Lothar Matthaus on Ney­mar

Ney­mar hopes join­ing PSG will help him to bag the Bal­lon d’or – FFT’S colum­nist ex­plains how mov­ing to In­ter ul­ti­mately al­lowed him to clinch the in­au­gu­ral World Player of the Year prize

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As I stood over the free-kick, it was like the start of a Usain Bolt 100-me­tre sprint. There were 85,000 inside the San Siro but ev­ery­thing was so quiet. Then, when the ball hit the net, there was an ex­plo­sion of noise. It was the end of my first sea­son with In­ter. We had the chance to win Serie A at home against Diego Maradona’s Napoli, our clos­est ri­vals in the ta­ble. That free-kick won the ti­tle. It was an amaz­ing feel­ing, some­thing spec­tac­u­lar for ev­ery­one in the sta­dium. The fans had been wait­ing nine years to win the Serie A ti­tle again.

Ev­ery­thing went per­fectly for me at In­ter: it was the right step when I moved from Bay­ern Mu­nich in 1988. Since 1981 I’d had of­fers from Italy – from Ju­ven­tus and Hel­las Verona, then Mi­lan and Napoli. In­ter tried to buy me in ’87, but I wasn’t men­tally ready then. Ev­ery­thing very was dif­fer­ent: there was no in­ter­net, no mo­bile phones, so when you moved to Italy you were liv­ing in a new world. Mon­day’s Ger­man news­pa­per would ar­rive on a Fri­day.

But Serie A was the best league and, sure, the money talked too – I had a chance to make dou­ble or tre­ble what I got at Bay­ern.

A year ear­lier I’d signed a new con­tract with Bay­ern which said, that af­ter one year, I could go for a cer­tain amount. I had the right to talk to In­ter, so my man­ager talked with them and I in­formed Bay­ern.

I wanted to keep a good re­la­tion­ship with all of the peo­ple in Mu­nich – it wasn’t like the sit­u­a­tion we saw with Ous­mane Dem­bele, miss­ing train­ing at Borus­sia Dort­mund re­cently be­cause of the spec­u­la­tion about Barcelona. You must always re­spect the club. To­day, play­ers sign a con­tract, kiss the shirt and the day af­ter sign for the next club. I don’t like that – you must re­spect your con­tract.

When I ar­rived at In­ter, I started to learn Ital­ian quickly – you had to do that to feel in­cluded in daily life. Train­ing was like learn­ing a dif­fer­ent lan­guage, too – we were always on the at­tack at Bay­ern; at In­ter, Gio­vanni Tra­p­at­toni liked cate­nac­cio.

Scor­ing against Pisa early on helped. If you wait a month or two for a goal it be­comes more dif­fi­cult, but all of the fans be­lieved in me from the very first mo­ment and we started the sea­son well. Be­fore that, the team had never be­lieved in their qual­ity. We’d go to the smaller teams and be happy if we drew. Peo­ple would say, “It’s away, they have good play­ers.” I’d re­ply, “We are In­ter, we will win.” There was a lot of talk about the Ger­man play­ers at In­ter and the Dutch play­ers at Mi­lan. An­dreas Brehme’s trans­fer to In­ter was my idea – I told them he would not cost so much and was a very good player. It was a great deal and made things eas­ier for both of us in Italy. To­day we are still good friends. Jur­gen Klins­mann also ar­rived, and Mi­lan had Ruud Gul­lit, Marco van Bas­ten and Frank Ri­jkaard so the Mi­lan derby was also a game between Ger­many and Holland. It was a good head­line for the me­dia, and it was great. When we won the World Cup in 1990, the In­ter fans cel­e­brated be­cause they could say ‘their’ foreigners had won the World Cup! I have said in the past I feel more Ital­ian than Ger­man now – in men­tal­ity at least. In Italy, ev­ery­one wishes each other the best. I like that. Ger­mans are jeal­ous – when you had a new car, fans would say, ‘Oh, you make so much money.’ In Italy, the fans said it was good that I had a bet­ter car than Mi­lan’s play­ers! Join­ing In­ter helped a lot, al­though I didn’t go to be the world’s best player. Al­though it was an in­di­vid­ual ti­tle, I won it in 1991 be­cause I played in two good teams: In­ter won the UEFA Cup af­ter Ger­many had won the World Cup. The same thing can hap­pen with Ney­mar at PSG – I can un­der­stand why he has gone there. Even if Barcelona won the Champions League again, it would never be enough – it would always be Lionel Messi who won the award, not him. Now he is the face of a club who have got the same pos­si­bil­i­ties to win the Champions League ti­tle. This year I think the Bal­lon d’or will be won by Cristiano Ron­aldo, but next year Ney­mar will feel he can win the Champions League with PSG and the World Cup with Brazil. If he does, he has the chance to win the Bal­lon d’or.

“THE MI­LAN DERBY WAS ALSO GER­MANY VS HOLLAND. WHEN WE WON THE WORLD CUP In 1990, IN­TER FANS CEL­E­BRATED BE­CAUSE ‘THEIR’ FOREIGNERS HAD WON”

STELLAR CA­REER Francesco Totti’s fi­nal Roma shirt has been placed inside a rocket and launched into space – let’s hope the Mar­tians aren’t staunch Lazio sup­port­ers

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