RONALDO AND A BLIZZARD IN MOSCOW
Ronaldo’s finest moment in an Inter shirt took place amid chaos in Moscow. Despite the forecasts in the week leading up to the tie that indicated it would be an above average 9-11 degrees, the city had in fact been rocked by two days of blizzard like conditions and had been buried under 8 inches of snow.
The city’s roads became un-drivable, the airports were closed and the pitch at the Dynamo stadium was reduced to nothing more than a muddy swamp.
In fact, just about the only people in Moscow that could have taken heart in the unexpected blizzard were Spartak fans - desperately hoping it could potentially derail the technically superior Inter side who they were due to meet in the semi-final of the 1998 UEFA Cup.
The Russians may have been a goal down from the first leg in Milan but they had picked up a crucial away goal. If they could nick one and hold Inter at bay, they would be through to the final.
A dream start for the Russians followed. After just 12 minutes, Spartak took the lead and for the next half an hour Inter and their star striker struggled to find any rhythm in the bog.
And then Ronaldo found his feet - It shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
The reigning world player of the year had already proven himself to be adept in just about any conditions a year before when - faced with playing the final of the Copa America at 12,000 feet, high enough to require doses of oxygen to fight off severe altitude sickness - he dragged his side to victory. A little mud sure as hell wasn’t going to stop him.
So, as half time approached, Ronaldo came up with a moment of magic.
After some nice interplay with strike partner Zamorano, the Brazilian found enough space to poke the ball between two Spartak defenders before expertly rounding the keeper to finish in the open net.
The goal swung the tie once again and with Spartak having to push hard for another in the second half, it would of course be Ronaldo on hand to punish them.
With Inter content to sit and resist the waves of Spartak attack, Ronaldo managed to make himself a constant outlet. And, after coming close a number of times, he pounced on a defensive error to score his second just 15 minutes from time and seal the tie and left his grateful manager, Luigi Simoni, announcing that "Ronaldo has proved he is the best player in the world".
Ronaldo’s goals sent Inter through in the toughest conditions imaginable. And after the heartache of losing the previous season's final on penalties to Schalke, handed his side a shot at redemption.
The final saw them face off against fellow Italian powerhouses Lazio. An emphatic display by the Milanese side meant they cruised to a 3-0 victory with Ronaldo at his imperious best once again.
By the end he was enjoying himself enough to produce one of the most iconic pieces of skill with his perfectly executed elastico.
It was the season that saw the best of Ronaldo at Inter and the sides UEFA Cup run, in that iconic shirt, remains one of the defining images of 90’s Italian football.
Words by Andy Gallagher