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
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”
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