As one of the greatest Italian teams, Internazionale has had many great players but who are the best Inter Milan midfielders of all time?!
Internazionale is one of Italy’s Big Three and a giant of European football with 18 Scudetti and 3 Champions League titles, one of which came at the end of a brilliant Treble in 2009-10 season. So naturally, some of the best Serie A players of all time have played for the Nerazzurri and here we are going to take a look at them, specifically their midfielders, to see who are the best Inter Milan midfielders of all time.
Perhaps the role of a midfielder is subject to much debate as the role’s definition changes in different eras of football but we have tried to narrow down our list to the players that would be considered a midfielder by any definition of the role, whether they are defensive, attacking, box to box or even deep lying playmakers.
As always we have tried to include players from different eras of Inter’s history in our list of all-time best Inter Milan midfielders. So without any further ado, let’s see who are these players:
Our list of all-time best Inter Milan midfielders starts with one of the club’s finest players during the late 60s and 70s, Mario Bertini, who was known to be one of the finest Italian midfielders and an excellent defensive midfielder in his era. Bertini played for several clubs during his career most notably Empoli and Fiorentina, where he even won a Coppa Italia title in 1965-66 season, but he is mostly remembered for his time at Inter Milan and the part he played in Italy’s 1970 World Cup campaign.
Mario Bertini was all power and stamina in the heart of Inter’s midfield and he played the role of a stopper and his job was to break down the opposition’s attack before it reached Inter’s defense. Despite being mostly a defensive player, Bertini also possessed a great attacking mind as he always found a way to help in attack too, whether it was his excellent long-range shots, his great penalty kicks or his late runs in to the opposition’s box, which allowed him to score often.
Bertini spent 9 season at Inter Milan, from 1968 to 1977, and played in 211 Serie A games scoring 31 goals, which is just incredible for a defensive midfielder. He played a big part in Italy reaching the final of the 1970 World Cup but they eventually lost to Pele’s Brazil. However, after the World Cup Bertini would go on to win the Serie A with Inter Milan in 1970-71 season, becoming one of best Inter Milan midfielders of all time.
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When it comes to individual brilliance and elegance of Italian players on the pitch, Evaristo Beccalossi’s name will always be mentioned. The Brescia-born midfielder, despite playing for several clubs during his career, became one of the all-time best midfielders at Inter Milan. Beccalossi became part of a famous duo with Mario Altobelli, who is one of Inter Milan’s top goal scorers of all time, which first started at Brescia and then later at Inter. The pair helped Inter achieve glory during the 70s and 80s.
Known as the Genius or Driblossi for his ability to dribble past opponents and his great vision to create chances, Beccalossi was one of the finest playmakers of his era, especially in a league that was known for its emphasis on defensive styles of playing. Because of this and Beccalossi’s poor work-rate and inconsistent performances, he was usually criticized by the public, much like Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil. As a result, he was always left out of Italy’s national team which favored players with more defensive discipline and work rate.
Beccalossi spent 6 seasons at Internazionale, playing 216 games in which he scored 30 goals. He helped Inter Milan win 2 pieces of silverware, first a Serie A title in the 1979-80 season, where he scored 7 goals and assisted several more, and then a Coppa Italia title in 1981-82 season. Because of his pure genius as a midfielder who could dribble, create chances and score easily with both his feet, Beccalossi will certainly go down as one of the best Inter Milan midfielders of all time.
Another one of the finest Italian defensive midfielders of all time amongst the best ever Inter Milan midfielders with is Gabriele Oriali, who played for Inter and Italy and eventually Fiorentina, for the most of 70s and 80s. a native of Como, Lele Oriali became an Internazionale academy player in the 1966 and after spending 4 years with the youth teams he got promoted to the first team in 1970-71 season. He would go on to win the scudetto in his first season.
Oriali was one of the best defensive midfielders of his era, he also could play in defense too, mostly as a full back. He was often called incontrista by the Italian press, meaning he excelled at being direct and engaging in encounters with opposition’s attack. Basically he was a destroyer and a stopper that shielded the defense, but he was also a great distributor of the ball too since he would receive it many times during a match and would either control the tempo of the game or pass the ball to the more creative players in the squad.
After winning his first Serie A with Inter, Oriali would experience a European Cup Final, now known as Champions League, in his second season but Inter Milan would go on to lose that final against Ajax. All in all, Oriali won 2 Serie A and 2 Coppa Italia titles in his time at Inter Milan. He was also part of Italy’s national team in 2 important squads for 1980 Euro and 1982 World Cup, where first they became 4th in the Euro on Italy’s soil and then in 1982 they made history and became World Champions.
Oriali played 5 games in that tournament and was vital in Italy’s World Cup glory, thus cementing his place as one of the best Inter Milan midfielders of all time. He would later leave Inter in 1983 and play for Fiorentina for 4 seasons before retiring.
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Wesley Sneijder is perhaps a player that has served the shortest time with Inter, with him only spending 4 season at the club, but because of his performances and especially the quality he brought to Inter which took them to the next level, he is hugely adored by the fans and deservedly has a place amongst best Inter midfielders ever. It’s to be noted that Sneijder joined Inter at the peak of his career in 2009 and he would go on to have an excellent World Cup campaign the following year with Netherlands.
A classic Dutch playmaker, Sneijder possessed the ability to dribble, create chances from absolutely nothing and score from impossible distances and free kicks. What was even more impressive was the fact that he could do this with both his feet, being a truly ambidextrous player. A truly energetic player, Sneijder could play in several midfield roles or even be deployed as a winger or even the role of a false-9 which he played beautifully during Netherlands’ 2010 World Cup. But his role and habit of creating chances never changed and he was dangerous anywhere he played.
Sneijder played 116 matches for Inter and scored 22 goals for them. He started his career at Inter with a bang as he achieved a Treble in his first season at the club. He was particularly influential in Inter winning the Champions League that year as he was the competition’s top assist provider that season with 6 assists, one of which was in the final. Besides the Treble, Sneijder also won another Coppa Italia and a Club World Cup with Inter.
He was also one of the standout players of 2010 World Cup, where he scored 5 goals and became one of the top goal scorers, helping his team to a 2nd place finish. For all his achievements, Sneijder certainly gets to be amongst the best Inter Milan midfielders of all time.
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A hugely popular figure amongst Internazionale fans and one of Inter greatest midfielders ever is another Italian defensive midfielder on our list and he is none other than Nicola Berti, who spent a decade playing for Inter Milan from 1988 to 1998, joining them from Fiorentina where he established himself as a quality defensive midfielder. An extremely hard-working and adaptable player, Berti also played a huge part in the Italian national team and represented his country in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups.
Berti was a tall and rather slender midfielder who possessed impressive defensive skills. His knack for developing as a player helped him be a great midfielder later in his career, one that combined his impressive physical abilities like his speed and unending energy with his great positional sense and passing ability. He liked to press players high on the pitch rather than sit in front of the defense and had a habit for making late runs into the box and scoring goals. He was also great in the air which both helped him defensively and in attack.
Berti represented Inter in 311 games and he scored 41 goals for the Nerazzurri. He won the Serie A with Inter in his first season with the club and became runner up in the 1992-93 season. But perhaps his most notable achievement with the club was 4 UEFA Cup Final appearances that he made, 3 of which Inter won.
He was named Inter’s Player of the Season in 1993-94 season and successfully represented Italy in the 1990 and 1994 World Cup, achieving 3rd and 2nd place respectively. As mentioned above he is quite a lovable figure among Internazionale fans and certainly is one of best Inter Milan midfielders of all time.
Another one of the best ever Inter Milan midfielders from the modern era is the Serbian legend, Dejan Stankovic who played for 3 teams, Red Star Belgrade, Lazio and Inter Milan, and was highly successful in all of them. After being part of one of the best Lazio teams of all time, Stankovic joined Inter to be part of yet another greatest of all time team, this time with Inter and he won practically everything he could with them while being highly influential on the pitch.
Stankovic was known for his unending energy, pace and technique in addition to having a rocket of a right foot, capable of scoring the most outrageous goals from practically anywhere on the pitch. He could play anywhere in the midfield and had the abilities to do so, he was even at times deployed as a second striker or even a defensive midfielder, but the role he most usually played was that of an attacking midfielder.
Although he won the Serie A, Coppa Italia and European Cup Winners’ Cup with Lazio, Stankovic will be remembered for his time at Inter where he played 326 games in all competitions and scored 42 goals. he was massively influential in Inter winning 5 Serie A titles, 4 Coppa Italia, a Champions League and a Club World Cup. He retired from football in 2014 at the end of his contract with Inter and became one of the best Inter Milan midfielders of all time.
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Another one of the great Inter of 2000s players that makes it into our list of Inter greatest midfielders ever is the Argentinian Esteban Cambiasso, who joined Inter in 2004 from a rather unsuccessful 2-season spell at Real Madrid and stayed with Inter for a decade, leaving the club in 2014. Cambiasso was one of the pillars of perhaps the most successful Inter Milan team ever and because of this he gets a well-deserved place in our list.
A severely underrated player, perhaps because of the defensive roles he played, Cambiasso was able to change games with the way he managed Inter’s midfield. Often breaking opposition’s attack and then starting the build-up of Inter’s attack himself. A naturally left-footed player, Cambiasso was also quite adventurous when it came to attack and could play higher in the pitch or even as a box-to-box midfielder.
Cambiasso was one of the longest serving Inter players of all time, having played 420 games for the Nerazzurri in which he scored 51 goals. He won 5 Serie A, 4 Coppa Italia, 1 Champions League and a FIFA Club World Cup with Inter Milan, achieving an unforgettable Treble in the 2009-10 season, in which he played a huge part. He is one of the most beloved players in Inter’s history among the club’s fans and one of the best Inter Milan midfielders of all time, who as of 2020 is inducted into the Club’s Hall of Fame.
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One of the greatest central midfielders of all time, Lothar Matthaus played for many teams during his career and despite spending more than half of his career at Bayern Munich, perhaps his best days as a player came at Internazionale, where he became a World Cup winner as well as a Ballon d’Or winner. Matthaus record of being involved in 5 different World Cups is a record for outfield players and he managed to be successful in most of those, which is why he is considered to be one of the greatest players of all time.
Although Matthaus was a brilliant attacking midfielder earlier in his career, and even at Inter, he would later become more of a sweeper and a defensive midfielder which he also excelled at. He was the very image of a complete midfielder, capable both in attack and defense. His great vision for creating chances, well-timed tackles and great long distance shots made him one of the all-time best midfielders at Inter Milan despite his relative short time at the club.
With Inter Matthaus managed to win a Serie A and a UEFA Cup. He joined them in 1988 and was at the peak of his career when he captained Germany to the 1990 World Cup glory and subsequently received the Ballon d’Or later that year. Matthaus, who was a prominent goal scorer in his early days as a player and became a more defensive player in his later years, is without a doubt one of the best midfielders of all time and despite his short time at Inter he deserves a spot high on the list of best Inter Milan midfielders of all time.
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When talking about an Inter Milan legend few people come immediately to mind and one of them is certainly, Sandro Mazzola. A player that spent his entire career at Inter and was a significant part of the Grande Inter era, between 1960 and 1967, where under the guidance of manager Helenio Herrera Inter dominated Serie A and rose to European prominence. A period where Mazzola truly became one of the best Inter midfielders ever.
Previously we wrote about Inter Milan’s top goal scorers of all time where Mazzola was featured but he was never a complete forward and was a versatile player capable of playing in various roles, mainly as an attacking midfielder but also as a winger and a forward. Perhaps his 2 goals against Real Madrid in the final of 1963-64 European Cup is his most important they brought Inter’s first European Cup championship ever, a feat they repeated the next season.
Sandro Mazzola spent 17 years at Inter, winning 4 Serie A titles, 2 European Cups. He also represented Italy national team 70 times, winning the 1968 Euros with them and reaching 1970 World Cup final, although they were beaten by Brazil. On individual level he has won Serie A top goal scorer in 1964-65 and came in 2nd for the Ballon d’Or in 1971.
He represented Inter in 565 matches and scored 158 times for the Nerazzurri becoming one of Inter top scorers of all time. His partnership with Luis Suarez in midfield which provided him with assists for many of his goals made Inter a European giant and for that he will always be remembered as one of the best Inter Milan midfielders of all time.
Arguably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Spanish players of all time is Internazionale’s very own Luis Suarez, who played for the Nerazzurri during the 60s in an era of the club that is known as Grande Inter era. Suarez was a huge part of that successful Inter Milan team and his partnership with Sandro Mazzola, another one of the all-time best Inter Milan midfielders, was what propelled Inter to numerous league and cup trophies.
After being part of a great and successful Barcelona side under the management of Helenio Herrera, which eventually resulted in a Ballon d’Or trophy for Suarez in the 1960, Suarez then decided to follow his manager Hererra and join Internazionale in the 1961. He was considered for 3 Ballon d’Or trophies in his time at Inter but came 2nd two times and 3rd in 1965. Although initially he was a somewhat of an attacking midfielder, back then known as an inside-forward, his role in Inter became more of a deep-lying playmaker which supported more attacking players like Mazzola.
Suarez spent 9 seasons at Inter Milan and became one of their greatest players ever, helping create the Grande Inter team which went on to win 3 Serie A titles and 2 back to back Champions League (back then known as European Cup) titles from 1963 to 1965. Luis Suarez made 328 appearances for Inter and scored 55 goals for the club thus becoming a legend of the club and one of the best Inter Milan midfielders of all time, very much deserving the top spot on our list.