If there was ever a time to try out a 4-1-5 formation…
At the turn of the century while everyone else was digging underground bunkers preparing for the Millienium bug to trigger a global doomsday, Inter Milan were set on becoming the most dominant club in the world.
They employed the usual tactic of spending eye-watering amounts of money recruiting the world’s best players.
And in 1999/2000 they had somehow assembled one of the greatest strike forces ever conceived.
The best player in the world
We start with Il Fenomeno.
The legendary Brazilian No9 was the most-feared player in the world at the time having redefined goalscoring expectations in Europe with PSV and Barcelona before moving to Inter in 1997.
However, this particular season would be the end of Ronaldo as we knew him.
Early in the season he suffered a horrific knee injury against Lecce and was ruled out for the rest of the season and the whole season following.
He was never the same again after this dramatic setback… but he was still the best in the world for a few more years.
The Italian hero
Roberto Baggio is one of the most gifted Italian players to ever step into a pair of boots.
However, he was yet another whose ability was depleted by nagging injuries.
In 1999/2000 he was underused after a disagreement with manager Marcelo Lippi — the cigar-smoking gaffer thought Baggio was unfit.
The mulleted magician (patent pending) was used mainly as a substituted and saved his best performance for the final league of the season when Inter beat Parma 3-1 to secure the final Champions League spot.
Christian Vieri was the new boy who arrived boasting a world-record price tag of £32million.
The target man with a suspiciously Australian accent formed a good understanding with Ronaldo almost immediately but the aforementioned injury put an premature end to their partnership.
Vieri finished as Inter’s top scorer but only managed 13 in the league as he picked up a few injuries of his own – a recurring theme.
The original false nine
When Baggio signed he wanted the No10 shirt which Ronaldo gave up as long as he could have the No9 shirt which left Ivan Zamarano shortchanged.
The Chilean’s solution? Invent the 8+1 shirt of course.
Bam Bam operated as a second striker in Italy and wasn’t as prolific as his previous incarnations at Real Madrid, Sevilla, etc.
He mustered just seven goals in the league in 1999/2000 — perhaps this dream line up wasn’t all it cracked up to be.
The free-kick specialist
The football gods took their sweet time when they crafted Alvaro Recoba’s left foot.
The Uruguayan forward often drifted deeper or out wide in search of his most appropriate role at Inter.
Recoba made his Inter debut in the same game as Ronaldo and he hogged the spotlight with two genuine Goal of the Season contenders in the second half.
In 1999/2000 he scored ten goals from 27 Serie A fixtures — a decent return from a quality player.
Finally there was a youngster in the ranks who was quietly learning from his more experienced peers.
His name was Adrian Mutu.
The badboy Romanian forward joined halfway through the season and scored nine minutes into his debut, which just so happened to be a Milan derby in the cup.
He never scored a league goal for Inter but it’s safe to say his months on the training ground with Vieri, Baggio and co aided his development.
How did they do?
As we mentioned earlier, it took a last day virtuoso performance from Baggio to secure them fourth in the league.
These six wonderfully gifted and eternally fearsome forwards managed just 39 league goals between them — the injuries decimated this unit.
It could have been a beautifully destructive six sextet but fate conspired to rob them (and us) of the full experience.
Still, on paper it’s quite something.