​It wasn't until the late 1920s when the concept of squad numbers caught on in Europe. 


Initially, a player's number was determined by their location on the pitch - designed to help supporters and officials identify individuals. Complex stuff, eh? 


But almost 100 years on, and the same concept has taken on a slightly deeper meaning - with tactical roles and even superstitions determining what number is printed on the back of one's shirt.

Inter were barely 20 years old when the idea was introduced in Italy. A club which has bathed in success since their 1908 inception, they've seen some of the game's finest talents don the iconic blue and black strip over the years, strutting around San Siro with numbers one to 11 on their backs.


The Italian Football Federation made things a little more complicated in 1995 - allowing all players in Serie A and B to wear any number between one and 99 without restriction.


Nevertheless, here are the best players to have ever worn each shirt number (one to 11) at Inter - including an honourable mention which will have the purists quaking in their boots.


1. Walter Zenga

Walter Zenga

Walter Zenga enjoyed 16 stellar seasons in between the Inter sticks before dabbling in Italian soap opera and becoming a journeyman manager.


Zenga had the knack of pulling off the impossible but was the polar opposite to Hugo Lloris in that he wasn't one for rushing off his line - instead trusting his superb shot-stopping ability.


The confident keeper was loved by the Nerazzurri faithful and was certainly the best at what he did for several years during his pomp. After helping Inter to the Scudetto in 1989, Zenga was given the perfect send-off five years later as he starred in his side's UEFA Cup final victory over Salzburg.


2. Giuseppe Bergomi

Giuseppe Bergomi and Andy Cole

A key spoke in the forgotten Inter sides of the '80s and '90s due to Milan's domestic and continental dominance, 'Beppe' Bergomi retired as Inter's record appearance maker (758) before being overtaken in 2011. 


He won just the sole Scudetto during his 19-year career, with the majority of his success coming in the UEFA Cup -  a competition he won three times and appeared the most in out of any player (96).


A versatile defender who thrived in a variety of systems, the mightily tough Bergomi, or 'Zio' due to his veteran looks and maturity, was undoubtedly one of the finest 'Interisti' of his generation.


3. Giacinto Facchetti

Becoming the first player to have their shirt number retired by the club in 2006, it's fair to say Giacinto Facchetti epitomises the meaning of 'icon' for the Nerazzurri faithful.


His rise to Inter's senior set-up coincided with the arrival of the revolutionary Helenio Herrera at San Siro in 1960, playing a key role in Herrera's 'catenaccio' system as one of the game's first-ever overlapping full backs.


'Grande Inter' became one of the dominant club sides of the 1960s under Herrera, with Facchetti spending the entirety of his lengthy 18-year career with the Nerazzurri - racking up over 600 appearances, four Scudetti and a pair of European Cups during his time at San Siro. He's still the highest-scoring defender in Serie A history with 59 strikes.


Facchetti was so special he almost became the first defender to lift the Ballon d'Or in 1965 - finishing second to Eusebio.


4. Javier Zanetti

Inter Milan's defender Javier Zanetti ce

The modern-day legend, Javier Zanetti became the second Interista to have their shirt number retired by the club following his retirement in 2014.


There was a time when the Argentine was arguably the finest right back in the world, but he could also play the left back and central midfield roles to an equally high standard - hence the nickname 'Mr. Consistency'.


His loyalty saw him typify the term 'fan-favourite' at San Siro, setting the record for Inter appearances (858) as he played under a staggering 19 Nerazzurri managers. After leading Inter to five Scudetti between 2005 and 2010, Zanetti's finest hour came in the 2010 Champions League final as the Nerazzurri claimed their first European crown since 1965.


It's fair to say former owner Massino Moratti got it absolutely bang on when he made Zanetti his first-ever Inter signing in 1995.


5. Riccardo Ferri

Riccardo Ferri was never the most talented, but boy could he man-mark - just ask Marco van Basten.


Ferri became a pillar in the legendary back five that set a record in 1988/89 for fewest goals conceded in a Serie A season, excelling alongside Zenga, Bergomi and Andreas Brehme. 


He left for Sampdoria with 13 seasons under his belt, winning two Scudetti and a pair of UEFA Cups for the Nerazzurri. 


6. Armando Picchi

The leader of those great Inter sides of the 1960s, Armando Picchi established himself as the first great 'libero' in history, after Herrera successfully converted him from right back into a central defender.


With Picchi sweeping things up, Inter's backline - based around a rigid man-marking system - became almost impenetrable on their way to unrivalled success at both domestic and continental level. 


The nifty, tenacious and intelligent Picchi was one of the outstanding defenders of his era before tragically passing away at just 36 following a short battle with illness.


7. Luis Suarez

While most of his dominant Inter days were spent in the number ten shirt, we just can't leave Luis Suarez (the 1960s iteration) out of this list - he wore the number seven jersey during his final season at the club.


Inter were forced to pay a world-record fee to secure the reigning Ballon d'Or victor in 1961, but 'El Arquitecto' certainly didn't disappoint - becoming the brains behind Grande Inter's lethal counter-attack.


Playing in a deeper role under Herrera, Suarez won five major honours with the Nerazzurri before he retired in 1973 as arguably Spain's greatest ever.


8. Sandro Mazzola

 - Italy

Another pivotal member in Herrera's Grande Inter, Sandro Mazzola was the son of Valentino Mazzola - a former player touted to be one of the greatest ever before a tragic air disaster cut his life short in 1949.


Nevertheless, Sandro went on to do his late father proud in Milan, winning two European Cups and four Serie A titles during his 17-year stint at the club - also finishing second to the fella who invented the 'Cruyff Turn' in the 1971 Ballon d'Or.


Early on in his career, he mastered the 'mezzala' role - essentially an attack-minded box-to-box midfielder - before being deployed as an inside-right forward as his career wore on - becoming one of the best in the world at this position.


Mazzola was known for his intelligence, athleticism and versatility, while his superb technique and immense close control meant he was a mightily tough proposition for opposing defenders. He finished his one-club career with 161 goals in 568 appearances - winning the Capocannoniere in 1964/65.


9. Giuseppe Meazza

'El Fenomeno' Ronaldo gets the most honourable of mentions here, but you can't argue with the selection of the player the bloody stadium's named after as Inter's finest number nine - and quite possibly their greatest ever player.


Words can do little to describe just how significant Meazza was in the Nerazzurri's history. So let's throw some numbers at ya; 283 goals in 408 games, a record 20 strikes in the Derby della Madonnina (which probably won't ever be beaten), three Serie A titles and two World Cups.


Inter's GOAT.


10. Lothar Matthaus

Yes, Roberto Baggio might've been the finest footballer of his generation, but the ponytailed stallion endured a fairly troubled two-year spell at his boyhood club. Wesley Sneijder and his imperious 2009/10 campaign also deserve a mention. 


But very few in Inter's history have had a galvanising effect like der panzer (the tank), or just Matthaus if you're feeling boring.


The World Cup-winner had the knack of turning average teammates into stars - see Aldo Serena - as he spearheaded Inter's German revolution at the end of the 1980s. Matthaus' nine strikes helped the Nerazzurri to the Scudetto in his maiden campaign at the club before he scooped Ballon d'Or (1990) and FIFA World Player of the Year (1991) honours during his time in the blue and black.


Seriously, what more do you want than the greatest ever, Diego Maradona, calling Matthaus his toughest ever opponent?


11. Mario Corso

Modern-day icons Jonathan Biabiany and Keita Balde run this man close, but Mario Corso's exploits in the 1960s see him just about pip the aforementioned duo.


Corso's nickname was one of the best: 'God's left foot', in reference to his mean free-kick taking ability and masterful technique overall. Corso grasped the concept of the 'knuckleball' long before the F2 came around, with a commentator describing one of his efforts as being like 'a dead leaf falling from a tree' due to the innocuous speed at which the ball travelled before finding the back of the net.


In open play, he was a winger who could occupy both flanks. But he often found himself playing in more central areas in between the lines - much to his manager's dismay. 


Nevertheless, by the time he departed for Genoa in 1973, Corso had won eight major honours for the Nerazzurri, scoring 75 times in 413 Serie A encounters. 


Honourable Mention: 1+8 - Ivan Zamorano

Walter Zenga,Ruben Sosa Ardaiz,Ivan Zamorano

Football can be outright nuts at times, and this is as ludicrous as it gets - shirt numbers-wise.


After signing from Real Madrid in 1996, Ivan Zamorano was rewarded with the coveted numver nine shirt before the imperious Baggio came in all ponytail-y and forced R9 to switch from the number ten to number nine - that's just how massive Baggio was.


Nevertheless, this led the determined Zamorano into evasive action, opting to wear the number 18 shirt - with a twist, however. He only went and added a plus sign to mathematically mean he was still wearing number nine.


Mathematics bods thrilled. Purists disgusted.