone with the girls. Sometimes it happens that someone comes up to ask me for an autograph, maybe someone else would take advantage of it: "what are you doing tonight?", "What's your name?" And so on. I don't, I stay there signing autographs and maybe I'll look bad"