Cosmopolitan soul

Helenio Herrera SCROLL TO READ STORIA N.41 / 110

Argentine by birth with Spanish roots, he then grew up in Morocco and became a footballer in France. Obviously this was before then triumphing as a coach in both Spain and Italy. There is no better person than Helenio Herrera to represent the cosmopolitan soul of FC Internazionale. He arrived in Milan back in 1960, coming via car from Cadiz and announcing: “We will win everything against everyone.” He would in fact end up doing much more, as he changed the face of football.

A son of anarchists, Herrera was a revolutionary tactician with innovative ideas, helping introduce things that are now seen as ‘normal’ today. Examples include pre-match gatherings, diet control and scientific analysis of an opponent. Helenio worked in equal measure focusing on both the physical and mental aspects of his players. He introduced ball-playing exercises in place of lengthy runs out on the training pitch and also placed motivational cards in the dressing room. During his press conferences he would often switch from explaining snippets of tactical genius to relaying sensational bluffs. His phases, derived from a mix of both Spanish and Milanese, soon became a kind of mantra. For everyone in Italy he became known as the ‘Wizard’, a man capable of making seven trophies appear in the Nerazzurri’s trophy cabinet, winning the European Cup at the first attempt and also creating the Grande Inter side, a squad that created memories for generations.

Difficult things need time, impossible things need more.

Herrera was a workaholic and a devoted rationalist. He wasn’t too keen on his nickname because he thought it diminished the success he had secured. However, behind his commitment lay a mystical air. Among the many anecdotes is one related to the first European Cup final. The Nerazzurri were coming into the game as outsiders against the multi-champions of Real Madrid, therefore the Wizard opted to spend hours in improving his team’s self-esteem. One person he took aside was Carlo Tagnin, convincing him with one word after another that he was stronger that the man he was tasked with marking: The great Alfredo Di Stefano. Problem solved. The best player in the world could do nothing all game and Inter went on to win 3-1. If this isn’t magic then what is…

Helenio Herrera

Helenio Herrera (Buenos Aires, 10th April 1910 - Venice, 9th November 1997) joined Inter from Barcelona back in 1960. He guided the Nerazzurri to nine titles in total, coaching 366 matches and winning three Scudetti, two European Cups and two Intercontinental Cups. During his career he also took charge of Stade Français, Valladolid, Atletico Madrid, Málaga, Deportivo La Coruña, Sevilla, Belenenses, Barcelona and Roma, as well as the France and Spain National Teams. He also took part in the 1962 World Cup.