“Calm down guys, it’s not like we’re playing Real Madrid tomorrow…” Gigi Simoni’s Inter who were reigning UEFA Cup holders from the previous year were in fact facing Real Madrid at San Siro in a decisive match to determine who’d progress to the quarter-final of the Champions League. The joke from the Tuscan coach helped to relax the atmosphere with the team excessively fired up and the group benefitted from the coach’s knowledge of how to treat his players.
It would be one of the final wins for Simoni on the Inter bench, the highpoint of his time was undoubtedly the 1997-98 season or “the Ronaldo one” as it’s known in the Inter narrative as we saw the finest version of the Brazilian in a year when Inter could have won the title. But that Inter side was also magnificent in Europe, winning the UEFA Cup by beating Lazio in the final. It was a team with a strong defensive identity who could launch direct and lightening fast attacks that Simoni moulded around the best player in the world who wore the number ten shirt that year. ‘Ronnie’ was more ‘equal’ than the others, for which he was rewarded by some mornings during training camps spent sleeping in his room while his teammates on the pitch continued to train to carry the coach and team to victory.
He was a Coach but also an understanding father to his players. It was because of this that Gigi had the rare distinction for a professional Coach of being loved by all of his players who always greet him with great affection.