6th January 2010 is a day that Cristian Chivu will struggle to forget. Inter were taking on Chievo in Verona and at the start of the second half, the Romanian defender collided in the air with Sergio Pellissier. The impact was tremendous and Chivu came off for the worst, immediately being rushed to hospital. An hour-and-a-half operation on his skull soon followed. For Chivu, the idea of playing football swiftly became something linked to the past rather than the future.
However, on May 22nd, just four months after this drastic injury, he would start in the most important match of his career, the Champions League final against Bayern Munich. This followed intensive therapy and a fear that he would never play football again, before finally returning with a scrum cap that would accompany him for the rest of his career. Chivu’s return would prove decisive in terms of Mourinho’s Nerazzurri outfit. He would take part in the return leg against Barcelona at the Camp Nou on April 28th, with Inter leading 3-1 on aggregate after the first fixture. However, the Blaugrana were still convinced that they would progress through to the final. Just minutes before the start, Pandev got injured, although the Special One had no doubts about who would replace him. Chivu was the only player who could come off the bench and impact a game of this nature.
The Romanian duly went on to put in a heroic performance, helping keep Messi and Co. quiet for the entire match and ensuring that Inter advanced through to the final. Following a short rest in terms of domestic action, Chivu was then tasked with halting Robben in Madrid – an almost impossible task considering that he was one of the world’s best at the time. Once again, Chivu stepped up to the plate and his performance ultimately helped the Nerazzurri lift Old Big Ears. A warm night in the Spanish capital that was in stark contrast to that past memory from Verona.