Seldom has a footballer jumped like Ivan ‘Bam Bam’ Zamorano.
The Chilean was a wonderful representative of the header, a striker who pounced on air balls and jumped off the lawn, almost as if trampolines were in the soles of his shoes.
For football fans of a certain age, Zamorano’s whimsical reaction to a shirt number change at Inter Milan can be a lasting reminder of a striker whose legacy is much, much more.
Zamorano loved to score goals and the fans loved him for it.
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Whether in Spain, Italy, or in his native Chile, Zamorano was a footballer willing to run through walls to decorate the colors he adorned.
Zamorano’s career began at Cobresal, where he confidently returned after a long loan in the Chilean Segunda Division to fire the team to their first national title, the Copa Chile 1987.
The striker averaged almost one goal per game in league and cup competitions to spark European interest, but his journey to the top of the sport has been an unorthodox path.
Bologna made a deal to bring Zamorano and his compatriot Hugo Rubio into the club, but opted for the latter’s experience and sent the young striker on loan to St. Gallen, Switzerland, where his productive performances soon made a permanent move secured.
The Serie A team must undoubtedly have regretted this decision, because after 38 goals in two seasons in St. Gallen, Zamorano was back on the road after his commitment to Sevilla – a transfer that made the Chilean one of the top scorers in Europe.
He formed an impressive partnership with Davor Suker for the Andalusians, scoring 23 goals in 63 games for Seville and starting to establish himself with the Chilean national team.
After two successful seasons in Seville, the Chilean was courted again and in 1992 Real Madrid called for his services.
When Johan Cruyff’s “dream team” from Barcelona began to dominate the Spanish football landscape, inspiration was needed and Zamorano was seen as the ideal port of call for Los Blancos’ leadership.
Tireless and indefatigable at his pace of work and determined, he scored 37 goals in his debut season in an emphatic demonstration of his talent, becoming a cult figure among the Madridistas in the process.
His second season proved less successful, but the controversial arrest of Barcelona’s Michael Laudrup gave Real the strong partnership needed to restore Spanish supremacy.
Laudrup’s departure from Camp Nou in 1994 resulted in the Danish schemer bridging the gap between the superpowers of Spanish football and signing for the capital’s club. His exquisite invention turned out to be the perfect complement to the formidable firepower of Zamorano.
The Chilean became the league’s top scorer with 28 goals when Real were crowned champions, the culmination of which was an iconic individual performance in an El Clasico embarrassment by the defending champions.
Zamorano scored a hat trick in the first half and was involved in every goal when Real Barcelona beat the Bernabeu 5-0 at break.
If he had never worn a Real Madrid shirt again, his legacy would be safe.
His partnership with Laudrup posed an equally explosive threat internationally as Zamorano and Marcelo Salas carried the weight of expectations for Chile.
Both were clinical and known for their flying skills, instinctive two-legged finishers and a perfect combination of goal scorers.
What a duo Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamorano were! pic.twitter.com/Io1NUMLBJF
– 90s soccer (@ 90s soccer) June 2, 2021
The duo scored 23 goals in qualifying for the 1998 World Cup – Zamorano with 12 and Salas with 11 – and became the top two scorers in South American qualifying, while Chile relied on their devastating duo to secure their place in France.
Although Zamorano scored over a century in four seasons at Real Madrid, Zamorano’s time at the club only lasted one more season as Raul’s appearance limited his role on the team.
In the summer of 1996, Inter Milan were moved to Serie A on a free transfer, at a time when Italy was truly home to the greats of the game.
One look at the forward talent that Inter brought together during this period is ample proof of the league’s incredible quality, with players like Christian Vieri, Roberto Baggio, Ronaldo, Alvaro Recoba, Kanu and Hakan Suker among his all four seasons Teammates were spells at the San Siro.
Injuries prevented him from reaching the heights of his Real Madrid heyday, but the fighting spirit and extroverted passion he displayed when on the field won the hearts of Nerazzurri believers.
Zamorano was born nearly 12,000 kilometers away and on the other side of the Atlantic, but in the eyes of the Inter supervisors, he was one of them.
He dovetailed with Inter’s stellar strikers and provided the fierce presence to free Ronaldo during his great 1997/98 season when Inter won the UEFA Cup – Zamorano scored the goal in the final against Lazio.
The arrival of Roberto Baggio this summer resulted in his now infamous jersey number change as the Italian icon’s claim of the number ten jersey resulted in Ronaldo moving to nine, with Zamorano leaving with the 18 and an iconic plus sign.
Zamorano admits that Baggio’s arrival and Ronaldo’s presence meant he had no choice, gratefully allowing the latter – a player he dubbed “the best player in the world” – to get his coveted shirt.
“The idea came about because the best in the world had arrived,” he told the Guardian.
“I had to give him the number 9. The only thing he lacked was what I did best, which was headed goals. He didn’t score many goals with his head. Everything else complete: left foot, right foot, power, ability, magic!
“Ronaldo is one of the best. Pelé, Maradona, Beckenbauer, Cruyff, Messi, Cristiano, Ronaldo … he’s on this list of the top 10 players of all time.
“He had everything. It was better in training than on the weekend. He was a phenomenon. “
Zamorano admitted that the idea for his innovative way of keeping the “nine” came from the club’s sporting director, although his change required approval from the Italian Football Association.
“Sports director Sandro Mazzola advised me to choose a number that adds up to nine. I said, ‘Can I add a plus sign?’ He told me not to do it. I said, ‘How come? Ask for permission. ‘I spoke to the President, Massimo Moratti, who asked the Italian Association. So I played with 18, 1 + 8 and didn’t lose number 9. “
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He scored 41 goals in 138 games for Inter Milan before moving to Mexico’s America and later returning to Chile to fulfill his lifelong ambition to represent Colo-Colo before giving up the shoes, which looted 349 goals in his club career alone had.
Zamorano’s willingness to pursue lost causes and a salmon-like jump made him a nightmare for opposing defenders, earning him the nickname “Iván el Terrible”.
The nineties were a time of elite scorers and Zamorano was one of the best of the decade for a while, an icon at Real Madrid and a legend at Inter Milan. The Chilean was a footballer who could turn a hopeful cross into a game win.
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