Wednesday November 8 2017
Happy birthday, Sandro Mazzola

Today is the 75th birthday of Inter legend Sandro Mazzola, a European Championship winner with Italy.

Alessandro was born in Turin on November 8, 1942 after his father, Valentino, signed for Torino.

Mazzola Sr was part of the ‘Grande Torino’ side which won the Scudetto five years in a row, a run interrupted by World War II.

Tragically, when Sandro was just six, his father and the entire Granata squad was killed in the Superga air disaster.

Despite their father’s connection to Torino, Sandro and his brother Ferruccio both began their playing careers with Inter.

While Ferruccio, the younger Mazzola brother would go on to have a decent career with Fiorentina and Lazio among others, he made just one appearance for the Nerazzurri.

His elder brother, on the other hand, became a bona fide legend with the club, making his debut in June 1961.

Mazzola, aged just 18, made his debut alongside a number of other youngsters due to a controversial decision by the FIGC.

Juve had hosted the Beneamata in what was effectively a Scudetto decider, before a pitch invasion in the second half.

As a result of the pitch invasion, the Nerazzurri were awarded a 2-0 win, but that decision was later overturned and a replay ordered.

In protest at the change of decision, Inter opted to field their youth team who were duly battered 9-1. Their consolation goal? A penalty from Mazzola on his debut.

Despite that ignominious start, Mazzola soon established himself as an attacking midfielder in Helenio Herrera’s side, who would go on to be known as the ‘Grande Inter’.

Known for their ruthless Catenaccio style, the Nerazzurri won the Scudetto in 1963, 1965 - when Mazzola was Capocannoniere - and 1966.

They also won back-to-back European Cups, with Mazzola scoring twice against Real Madrid in the 1964 final before the Beneamata lifted the trophy again at San Siro the following year.

Mazzola also scored in the 1967 final, though they ultimately lost to Celtic’s ‘Lisbon Lions’, as well as scoring twice against Vasas in the Last 16, with his mazy dribble in that match voted as UEFA’s best European Cup goal.

It was in that summer that the attacking midfielder received an approach from Juventus, a story Mazzola amusingly recounted earlier this year.

“It was May and I was coming out of training at Appiano Gentile, I walked over to my car and I realised there was another one parked there with a Turin licence plate.

“A driver got out of this car, it was the first time I’d seen a car with a phone. He passed me over to L’Avvocato [Gianni] Agnelli, who gave me an appointment for a breakfast at Villar Perosa.

“After talking to me about my father [Valentino] and the Grande Torino, he offered me a Fiat dealership and double my wages to move to Juve.

“My legs were shaking, I asked for a day to think about it.

“I came home to see my mother, she saw I was upset and wanted to know what had happened.

“I told her everything, and after a moment of silence she caught my eye and said: ‘Your father would turn in his grave if he heard this! The son of the Toro captain at Juventus! Reject it!’.”

The following season saw Inter slump to fifth in Serie A, but Mazzola became a European champion with Italy in the summer of 1968, and was named in the team of the tournament.

The Azzurri would reach the World Cup final in Mexico two years later, but they were beaten 4-1 by Brazil in the final.

The subsequent season saw Inter once again win the Scudetto, with Mazzola scoring seven goals which earned him second place behind Johan Cruyff in the Ballon d’Or voting.

He would captain Inter from that season until the end of his career in 1977, having never played for any other club.

Mazzola subsequently took up a directors role, leaving for Genoa in 1984 before returning as sporting director in the late 90s.

He finished his career with 565 games for Inter, in which he scored 160 goals, as well as winning four Scudetti, two European Cups and two Intercontinental Cups.

Mazzola also won 70 caps for Italy, scoring 22 goals, and was inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

Sandro Mazzola:

Games: 565
Goals: 160
Italy caps: 70
Goals: 22
Honours: Serie A [1962-63, 1964-65, 1965-66, 1970-71], European Cup [1963-64, 1964-65], Intercontinental Cup [1964, 1965], European Championship [1968]

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