Inter Milan: 100 not out
© AFP

Internazionale Milano Football Club, more commonly known as Inter, came into existence on 9 March 1908 in the back room of L'Orologiaio (The Clockmaker) restaurant in Milan. The impetus was provided by dissident members of the Milan Cricket and Football Club, who went on to become AC Milan.

The aim of these rebels was to open up the club to foreign talent at a time when AC Milan's regulations excluded all but Italian players - hence the name Internazionale. Even today, the club remain true to this original doctrine with more foreign players on their books (23 out of a professional playing staff of 45) than any other Italian club.

A century after the club's creation, Inter are ranked firmly among Europe's top clubs, with an impressive honours list of 15 Scudetti, five Italian Cups, three Italian Supercups, two European Cups, three UEFA Cups and two Intercontinental Cups.

What is more, the Nerazzurri are Italy's third most successful outfit in terms of silverware, bettered only by Juventus and fierce local rivals AC, as well the only side in the country never to have been relegated.

Due to a lack of financial resources, the club's early days were tough, so much so that the players even had to pay for their own shirts and boots. When the fascists came to power in Italy, the word "Internazionale" was deemed to be a reference to the international communist movement and, in 1932, Inter were forced to merge with the Unione Sportiva Milanese to become Ambrosiana-Inter until the fall of the regime. Ten years and two league titles later, Inter reverted to their old name.

Conveyor belt of talent
Traditionally a key provider of talent for the national team, four of the players (Allemandi, Castellazzi, Demaria and Meazza) from the Azzurri side that triumphed at the 1934 FIFA World Cup™ in Italy were supplied by Inter, as were a further quartet (Ferrari, Ferraris II, Locatelli and Meazza again) for the FIFA World Cup victory in France four years later.

The truly gifted Giuseppe Meazza, scorer of 283 goals in 408 official matches for Inter, stands out to this day as an exceptional striker and man. In 1979, a year after his death, the San Siro was renamed in his honour, with the agreement of the ground's co-occupants AC Milan, despite the strong rivalry between the two clubs.

The Moratti family has also left an indelible mark on Inter Milan. Under the chairmanship of Angelo Moratti (1955 to 1968) the Nerazzurri prevailed on pitches the world over, lifting three Scudetti, two European Cups and two Intercontinental Cups. His son Massimo, chairman since 18 February 1995, displays similar passion for the cause today.

The third name which will be forever associated with Inter is Helenio Herrera. While his playing career was unremarkable, Il Mago (The Magician) stockpiled an incredible haul of trophies as one of the world's most successful coaches.

Herrera casts his spell
"HH" was heavily inspired by the pre-war defensive system known as the Swiss bolt, the central rivet of which he reinforced still further. Herrera, however, never accepted his reputation as the champion of the system's successor, Catenaccio. Instead he chose to emphasise the fact that he had been the first to develop dedicated right-wing play, thereby creating the "channel" concept so in vogue today.

It is difficult to isolate the different elements of Inter's classic side (Sarti, Burgnich, Facchetti, Bedin, Guarnieri, Picchi, Jair, Mazzola, Peiro, Luis Suarez, Corso), as they formed a unit of incredible solidity. That said, attention must be drawn to two players in particular.

Firstly, elegant wing-back Giacinto Facchetti, the control tower of the Inter defence who won 94 caps for Italy. He also had a spell as chairman of the club, before losing a long battle with illness in 2006. Secondly, attacking midfielder turned striker, Alessandro Mazzola, who bagged 157 goals in 561 games for Inter and 22 goals in 70 appearances for Italy between 1963 and 1974.

Between 1970 and 2005, despite investing colossal sums in the transfer market, Inter had to "make do" with just three more Scudetti, three UEFA Cups and the same number of Italian Cups, although many supporters still hankered for the halcyon days of Herrera.

And after much chopping and changing, in 2004 Massimo Moratti finally hit upon the ideal coach in the shape of Roberto Mancini. This former stylish striker made light of the tricky transformation from player to coach by guiding his gifted and cosmopolitan squad to the league and cup double in 2006, before sealing the Scudetto again in 2007.

With 18 wins, 7 draws and just one defeat so far this season ( editor's note: as at 7 March 2008), Inter are in the process of clinching their third consecutive and 16 th ever league title. With the Moratti-Mancini double act continuing to reinforce its place in club history, this particular centenarian is showing no signs of slowing down.