“This one isn’t the same as his dad,” “He’s not as good as his dad” some would say in the crowd whenever Sandro Mazzola was playing for the Inter youth teams. It certainly wasn’t easy to live up to the standard of Valentino Mazzola, Torino and Italy star of the 1940s. In those times, the young Sandro held his father’s hand whenever the team entered the pitch and he did so until 4th May 1949, day of the tragic Superga disaster when the Grande Torino captain was killed along with all of his teammates.
Valentino’s son started to make history where his father left off in Turin. In June 1961, Juventus played Inter in a replay of a match that had been abandoned previously with President Angelo Moratti sending out the Primavera side in protest. The Bianconeri won 9-1 against a team of kids but Sandro was still able to score a consolation from the penalty spot. “I secretly used to go and watch all of his father’s matches,” said the opposition captain Giampiero Boniperti after the match. “He was the greatest.” He couldn’t have imagined that his heir would soon become an icon for all Nerazzurri fans as part of the glorious side led by the ‘Wizard’ Helenio Herrera where he would win three Serie A titles, two European Cups and two Intercontinental Cups in four years.
The first European triumph came in Vienna in the year of 1964 against Real Madrid. Mazzola was 21 and in the tunnel he was enchanted by the sight of football legends such as Alfredo Di Stéfano and Ferenc Puskás opposite. However on the pitch, his knees were steady and Sandro scored two to make a difference during the 3-1 win. After the final whistle, one of his heroes Puskás went up to him with a shirt in hand. “Son, keep my camiseta. I played against your father, you’re worthy of him.”