In 1907, Milan became Italian champions for the third time in their nascent history. Long before the advent of Serie A, the nation’s top teams played in regional leagues before qualifying for a final round-robin style tournament.
Having become Italian champions the season before, the Rossoneri retained their title by finishing above Torino and Andrea Doria, the latter of which merged with Sampierdarenese to form Sampdoria in 1946.
Despite winning the league twice in a row though, all was not well within the club. The FIGC was becoming increasingly nationalistic, and the members of the club were split on how to proceed. Some advocated boycotting the 1907-08 season, but thanks to the guidance of Giannino Camperio, who would go on to become Coach, the Rossoneri opted to ban the recruitment of foreign players.
A group of Swiss and Italians broke away from Milan as a result, and on March 9 1908 they formed their own, rival club.
“The main purpose of the new club is to facilitate the practice of football for foreigners residing in Milan,” the Gazzetta dello Sport reported at the time. The name, pointedly chosen, was FC Internazionale, with the founders choosing that title “because we are brothers of the world”. The Milan derby was born.
The first clash between the new rivals didn’t take place in Milan at all, as they met 110 years ago in the Coppa Chiasso, a tournament held in Canton Ticino, Switzerland.
Records of the match are hard to come by, but what we do know is that the Rossoneri triumphed 2-1, with Luigi Forlano scoring the winner.
Initially the arrival of Inter was to have a disastrous effect on their rivals, which some have even put down to the paranormal.
Among the 15 dissidents who formed the Nerazzurri were Carlo, Arturo and Enrico Hintermann. According to legend, the three brothers declared that their former club would never again be Italian champions “as long as we live”.
While Inter would win their first title in 1910, their neighbours went another 44 years without being crowned Campioni d’Italia. They finally ended that drought in July 1951, beating the Beneamata to the title by one point just weeks after Enrico, the last surviving Hintermann brother, had died.
The newly-formed club initially played at the Arena Civica in big matches, before adopting it as their permanent home in 1930. Milan, meanwhile, played in several locations across the city including Campo di Porta Monforte and Velodromo Sempione before President Piero Pirelli decided his team needed a home of their own.
Work on the new stadium began in 1925, with a purpose-built football stadium to be constructed in the San Siro district. While most Italian stadia included a running track around the outside of the pitch, the new arena was to be built in more of an ‘English style’, with the stands running parallel to the field of play.
The first match at the new stadium was, of course, a city derby. On September 19 1926, a crowd of 35,000 saw Milan lose at home to Inter 6-3. The Nerazzurri moved in 21 years later, and the two have shared the iconic stadium, known as ‘The Scala of Calcio’, ever since.
As well as having two of the world’s most successful clubs in the same city, not to mention the split which led to Inter’s founding, there are socio-economic roots to the rivalry in Milan. Traditionally the Rossoneri drew their support largely from the working classes, with Nerazzurri supporters dubbing their fans ‘casciavìt’, or “screwdrivers” in the Milanese dialect.
In turn, Milanisti referred to their co-tenants as ‘muturèta’ for the motor scooters their fans used to get to San Siro. The more proletarian Milan fans couldn’t afford such luxuries, and took public transport to reach the stadium.
The 1950s saw both sides regularly competing for the Scudetto, with Milan having broken the aforementioned ‘Hintermann curse’. Inter won the title in both 1953 and 1954, while the Rossoneri finished top of the pile in 1955, 1957 and 1959.
The following decade saw Milan win the first of seven European Cups, but the emergence of Helenio Herrera’s ‘Grande Inter’ saw the balance of power in city shift firmly to the Nerazzurro half as the pioneers of catenaccio won three Scudetti and back-to-back European Cups in 1964 and 1965.
That decade also saw the 100th Milan derby, with Milan beating their city rivals 4-2 in the final phase of the 1967-68 Coppa Italia, though Torino lifted the trophy in what was then a group format.
Scudetti in 1968 and 1979 masked a decline for the Diavolo, who were relegated twice in the early 1980s, first for their part in a betting scandal and the second after finishing 14th on their return to Serie A, a season in which they took just 24 points. Those setbacks, added to the demotion of Juventus in the Calciopoli scandal in 2006, led to the popular refrain among Inter fans “mai stati in B” - “never been in Serie B”.
That bleak period in Rossoneri history coincided with a run of nine derbies without a win, a streak finally ended by a header from Mark Hateley on October 28, 1985. It’s a moment which has gone down in Milan folklore, and was recreated by the Curva Sud in 2016.
Just months later, in February of 1986, Silvio Berlusconi bought the Diavolo and heralded another shift at San Siro. Milan won their 11th Scudetto in 1988, and though the title returned to the other side of Milan in the following season, the 1990s would be dominated by the Rossoneri.
They won six Serie A six times between 1992 and 2004, and won the European Cup in 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003 and 2007. Inter, meanwhile managed just one Coppa Italia and three UEFA Cups from 1989 to 2005.
The rivalry remained competitive, however, with the two sides meeting in the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2002-03. The tie saw Rossoneri triumph on away goals at their shared stadium, before going on to beat Juventus in the final. Another European meeting, this time in the 2004-05 quarter-finals brought one of the more shameful editions of the Derby della Madonnina.
With Milan leading 2-0 from the first leg, the Nerazzurri fans were enraged when Markus Merk disallowed a goal by Esteban Cambiasso. Andriy Shevchenko put his side 3-0 up on aggregate, and with their side chasing the game in the final 20 minutes, the Inter fans began to hurl flares on to the pitch. One of the missiles struck Rossoneri goalkeeper Dida on the shoulder, and the match was called to a halt. It resumed after 25 minutes, with Dida replaced by Christian Abbiati, but a further barrage of flares prompted Merk to abandon the match, with the Rossoneri awarded a 3-0 win.
It wouldn’t be long before Inter regained the upper hand though, thanks in part to the Calciopoli scandal which changed the landscape of Italian football. The Nerazzurri were awarded the 2005-06 title which had been stripped from Juventus, while Milan had been deducted 30 points for their role in the scandal. With Juve in Serie B and their city rivals struggling against an eight point deduction, the Beneamata swept to the title in the following season and kept it under lock and key until 2010.
In that final season they achieved something unique in the history of Italian football, winning a historic treble under Jose Mourinho. Once again the derby reflected the general trend, with Inter winning six of the eight matches across their latter four title winning seasons.
More recently the derby has lost some of its lustre, as Juventus dominate domestically and the Spanish sides rule Europe. Nonetheless, it remains one of the biggest matches in world football. Between them, Inter and Milan can boast 36 Scudetti, 10 European Cups and 12 Coppe Italia. Milan remains the only city in the world in which both teams have won the league, the Champions League, the Intercontinental Cup and the Club World Cup.
This season too there is hope that the two sides may finally be on the way back up. Inter are back in the Champions League after a lengthy absence, while Milan’s post-Berlusconi era appears to have some promise after the disastrous ownership of Yonghong Li.
With just four points separating them in the table - and the Diavolo holding a game in hand - Sunday night’s game has plenty riding on it for two of the country’s biggest teams.
Currently the overall record stands at 78 wins for Inter, 76 for Milan and 67 draws, reflecting just how close a rivalry this has been since those 15 dissidents formed their breakaway team.