Inter are in dire need of instruction, and without it will likely fall back into the abyss that overshadowed Moratti’s earlier seasons.itn
Inter Milan finished their season in the Santiago Bernabeu; Diego Milito scoring twice to win the Champions League against a relatively prosaic Bayern Munich side. Their coach, José Mourinho, would not be accompanying his team back to Lombardy – his agreement to become the next coach of Real Madrid was never particularly kept hidden – and he left Inter in a car park in the bowels of the Bernabeu, weeping uncontrollably into Marco Materazzi’s shoulder. Then he stepped into his car, and was gone.
So began Inter’s self-destruction. Mourinho, quite simply, knew when to jump ship. Despite the popular belief that the Portuguese leaves scorched earth behind him, his departure following the most successful season in Inter Milan’s history is remarkably similar to when he left Chelsea a few years before. Avram Grant continued Mourinho’s work, and led Chelsea to a Champions League final, which they might have won had John Terry not slipped and hit the post with his penalty. Later, Carlo Ancelotti won the FA Cup and the league in his first season with the club. Rafael Benitez inherited a treble-winning squad, and won the Italian Super Cup and World Club Cup before asking Massimo Moratti to “back me or sack me” as Inter’s domestic season faltered – and the owner chose the latter. Leonardo, the Spaniard’s replacement, led Inter to a second place finish, and a Coppa Italia win. None of this was good enough, however, for a club that had so dominated Italian football for the past five years, albeit in the shadow of the Calciopoli scandal.
Leonardo’s contract was terminated on “friendly terms”, and when Gian Piero Gasperini failed to win in his first five games in charge, he was sacked. Three matches into the Serie A season, after less than three months at the San Siro, he was deemed “not to seem to be in control”. Inter lay 18th in the table. In a desperate attempt to save their season, Moratti brought in Claudio Ranieri, and the Italian led the Nerazzurri on a run of seven consecutive wins in Serie A, including a 1-0 win to AC Milan, which had the Gazzetta Dello Sport dreaming about the Scudetto.
I was at the San Siro in January, and watched Inter grind out a typically Italian scoreline to defeat their most bitter rivals. Abate failed to clear a routine cross-field pass from Zanetti, and Diego Milito fell behind to score past Abbiati in front of the Curva Nord. Ranieri turned and shook his fist at his doubters; Milito ran wildly towards the corner, and the stand erupted. It was significant – Inter were deservedly underdogs – but it is AC Milan who chase Juventus at the top of Serie A. Inter sit 20 points adrift of the league leaders, and six points from the final Champions League place – remember that Italy, by virtue of its coefficient, conceded one spot to the Bundesliga. Ranieri’s side went on to lose five of their next seven games, and all “the Tinkerman’s” work was undone. They slid from fifth to seventh, and Ranieri was dismissed after Alessandro Del Piero rounded off a 2-0 victory in the Derby d’Italia in Turin. The next head-on-the-chopping-block, Andrea Stramaccioni, won his first match in a manner befitting of Inter’s season so far: up by three goals at one stage at the San Siro, they contrived to concede four to Genoa as Diego Milito finished with a hattrick, and Inter won 5-4. It was gloriously ridiculous.
Gasperini, speaking to Sky Sport Italia, claimed that he had “never met Massimo Moratti or [sporting director] Mario Branca” when he arrived at the club. The vital decisions are, then, being made by the board, rather than the managers. Inter would be wise to clear the boardroom, and bring back the man who took such advantage of Calciopoli in 2006.
Lele Oriali left the San Siro over a spat with Branca, and told Mediaset Moratti must make the [next] decision [in Inter’s revival] “calmly, without forcing anyone’s hand”. It was Oriali who oversaw the transfers of Sneijder, Milito, Ronaldo, Cambiasso and Samuel – a phenomenal cast – and is, according to Adam Digby of Calcio Italia magazine, “surely the ideal candidate to reshape Inter around talents like Ricky Alverez, Andrea Poli and Joel Obi.
Inter are in dire need of definitive instruction, and without it will likely fall back into the abyss that overshadowed Moratti’s earlier seasons. The president’s first four years in charge saw eight managerial change, while Stramaccioni is already the fifth of the post-Mourinho era. In all, nineteen coaches have sat on the San Siro bench since Moratti took over in 1995. The Italian oil magnate would be wise to look closer to the top of the club the next time he feels tempted to wield his sword.
The statistics are wonderfully damning. Inter have been defeated in seven of their past nine away days in all competitions. They have lost twelve in the league, and have been woefully “un-Italian” in defense, conceding 45 in 32 matches. Twice they lost by three at home, to Bologna and Napoli, and in Rome they lost by four. Compare this to the league leaders, Juventus, and we can see the extent of the difference. Juventus have not lost this season in all competitions, though 14 draws in the league mean AC Milan continue to breath down their necks. They have conceded only 18. Their longest winless sequence was four games: three away to Milan, Genoa and Bologna, and at home to Chievo Verona. The vital number, though, is that Inter are seventh, and Juventus are first. When Massimo Moratti reviews his club’s season, it will be this final statistic that will hurt more than any other.