“President, you can go to Juve instead”. Roberto Boninsegna had no desire to leave Inter back in the summer of 1976, a club where he had scored a hatful of goals and won one Scudetto. However, Ivanoe Fraizzoli had already sold him to their long-standing rivals, in a deal that ultimately proved extremely costly for the Nerazzurri. Boninsegna’s love story with Inter is one full of passion, pain and complications.
Having come through the club’s youth ranks and an Inter fan since birth, Roberto shown great promise during initial spells at Prato, Potenza and Varese. It was during this period where he developed into a ruthless goalscorer, albeit missing out on the triumphs secured by Herrera’s Inter. A switch to Cagliari soon followed and the fans fell for him instantly. Forming a formidable partnership with Gigi Riva, he enjoyed a superb three-year spell with the Rossoblu and impressed alongside the best player of his generation. He soon returned to Milan as a proven centre-forward, which was enough to earn him a nickname from Gianni Brera. Coming from a mixture of both his surname and links to an Italian circus act called Bagonghi, he was duly called ‘Bonimba’. An attacker who overcame his opponent despite his slight stature. Roberto enjoyed the best years of his career at Inter, earning the fans’ love thanks to the battling spirit he shown in every game.
As for his goals, there were many and they were scored in all types of ways. Using both feet and also his head, Boninsegna could poach in front of goal, while also scoring acrobatically. His eventual goalscoring total with Inter was 171, during which he became Capocannoniere on two occasions and he stands third in the club’s all-time top goalscorer list. His most spectacular goal came against Foggia in 1971, as he fired in a fantastic overhead kick during Inter’s eleventh title-winning season. This was the only trophy he won during his time with Inter. Silverware and further success eventually came elsewhere, however ‘Bonimba’s’ heart forever remained Nerazzurro, with memories made thanks to the way in which he lit up the San Siro. You never forget your first love.