Throughout their rich history, Inter Milan have had some of the greatest players in the world in their squad that have contributed to establishing the Serie A heavyweights among Europe's elite.
The Nerazzurri shattered the world transfer record twice to snap up the Brazilian legend Ronaldo in 1997 and the Italian 'bad boy' Christian 'Bobo' Vieri in 1999 respectively, as part of their bid to reach the level of other European powerhouses.
The 18-time Serie A champions and three-time Champions League winners, Inter's worldwide reputation of being a top club is well-deserved, but they have been in decline over the past decade.
So, how did Inter decline?
One fact which can't be overlooked is Inter's recklessness in making transfer decisions. It's a fact that the Milanese giants have made many mistakes in the market that have often come back to haunt them.
Their disturbing habit of selling players for peanuts before actually giving them a chance to prove their worth has become Inter's trademark over the past 30 years.
Whether or not those stars would've managed to fulfill their world-class potential if they had stayed put at the Giuseppe Meazza is open to interpretation. Yet, Inter must be kicking themselves for sanctioning those moves.
Although the list is quite long, we will here take a look at just five of them (chronologically).
Regarded by many as the best left-back in the history of the game, Roberto Carlos came to Europe from Palmeiras in 1995 to join Inter as a hot, young prospect.
Roy Hodgson, who was the Nerazzurri head coach at the time, often forced the Brazilian to play out of position against his will, deploying him as a midfielder or a left-winger. Resolute in his desire to return to his favorable left-back position, Carlos left the Giuseppe Meazza for Real Madrid after just one year. The rest is history.
After hanging up his boots - around 20 years later - the famous Brazilian has opened up on his relationship with Hodgson.
"Hodgson’s stay at Inter destroyed me," Roberto Carlos said in 2017, as reported by Dream Team.
"He played me in midfield, and I had to consider that there was a chance that this would ruin my career in the national side.
"It’s not that I did not have a good relationship with Hodgson.
"It is just that Hodgson doesn’t know much about football."
#4 Andrea Pirlo
After featuring in less than 30 Serie A matches for Inter, Andrea Pirlo was deemed surplus to requirements and sold to the Nerazzurri's fiercest opponents, AC Milan. No one will remember that Inter then accepted Drazen Brncic as a makeweight in the deal. Unsurprisingly, the Croatian midfielder failed to record a single minute of top-flight action for the Nerazzurri, while Pirlo was busy making history with the Rossoneri.
In fact, the Italian midfielder went on to become one of the best deep-lying playmakers football has ever seen, helping the Rossoneri win two Serie A and Champions League trophies apiece. Pirlo set a benchmark for the next generations of midfielders to aspire to, although he set the bar so high that many can only dream of reaching it.
Many forget that Pirlo started his career as an advanced playmaker before Carlo Ancelotti decided to put him in front of the defense and turn him into a midfield icon.
Instead of learning their lessons from letting Pirlo swap allegiances, Inter made a similar blunder a year later, allowing Clarence Seedorf to link up with his former teammate on the wrong side of the city. Only this time, the Nerazzurri committed probably the biggest mistake in the club's history - exchanging the Dutchman for Francesco Coco.
Indeed, a like-for-like swap deal rewarded Milan with one of the most renowned midfielders ever. Meanwhile, Coco picked up just over 20 Serie A appearances in five years at the club, and no one will ever remember he was part of the Nerazzurri.
Unlike Pirlo, Seedorf came close to making 100 appearances for Inter, but he earned his worldwide reputation wearing the red-black shirt, too. Ten major titles with Milan, including two Champions League trophies, made him one of the most highly decorated players in the club’s illustrious history.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest defenders of his generation and one of the best of the 21st century, Leo Bonucci has been an instrumental part of Juventus' dominance of Serie A during the past decade. Along with the likes of Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli, the 32-year-old centre-back has made a name for himself at the Allianz Arena as a member of a famous 'BBC' trio that many consider as one of the strongest defensive units in modern history.
But, very few people would remember that the Italy international began his professional career at Inter Milan. Brought in from the lower-league outfit Viterbese in 2005, Bonucci never had a chance to establish himself as a permanent fixture at the Giuseppe Meazza, finding his disappointing stint at the club restricted to a single Serie A appearance.
Notably, before sending him to Genoa as part of a deal to sign Diego Milito and Thiago Motta in 2009, Inter valued Bonucci at €500! Yes, €500 for a player, whose valuation -despite his age - now amounts up to €50million. Curiously, ‘Il Grifone’ didn’t hand him the opportunity at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris and instead shipped him out on a season-long loan to Bari.
An astonishing season at the Stadio San Nicola, next to his international colleague Andrea Rannochia, earned Bonucci a call from Juventus, who forked out €15.5million in 2010 to settle their defense for the next decade.
Although Inter struck an agreement with Vasco da Gama for €4million in 2008, they had to wait for two years to see Coutinho wear the black-and-blue shirt. When he was finally allowed to complete his long-awaited move to Lombardy in 2010, the Nerazzurri president Massimo Moratti welcomed the Brazilian with the following statement: "Coutinho is the future of Inter."
Well, just two years later, Moratti had to swallow his words when the Brazilian attacking midfielder left the Serie A outfit after making just 28 appearances for the club. It was indeed a career-defining moment for Coutinho, whose career has taken an exponential upward curve after joining Liverpool.
The playmakers' rise to prominence secured the Reds a sizeable profit, as they sold him to Barcelona for £140million after buying him for just £8.5m. Once again, left with a bitter taste in their mouths, Inter realized their mistake when it was too late.Published 26 Mar 2020, 19:59 IST