Back in the 1990s, and well before the days of Alexis Sanchez, Chile had a dangerous strikeforce that had the potential to take the world by storm. Iván Zamorano was a prolific goalscorer in La Liga, who had the aerial ability to terrorise any defender. Nicknamed ‘Bam Bam’, Zamorano is one of the greatest strikers of that decade.
Zamorano started his career playing for Cobresal in the Chilean First Division and began to make a name for himself when he took the side to Copa Chile glory in 1987, scoring 13 goals in 14 appearances in a famous cup run.
This gave him the reputation and opportunity to stake a claim in Europe. His first big break came with Swiss side St. Gallen, scoring 34 goals in just over two years at the club. At this point he was also a regular in the Chilean national side, having made his debut in 1987 at the age of just 20. He would go on to score 34 goals in 69 caps for his country, although disappointingly failed to score at the 1998 World Cup.
In 1991, Zamorano moved to Spain and joined Sevilla; he made an instant impact in La Liga, working particularly well with strike partner Davor Šuker. Zamorano scored 21 goals in 59 league appearances before Real Madrid came calling and the Chilean made the move to the Bernabeu for around £3million.
“With Zamorano I hope that Madrid will again have an extraordinary number nine.”
Real Madrid President, Ramón Mendoza
Zamorano certainly was an extraordinary number nine for Madrid. The club had been on a significant league title drought but Zamorano and Michael Laudrup helped bring the side back to glory.
In 1994/95, the Chilean helped lead Madrid to their first La Liga title in five years with an outstanding 28 league goals – the highest of anyone. The defining moment of that season was a stunning 5-0 demolition of arch rivals Barcelona. Zamorano not only scored a hat-trick in that game, he set up the other two goals. From that point on, he was always going to be a Madrid legend.
By the time Zamorano left Madrid in 1996, he’d scored 101 goals in just 173 appearances. In fact, the only reason why he was sold to Inter Milan was due to the rising stardom of Raúl – there simply wasn’t room for both strikers at the club.
Zamorano’s stint at Inter Milan may not be remembered for his unremarkable goalscoring record, but he’s an icon at the club thanks to the incredible leadership qualities he showed during his time there.
He was once again known for being a fantastic strike partner. His workrate allowed teammate Ronaldo to score 34 goals for Inter in the 1997/98 season and took the team to the UEFA Cup Final, where Zamorano scored in a 3-0 win over Lazio.
In the following season, Inter signed another top striker in the form of Roberto Baggio and promptly gave him the No.10 shirt. This meant that Ronaldo took Zamorano’s famous number nine shirt, much to the Chilean’s disappointment.
However, Zamorano found a unique solution to that problem. He asked to take the number 18 shirt and brilliantly put a plus sign in between the 1 and the 8.
18? No, 1+8!
Iván Zamorano pic.twitter.com/xQABkXY2Ik
— Calcio Nostalgico (@c_nostalgico) December 10, 2015
As other strikers such as Adrian Mutu and Christian Vieri began to establish themselves in Inter’s first team, Zamorano’s opportunities became more and more limited. Despite that, by the time he left in December 2000, Zamorano had made over 100 league appearances for the club, scoring 25 goals.
Such was his attachment to Inter, Zamorano was given a huge ceremony when he left the club. The fans, despite his average goalscoring record in the side, adored him. He understood them and they understood him. It was a match made in heaven.
El gran ‘Bam Bam’ Iván Zamorano. pic.twitter.com/gkbPt5E31g
— Historia CF_América (@History_America) February 17, 2017
At the end of his career, Zamorano returned to his native South America, initially at América in Mexico before fulfilling a childhood dream of playing for Colo-Colo. He retired in 2003 at the age of 36.
These days, Zamorano works as an assistant coach with the Chilean Under-18 squad. He remains hugely popular among the Chilean people and the suggestions are that he is being prepared to manage the full national side one day.
There’s no doubt he would show the same passion and hunger in that job as he did playing for Real Madrid and Inter Milan all those years ago.