Foundation and Early years
The club was founded on 9 March 1908 as Foot-Ball Club Internazionale following a schism from the Milan Cricket and Football Club (44 members). A group of Italians and Swiss (Giorgio Muggiani, a painter who also designed the club's logo; Bossard; Lana; Bertoloni; De Olma; Enrico Hintermann; Arturo Hintermann; Carlo Hintermann; Pietro Dell'Oro; Hugo and Hans Rietmann; Voelkel; Maner; Wipf; and Carlo Ardussi) were unhappy about the domination of Italians in the Milan team and broke away from them, leading to the creation of Internazionale. The name of the club derives from the wish of its founding members to accept foreign players as well as Italians. The club won its very first Scudetto (championship) in 1910 and its second in 1920. The captain and coach of the first Scudetto was Virgilio Fossati, who was killed in World War I.
After Early years
In 1922, Inter were in Group B of the CCI First Division and came in last place after picking up only 11 points in the season. Inter remained in the top league after winning two salvation play-offs.
In 1928, during the Fascist era, the club was forced to merge with the Unione Sportiva Milanese and was renamed Società Sportiva Ambrosiana. They wore white shirts around this time with a red cross emblazoned on it. This shirt design was inspired by the flag and coat of arms of the city of Milan, which in turn derives from the flag of the patron saint of Milan, St. Ambrose, and dates back to the fourth century AD. In 1929, incoming president Oreste Simonotti decided to change name to Associazione Sportiva Ambrosiana in 1929. Supporters, however, continued to call the team Inter, and in 1931 (after U.S. Milanese reconstitution), new president Pozzani caved to shareholder pressure and changed the name to Associazione Sportiva Ambrosiana-Inter.
Their first Coppa Italia (Italian Cup) was won in 1938–39, led by the great legend Giuseppe Meazza, for whom the San Siro stadium is officially named, and a fifth league championship followed in 1940, despite an injury to Meazza. After the end of World War II, the club re-emerged under their original name: Internazionale. Following the war, Inter won its sixth championship in 1953 and the seventh in 1954.
In 1960, Helenio Herrera joined Internazionale from Barcelona, bringing with him his midfield general Luis Suárez, who won the European Footballer of the Year in the same year for his role in Barça's La Liga/Fairs Cup double. He would transform Internazionale into one of the greatest teams in Europe. He modified a 5–3–2 tactic known as the Verrou (door bolt) to include larger flexibility for counterattacks. The catenaccio system was invented by an Austrian coach named Karl Rappan. Rappan's original system was implemented with four fixed defenders playing a strict man-to-man marking system, plus a playmaker in the middle of the field who would the ball together with two midfield wings. Herrera would sometimes modify the formation by adding a fifth defenders, the sweeper or libero behind the two centre backs; the sweeper would act as the free man and deal with any attackers who penetrated the two centre backs' line.
Internazionale finished third in Serie A in Herrera's first season, second the next year and first in his third season, followed by back-to-back European Cup victories in 1964 and 1965. For his team's performances, Herrera would earn the title ll Mago, (the magician). His first-squad was the fullbacks Tarcisio Burgnich and Giacinto Facchetti; sweeper Armando Picchi; playmaker Luis Suárez; winger Jair; left midfielder Mario Corso; and Sandro Mazzola, who played the inside-right.
The 1963–64 European Cup campaign would see Internazionale defeat German club Borussia Dortmund in the semi-final and Partizan in the quarter-final. In the Final, they met Real Madrid, a team that had reached seven out of the nine finals to date. Real Madrid consisted of the ageing stars of the 1950s and a few emerging players that later go on to win the European Cup in 1966. It was Sandro Mazzola, however, who stole the show by scoring two goals in a 3–1 victory. Internazionale would then go on to claim the Intercontinental Cup over Argentine club Independiente.
One year later, Inter repeated the feat by beating two-time winner Benfica in the Final held at home. Jair was the lone scorer in 1–0 win. Additionally, and for the second-straight year, Internazionale won the Intercontinental Cup over Independiente.
After Hellenio Herrera
Following the golden era of the 1960s, Inter managed to win their 11th league title in 1971 and their 12th in 1980. Inter were defeated for the second time in five years in the final of the European Cup, going down 0–2 to Johan Cruyff's Ajax in 1972. During the 1970s and 1980s, Inter also added two to its Coppa Italia tally, in 1977–78 and 1981–82.
Led by the German duo of Andreas Brehme and Lothar Matthäus and the Argentine Ramón Díaz, Inter captured the 1988–89 Serie A championship. Fellow German Jürgen Klinsmann and the Italian Supercup were added the following season, though Inter failed to defend their Serie A title, finishing in third behind champions Napoli and city rivals Milan, respectively.
The 1990s was a period of disappointment for Inter. While their great rivals, Milan and Juventus, were achieving success both domestically and in Europe, Inter were left behind with repeated mediocre results in the domestic league standings, their worst coming in 1993–94 when they finished just one shy of the relegation zone. Nevertheless, they achieved some European success with three UEFA Cup victories in 1991, 1994 and 1998.
With Massimo Moratti's takeover from Ernesto Pellegrini in 1995, Inter were promised more success with many high-profile signings like Ronaldo and Christian Vieri, with Inter twice breaking the world record transfer fee in this period (£19.5 million for Ronaldo from Barcelona in summer 1997 and £31 million for Vieri from Lazio in the summer of 1999). The 1990s, however, remained a decade of disappointment, it being the only decade in Inter's history in which they did not win a single Serie A title.
In the 1999–2000 season, Moratti made several major changes, once again investing in high-profile players. A major coup for Inter was the appointment of former Juventus manager Marcello Lippi. Moreover, Inter were seen by the majority of the fans and press to have finally put together a winning formula. Other signings included Italian and French legends Angelo Peruzzi and Laurent Blanc, respectively, together with other former Juventus players Christian Vieri and Vladimir Jugović. Inter were also seen to have an advantage in this season as they had no European "distraction." Once again, however, they failed to win the elusive Scudetto, though they did manage to come close to their first domestic success since 1989 when they reached the Coppa Italia final only to be defeated by Lazio, who also claimed the Scudetto.
In 2002, not only did Inter manage to make it to the UEFA Cup semi-finals, they were also just 45 minutes away from capturing the Scudetto. Maintaining just a one-goal advantage over Lazio at Rome's Stadio Olimpico in the last match of the season would see-off second- and third-placed Juventus and Roma, respectively. As a result of the game's implications, some Lazio fans were actually openly supporting Inter during the match, as an Inter victory would prevent Lazio's bitter city rivals Roma from winning the championship. Inter were 1–2 up after only 24 minutes, but Lazio equalised during first-half injury time and scored two more goals in the second half to clinch the victory. Juventus ultimately won the Scudetto after their 0–2 victory away to Udinese.
Once again, however, Massimo Moratti's impatience got the better of him—Hernán Crespo was sold after just one season and manager Héctor Cuper was fired after just a few games in charge of the team. Alberto Zaccheroni stepped in, a lifelong Inter fan but also the man who was in charge of Lazio's 4–2 victory over Inter in 2002. Zaccheroni brought nothing new to the side, apart from two fantastic wins over Juventus 1–3 in Turin and 3–2 at the San Siro, though the season was again nothing special. They were embarrassingly eliminated from the Champions League in the first round, finishing third in their group. Furthermore, they only managed to scrape a place in next season's Champions League after finishing fourth by only a point over Parma. Inter's only saving grace in 2003–04 was the arrival of Dejan Stanković and Adriano in January 2004, making up for the departures of Clarence Seedorf and Hernán Crespo respectively.
Resurrection and Treble
On 7 July 2004, Inter announced on their official website that they had appointed former Lazio boss Roberto Mancini as new head coach. In his first season, Inter and Mancini collected 72 points from 18 wins, 18 draws and only two losses. On 15 June 2005, Inter won the Coppa Italia after defeating Roma in the two-legged final 3–0 on aggregate (1–0 win in Milan and 0–2 win in Rome) and followed that up on 20 August 2005 by winning the Supercoppa Italiana after an extra-time 1–0 victory over Serie A champions Juventus. This Super Cup win was Inter's first since 1989, coincidentally the same year since Inter last won the Scudetto before 2006. On 11 May 2006, Inter retained their Coppa Italia trophy by once again defeating Roma with a 4–1 aggregate victory (a 1–1 scoreline in Rome and a 3–1 win at the San Siro).
Inter were awarded the 2005–06 Serie A championship as they were the highest-placed side in the season's final league table after points were stripped from Juventus and Milan, who were punished in a match fixing scandal that year. With the confirmed relegation of Juventus to Serie B and the eight-point deduction for city rivals Milan, Inter became favourites to retain their Serie A title for the 2006–07 Serie A season.
During the season, Inter went on a record-breaking run of 17 consecutive victories in Serie A, starting on 25 October 2006 with a 4–1 home victory over Livorno and ending on 28 February 2007 after a 1–1 draw at home to Udinese. The 2–5 away win at Catania on 25 February 2007 broke the original record of 15 matches held by both Bayern Munich and Real Madrid from the "Big 5" (the top flight leagues in Italy, England, Spain, France and Germany). The run lasted for almost five months and stands among the best in European league football, with just Benfica (29 wins), Celtic (25 wins) and PSV (22 wins) bettering the run.
On 22 April 2007, Inter won their second consecutive Scudetto—and first on the field since 1989—when they defeated Siena 2–1 at Stadio Artemio Franchi. Italian World Cup-winning defender Marco Materazzi scored both goals in the 18th and 60th minute, the latter being a penalty.
Inter started the 2007–08 season with the goal of winning both Serie A and Champions League. The team started well in the league, topping the table from the first round of matches, and also managed to qualify for the Champions League knockout stage. A late collapse leading to a 2–0 defeat with ten men away to Liverpool on 19 February in the Champions League, however, threw into question manager Roberto Mancini's future at Inter, and domestic form took a sharp turn of fortune, with the team failing to win in the three following Serie A games (drawing with Sampdoria and major league opponents Roma, before losing away to Napoli, their first domestic defeat of the season). After being eliminated by Liverpool in the Champions League, Mancini then announced his intention to leave his job, only to change his mind the following day.
On the final day of the 2007–08 Serie A season, Inter played Parma away while Roma travelled to Catania. This week offered an interesting juxtaposition, as both Roma and Inter looked to take the title, whereas Parma and Catania were both fighting for survival. Many scenarios could have played out, though Inter were still favourites due to their superior head-to-head record with Roma; all Inter needed to do was match Roma's result. The day started with Roma taking an early lead against Catania and for 60 minutes of the final day, Roma were top of the league; however, the lead would not hold. Inter, seemingly rejuvenated due to the introduction of Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimović, began to take control of the game. Amidst the pouring rain at the Stadio Ennio Tardini in Parma, Ibrahimović fired a low shot to make it 0–1 in the 62nd minute. Another Ibrahimović blast sealed the victory, and with it the hope of winning the championship faded away for Roma. Elsewhere, Catania managed to score a late equaliser that granted them the stay in Serie A for the upcoming 2009 season and left Roma three points behind Inter. Inter sealed their third championship in a row and had a late night celebration at San Siro upon their return to Milan, where they were presented with the Serie A trophy.
Inter enjoyed more luck in the 2009–10 Champions League, managing to progress to the quarter-finals by eliminating Mourinho's former team, Chelsea, in a 3–1 aggregate win; this was the first time in three years that the Nerazzurri had passed the first knockout round. Inter then progressed to the semi-finals of the tournament by beating CSKA Moscow 2–0 on aggregate, winning both legs. Inter managed to achieve a 3–1 win over incumbent champions Barcelona in the first leg of the semi-final. In the second leg, a resolute Inter lost 1–0 but progressed 3–2 on aggregate to their fifth European Cup/Champions League Final, with Bayern Munich as opponents. They won the match 2–0 with two goals from Diego Milito, and were crowned champions of Europe. Inter also won the 2009–10 Serie A title by two points over Roma, and the 2010 Coppa Italia by defeating the same side 1–0 in the final.
By winning the Scudetto, Coppa Italia and Champions League in a single season, Inter completed The Treble, becoming the first-ever Italian team to achieve the feat. However, their attempt to defend these honours are without Mourinho, as he agreed a deal to take charge of Spanish club Real Madrid on 28 May 2010. Inter appointed Rafael Benítez as new coach after signing a two-year contract on June 2010.
On 21 August 2010, Inter defeated Roma 3–1 and won the 2010 Supercoppa Italiana, the fourth trophy of the year. In December 2010, they claimed the FIFA Club World Cup for the first time after a 3–0 win against TP Mazembe in the final. Internazionale completed the Quintuple, becoming the fourth team in the world to do so after only Liverpool in 2001, Egyptians Al-Ahly in 2006 and Barcelona in 2009. After this win, however, on 23 December 2010, due to his poor performance in Serie A and separated by 13 points from the leaders Milan (although Inter played two games less due to the FIFA Club World Cup appointment), the team announced Benítez's departure on their website. He was replaced by Leonardo the following day.
Leonardo started extremely well, collecting 30 points from 12 games, with an average of 2.5 points per game, better than his predecessors Benítez and Mourinho. On 6 March 2011, Leonardo set a new Italian Serie A record by collecting 33 points in 13 games; the previous record was 32 points in 13 games made by Fabio Capello in 2004–05. On 15 March 2011, Inter had a memorable 3–2 Champions League away victory over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in the round of 16 after losing the first leg at home, but lost in the quarter-finals against Schalke 04. After Inter lost against Milan, and two weeks later Parma, Inter's Serie A season title ambitions had effectively ended. The only trophy the club won with Leonardo as a manager was the Coppa Italia. On 18 June 2011, Leonardo resigned and was followed by not so successful new managers Gian Piero Gasperini, Claudio Ranieri and Andrea Stramaccioni. The club in the 2011–12 season finished as sixth, a quarter-finalist in Coppa Italia, lost in the Supercoppa Italiana, and Champions League knockout phase.
Decline and Change in Ownership
On 1 August 2012, the club announced that Moratti to sell a minority interests of the club to a Chinese consortium led by Kenneth Huang. On the same day, Inter announced an agreement was formed with China Railway Construction Corporation Limited for a new stadium project, however, the deal with the Chinese eventually collapsed. In the 2012–13 season, they finished ninth, as semi-finalist in Coppa Italia and lost in the Europa League knockout phase.
On 15 October 2013, Indonesians Erick Thohir, Rosan Roeslani and Handy Soetedjo signed an agreement to acquire 70 percent of Inter shares with an acquisition value of $501 million. During Thohir era the club began to modify its financial structure from one reliant on continual owner investment to a more self sustain business model although the club still breached UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations in 2015. The club was fined and received squad reduction in UEFA competitions, with additional penalties suspended in the probation period. During this time, Roberto Mancini returned as coach on 14 November 2014.
On 6 June 2016, Suning Holdings Group (via a Luxembourg-based subsidiary Great Horizon S.á r.l.) a company owned by Zhang Jindong, co-founder and chairman of Suning Commerce Group, acquired a majority stake of Inter Milan from Thohir's consortium International Sports Capital S.p.A. and from Moratti family's remaining shares in Internazionale Holding S.r.l. According to various filings, the total investment from Suning was around €270 million.