Goran Pandev was instrumental and an integral part of José Mourinho’s treble-winning 2009/10 Inter Milan team.
Goran Pandev has had a long and storied association with Italian football, enjoying a certain degree of success, wherever he went. However, his most fond memories are those of his time in Milan, in the colours of the Nerazzurri.
José Mourinho was the manager at the time when Pandev arrived at the club in January of 2010. The Portuguese was a big reason for Pandev to rejoin the team that he had signed for when he was just 18 years old.
The Macedonian was then loaned out to gain experience in the Serie C with Spezia, the third division of Italy.
After impressing at Spezia and then Ancona, Pandev was part of a swap deal involving Dejan Stanković from Lazio. It was a deal that involved both Inter and Lazio being co-owners of the player.
It was an unusual arrangement, but things worked at the Stadio Olimpico for him. Pandev became renowned for his strike partnership with striker Tomasso Rocchi.
Eventually, he intended to move on from Lazio and return to Inter to work with Mourinho. However, Claudio Lotito, Lazio’s Chairman was against the move.
After a long and drawn-out saga which saw him frozen out of the first team for the first half of the 09-10 season, the Macedonian joined Inter in January 2010.
Creating history in Milan
Pandev’s playing style is one that suited Mourinho’s ideas very much. When it comes to the enigmatic Portuguese, there are some that like him and some who don’t. Those who do, however, are willing to always give it their all for him.
Although normally a shadow striker and someone who enjoys playing further forward, Pandev had a different role in this Inter side.
He was deployed as a defensive wide attacker who had specific responsibilities in each of the games that he played. Some of his most significant contributions were in the UEFA Champions League as well as big matches in the Serie A.
Perhaps the biggest match for Inter, Pandev played a crucial role in a win against arch rivals AC Milan.
He displayed his excellent technique with an overhead through ball during a turnover, for Diego Milito. Milito then drove on with the ball and coolly finished past Dida with his left foot.
The second goal, however, was a far more interesting incident. Inter had won a free-kick just outside the penalty area around the hour mark. At the time, Mourinho was preparing to substitute Pandev, however, rushed to tell the fourth official to wait for the substitution after the free-kick was done.
Inter were leading 1-0 and were down to ten men. The game was calling out for a hero and up stepped Pandev.
Pandev becoming a big-match player
The substitution stayed and the former Lazio man scored a free-kick in emphatic fashion against Dida. The San Siro crowd went wild and the players then looked to Mourinho, who they thought, saw the future.
Pandev then went off the pitch, shook hands with a jubilant Mourinho whose decision had paid off once again.
Even now, plying his trade at Genoa, Pandev speaks highly of his time at the club and about Mourinho as well.
In an interview recently with Coriello dello Sport, he said, “He was a wonderful person and a manager who gave us so much. I was the starter in the most important matches, including the Champions League final. I did everything the manager asked of me, including playing as a winger, even though I have always been a first or second striker.”
“We did something extraordinary and I don’t know if any other team will be able to repeat it. We were a very strong and united group”Pandev, on Inter’s treble-winning season.
In Europe, Pandev played a key role in the victory against Barcelona and ultimately Bayern Munich in the final.
Important contributions in Europe
It was his tireless work-ethic that helped Inter’s attackers as well as midfielders nullify the threat of Barcelona at the San Siro. It was a 3-1 victory and a victory of the collective, than an individual.
That was the special thing about that Inter side, they were a typical Mourinho side, scoring a lot and conceding very little. But within each of them, there was a hungry warrior prepared to follow their manager into war, and they did that.
As the players lifted the trophy amidst the glory of the Santiago Bernabeu, there were tears all over the place. After 45 years, Inter had achieved European glory once again. Pandev became only the third Macedonian player ever to lift the holy grail.
Self-less, hard-working and always giving it his all. He was the quintessential Mourinho player and history will always remember him for that.