The 1961-62 season was Helenio Herrera’s second in charge of Inter Milan. One of the most innovative and inspirational coaches of his time was starting out on an exceptional era filled with stunningly efficient football and silverware.
His debut term had seen improvement as he led the club from a tally of 40 points and fourth place in 1959-60 to 44 points and third. And in 1961-62 he would continue to develop his team and lead the Nerazzurri to a higher position.
Defence would be the foundation upon which Herrera’s achievements with Inter would ultimately be built, and he couldn’t have found many better goalkeepers to command the penalty area than Lorenzo Buffon, cousin of current Juventus icon Gianluigi Buffon’s grandfather.
Lorenzo had previously had a productive spell with city rivals Milan but enjoyed some of his finest years with Inter, where he was often protected by a solid defensive line. In 1961-62 this line included the unsung Aristide Guarneri and Armando Picchi.
This particular campaign was an important one for Picchi. Having joined the club from SPAL as a right-back, he was converted to a libero role in his second term as Herrera implemented and perfected Catenaccio.
Picchi would go on to captain Inter, but in 1961-62 this responsibility belonged to midfielder and youth team graduate Bruno Bolchi. An imposing player with a strong build, Bolchi was complemented in the centre by the subtler skills of Luis Suarez.
After six years with Barcelona, the Spaniard known as ‘El Arquitecto’ had worked with Herrera during the coach’s time in charge of the Catalan giants, and would be successfully re-deployed as a deep-lying playmaker after joining Inter in 1961. His passing range and vision were instrumental to the counter-attacking tactics Herrera would implement.
Elsewhere in Inter’s midfield during this season was Mario Corso, a silky left-footed creator who wasn’t always held in high regard by the coach. In spite of this awkward relationship, the player would be integral to the team over the ensuing years.
Up front, Herrera had a new pair of strikers to work with in Gerry Hitchens and Lorenzo Bettini.
Hitchens, who was from Staffordshire, had been prolific with Cardiff City and Aston Villa and would enjoy his debut season in Italy, scoring 17 goals. However, he would be moved on to Torino in 1962 before representing Atalanta and Cagliari later in his career.
Unfortunately, Bettini’s signing would prove less triumphant. Signed from Udinese after scoring at a respectable rate for the Zebrette, he would notch a mere eight goals in his one and only season with Inter before being sold to Modena.
With Picchi settling into his new role, Inter would go on to obtain the best defensive record in Serie A in 1961-62, conceding just 31 times over the course of 34 fixtures. And, while 48 points weren’t enough to win the Scudetto, it did see them secure second place behind Milan.
Herrera’s second year with the club had brought yet more improvement. And, in the following season, Inter would progress once again to lift their first championship since 1954.
Words by Blair Newman @TheBlairNewman
Blair is co-editor of The Gentleman Ultra. He is also a freelance football writer for Bleacher Report, These Football Times, FourFourTwo, uMAXit and others.