GLORY, beauty and tragedy. The Mazzola name is synonymous with all three in Italy, a surname so rooted in Italian football folklore that it assumes almost mythical status.

The glory is reflected in the 17 major honours accumulated by Valentino and his two sons Sandro and Ferruccio. Beauty was displayed in the effortless grace with which the Mazzola family played, particularly Valentino and Sandro, gliding through challenges and scoring goals for fun over more than three decades.

Then there is the tragedy. Sandro Mazzola was only six when his father was taken from him in one of Italian football’s darkest days, the Superga air disaster that wiped out arguably the finest club side the country has produced, the all-conquering "Grande Torino" of the 1940s captained by Valentino.

With his father’s legacy towering over him, Sandro would have been forgiven for turning his back on the game altogether and pursuing a career away from the limelight after a youth spent at countless commemorations and memorial services.

But you can’t cheat fate. Sandro joined Internazionale as a teenager and never looked back. During a 17-year spell at San Siro, Mazzola escaped his father’s shadow to carve his own glorious path; one that could challenge, or even surpass, the achievements of Valentino.

He became a linchpin of Helenio Herrera’s "Grande Inter" of the 1960s, helping them win back-to-back European Cups in 1964 and 1965 as well as four Serie A titles and two Intercontinental Cups, triumphs that were achieved using Herrera’s trailblazing interpretation of the "catenaccio" or "door bolt" system.

The importance and greatness of that side is not downplayed by Mazzola, now 72 and working as a pundit on Italian television.

“During those years we were definitely the best,” he said. “After there were others, but I think that was the best Italian team ever because we knew how to win in Europe, in Italy, across the world.”

Comparisons with Celtic’s much-heralded Lisbon Lions are not hard to draw. Inter are still struggling to recreate their 1960s glory days in Europe, when a team of homegrown talent conquered challengers from all over the continent.

For every Billy McNeill, there was Armando Picchi. For Tommy Gemmell, you had Giacinto Facchetti. And for Jimmy Johnstone? Well, there was Sandro Mazzola.

Although the Nerazzurri couldn’t match Celtic in boasting that every player in their side was born within 30 miles of the club’s stadium, Inter’s starting XI in Lisbon 50 years ago consisted entirely of Italians.

But according to Mazzola, that night in Portugal changed everything. As Celtic celebrated the most glorious moment of their history, the result tolled the death knell not only for the Grande Inter, but for Herrera’s entire philosophy.

“This match represented the end of a cycle,” he said. “After the defeat we had to start over again. In the meantime, football was changing and consequently we had to adapt as well.

“They surprised us. We had already won cups; we were convinced we could win and instead we found ourselves up against a very strong side. Unfortunately I don’t remember the names, but they had wide players in defence and midfield who were exceptional.”

Inter’s two previous European Cup successes in the years leading up to Lisbon had seen them conquer some of football’s most legendary teams.

In 1964, Mazzola scored twice as they recorded a 3-1 win in the final against a Real Madrid side featuring the likes of Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas.

A year later they defended that title, knocking out Rangers on the way to a 1-0 final victory against Eusebio’s Benfica.

Inter were Europe’s dominant club side at the time, so what happened that night at the Estadio Nacional against Jock Stein’s men?

“Celtic approached the game differently,” Mazzola said. “We usually came up against teams that thought a lot about defending, given our quality. But Celtic thought about attacking and did it very well, with really great wingers. That surprised us a lot.”

Mazzola remembers Herrera, the mastermind behind the Grande Inter, teaching his players to "train your head first, then your legs".

His groundbreaking training methods and interpretation of the catenaccio system - using four man-marking defenders and a sweeper to pick up loose balls - have earned him a place in the history of the game’s tactical development.

Despite that, Mazzola regrets that the Argentine’s preparation for the game and warnings of the danger the Scots would pose fell on deaf ears.

“Herrera had already gone to watch Celtic,” Mazzola explained. “He described every player to us, we thought that as usual he was just doing that because he didn’t want us to underestimate the match, but we got it wrong because they were really strong.

“We were really sad after the game as we understood that we had come to the end of an era. We were also angry with the manager because he had watched them play and hadn’t told us they were so good. He did that because he didn’t want to alarm us and he understood that we were coming to the end of our cycle.”

Mazzola had got Inter off to the perfect start, scoring from the penalty spot after only seven minutes to put the Italians in a commanding position.

However, he admitted that taking the lead so early on allowed the Inter players to relax, not believing their opponents capable of turning things around against one of the game’s greatest defensive units.

“That was the biggest mistake we made,” he said. “We were convinced that goal had won the match and that they wouldn’t be able to come back. But instead they showed character, willpower, a lot of running and managed to make a great comeback in the match.

“Maybe we underestimated them as well. We were coming off several good seasons and we thought we were better. But in football you can’t just think you’re stronger, you need to prove it on the pitch.”

One man in particular stood out for Mazzola that night; the great Tommy Gemmell, who sadly died in March.

The full-back’s attacking prowess left a lasting mark on his Italian counterpart, who remembers his surprise at the threat coming from the back as Gemmell scored a superb equalising goal that pushed Celtic towards their triumph.

He said: “I liked their left-back [Gemmell] a lot, he was very good. He was always involved in the attacking moves, he was really impressive. He knew how to defend and attack.”

Lisbon marked a watershed moment in many ways from an Inter perspective. In Mazzola’s words, it marked the end of an era - the death of catenaccio and the Grande Inter.

The Nerazzurri would have to wait another 33 years for their next European triumph, when Jose Mourinho led them to Champions League glory in 2010.

Celtic continue their wait to repeat the feat of Stein’s side, but Mazzola believes the Lions helped Italians sit up and realise that Scotland was more than just an obscure football backwater.

“It made people discover Scottish football, which wasn’t very well known in Italy,” he said. “From that moment we started to watch it and understand that it was a good type of football.”