Auf Wiedersehen Andreas Brehme, an Inter icon –

Rich Hall leads The Gentleman Ultra’s tributes to an Inter legend

For Giuseppe Bergomi it was just too much. As the Italian paid tribute to his former friend and teammate, Andi Brehme, the emotion got the better of him. The unflappable confidence and calmness ‘Beppe’ always conveys, disappeared, he hid his chiselled jawline behind his hands and sobbed. “I can only say that he was a true friend and teammate, a great person both on and off the pitch.”  He continued, “We had a special friendship. I was very close to him. We will miss him a lot.”  

The shock of Brehme’s passing saw tributes come from across the footballing world. This was the man who, after all, under 70,000 flashing cameras, slotted home a late penalty in the Italia 90 World Cup final to give West Germany victory over Argentina. It seemed everybody knew him for that and, of course, being one of the ‘Three Germans’ at Inter in an era that is now long gone but so well remembered.

At 63 years of age, ‘Andi’ passed away following a cardiac arrest. It was sudden and it stunned the footballing world.

Of course, he will be remembered for his time at Kaiserslautern and Bayern, as he had great success as both, but it was at Inter where for many, his passing will be hardest to bear. With the Nerazzurri he would encapsulate a golden era, where Inter stood tall in a league of superstars.

Personally, Andreas Brehme, Lothar Matthaus and later Jurgen Klinsmann started everything. These three Germans, along with Giovanni Trapattoni’s team consisting of Walter Zenga, ‘Beppe’ Bergomi, Nicola Berti, Riccardo Ferri and many more, changed my life forever. My father brought me back an Inter shirt from Milan in 1988 and that was it.

Watching Brehme and company on BSKY B was like watching football from another world, and my love affair with Inter would continue to this day. Channel 4’s superb show, my introduction into writing, more trips to Milan than I can remember, the reason I speak Italian (not well) and everything that followed started here.

Now, I host the Inter podcast and work with Inter TV, but no matter what happens, the treble, titles, incredible moments with the Ultras, the team, the interviews, nothing compares to the early years.

Back in 2015, I interviewed Beppe Bergomi and asked him about that team. We were stood under the Curva Nord in an empty San Siro and he waxed lyrical about the professionalism and drive of the Germans. He did, however, smile when it came to ‘Andi’. I told him that on my first visit to San Siro, I ignored everything I should have taken in, as in my head, I just wanted to see the spot where Brehme curled the shot in past Hans Van Breukelen for West Germany v Holland in the second round of Italia 90. It wasn’t even an Inter memory but it was my childhood.

Bergomi smiled and explained how that game was important for the Inter players, that it was like the Derby Della Madonnina. Brehme, Matthaus and Klinsmann taking on Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit. Those really were the days. These memories shaped my life but so many others too. Not just Inter fans but fans of football all over the globe. Everyone remembers when (due to the foreigner’s rule) limited numbers were allowed and Milan’s three Dutch and Inter’s three Germans are now iconic.

I also had the chance to interview Brehme himself back in 2018 when a German friend offered me the extraordinary opportunity. Looking back, I wish I had done a better job, as I had so much to ask him, but hindsight is a wonderful thing and time was so short it was impossible. One thing that was clear was his love for Trapattoni, Italy as a country, and the Curva Nord, that was imprinted on his heart.

For those who may wonder why the footballing world is mourning Andreas so much, or those who are too young to remember him play, there is so much to tell. This was a modern-day wing-back playing in an era where they didn’t really exist. He was two footed, he genuinely did not know which was is better foot, he was sublime going forward, and he was stubborn and intelligent defensively.

It is wonderful to see the tributes to ‘Andi’ simply because, both himself and Matthaus are arguably under appreciated outside of Germany and Italy. When they signed for Inter in 1988, they were simply exceptional and they dominated in a league where Napoli had Maradona and Careca, Sampdoria had Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini, Fiorentina boasted Baggio, Milan the three Dutchmen, Torino had Muller, Roma, Guiseppe Giannini and Rudi Voller, and that’s just off the top of my head.

The Teutonic duo helped ‘Trap’ propel his team to a record points haul (in the era of two points for a win). They were powerful, majestic and professional.

It feels terrible to shorten this but the story of that season and those surrounding would fill a book and this tribute cannot possibly do it justice.

To appreciate ‘Andi’ for a fleeting moment it is worth looking at some of his most majestic goals, but again this will not even scratch the surface of just how talented he was.

To put it into context, look at the players mentioned before, the attacking talent in Serie A in the late 1980’s, yet it is Brehme who won Serie A player of the year in 1989. That says it all.

The goals he produced were incredible in that era. Inter compiled a top 10 (Andreas Brehme Top 10 Goals), the quality of which is mind boggling. The right footed volley against Pisa from 20 yards has no right to pass through the crowd and yet it did with ferocity. The left footed chip against Roma shows qualities an elite centre forward would be elated with and the goal against Lecce, which swerves both ways before crashing in. This excludes the powerful penalties and the thunderous free kicks which are all works of art.

Inter’s players from that team in the 80’s gave emotional statements today; they all poured their hearts out and the message was clear. Not just a teammate but a real friend until the end. A man who wanted to know what was going on with Inter right until the end, a man who loved the club.

He shaped the culture of Inter and he holds a place in all of the Nerazzurri hearts. Perhaps it is best to leave the last words to Inter themselves, who put out a message about him today.

“With him goes a piece of us. Goodbye Andy.”

Reference

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