Less than two years after arriving in Milan, Jose Mourinho proved that his actions are even louder than his words. By winning the Champions league title, his Inter side finished the last part of the treble and shook off the underachiever tag permanently. However as with most good things, he decided to part ways with the club and start a new adventure at Real Madrid. Rafael Benitez, who had been relieved of his duties at Liverpool, was hired to fill in really big shoes.

Questions Marks on caliber

Benitez had won two titles in Spain, but in England he had more excuses than successes. In six years he failed to deliver what the average Liverpool fan craved the most i.e. the Premiership title. In retrospect, he had overdrawn heavily on the credit he got for that night at Istanbul – his Liverpool side, after having been outplayed for 114 minutes, somehow managed to pull the rug from under a much superior Milan side. He left the squad in tatters from which they are still struggling to emerge.

Not an enviable position to be in

At Inter, Benitez was expected to fill in the shoes of the most successful manager in a generation. Jose Mourinho (very rightly) commanded almost a blind devotion from his players. One of the most iconic images from last season was to see Marco Materazzi crying on Jose Mourinho’s shoulders after the Champions league triumph. Benitez was expected to take over a squad which had won everything and to maintain the same level of desire and commitment necessary for winning titles.

Mar. 11, 2010 - 05612397 date 11 03 2010 Copyright imago Liverpool s Rafa Benitez looks ON UEFA Europe League Lille v Liverpool 11th March 2010 PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUK Football men EC 3 UEFA Europe League Europe League 2009 2010 Lille Portrait Vdig 2010 horizontal premiumd.Living in Mourinho’s shadow.

In short if he managed to win, it would have been a triumph of Mourinho’s men. If he had lost, he would have made losers out of champions. In short it was a no-win situation for the Spaniard; the best outcome could have been a draw.

Not a great start

Rafael Benitez won the first of the 6 tournaments Inter would be competing in, by defeating the Romans in Italian Supercup. However, Diego Forlan-led Atletico Madrid toyed with the Inter defense which had kept the likes of Barcelona at bay just 4 months ago. Inter were comprehensively beaten in European supercup. The domestic campaign started on a similar note with Inter struggling game after game to impose themselves. Only Samuel Eto’o’ form saved them the blushes many a times and proved to be their get-out-of-jail card.

Injury glut at Inter

The cause was not helped by the fact that many players suffered niggling injuries. After a long and grueling club season, the main players were the protagonists for their national team sides at the World Cup too. This meant that the team started the new season without any rest. Signs of fatigue were visible in key players such as Sneijder, Maicon and Milito.

05943884 date 22 05 2010 Copyright imago Maicon of Inter Milan hugs Goalscorer Diego Milito of Inter Milan UEFA Champions League Final Internazionale v Bavaria Munich 22nd May 2010 PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUK Football men Champions League EC 1 2009 2010 Madrid Final Action shot Vdig 2010 horizontal premiumd.Injury crisis at Inter.

Injuries simply followed fatigue. After less than 4 months of the new season, the team has suffered as many as 40 injuries to first team players, a number more than what an average league team’s squad suffers in a whole season. While fatigue can be blamed for some injuries, many more were suffered by players such as Stankovic, Pandev etc. who played low or negligible part in the World Cup.

Humiliation

After a few unconvincing performances, Roma exposed the weakness in the Inter defense. A weakness which has been exploited by every team since then. First to go was the unbeaten record at home. Under Mourinho Inter had not been beaten in a home  league game for over two years. It took exactly 12 games for the record to be lost, as a resurgent Rossoneri  side made light work of Inter. Even before Milan had heaped humiliation on the champions, Gareth Bale made the famed defense look like  that of a serie-c outfit. Relegation battlers Lecce and Brescia also dominated Inter to snatch a point.

Once the floodgates were opened, there was no looking back. Little Chievo thrashed the champions at home, followed by Lazio doing a demolition job at Stadio Olimpico. The latest in the series of humiliating results is a 3-0 thrashing by Werder Bremen.

So far this season, Inter has already lost 4 times in Serie-A (same as whole of last season), twice in Europe (again same as last season). In Europe, they have conceded 11 goals in 6 games, more than what they had conceded in their ENTIRE European campaign last season.

Current Situation

Inter’s statistics for the last 10 games in all competition reads 3 wins, 2 draws and 5 losses. This is a form shown by a relegation battler rather than a league challenger. Moratti is showing some uncharacteristic patience with his worst manager. He himself admitted that a younger version of him would have fired Benitez quite a while back. After the loss against Bremen, he blasted the manager and the team in no uncertain terms, indicating that he also is exasperated with the results.

Beyond the above news, there are rumors flying everywhere. Among many rumors are those of Fabio Capello being sounded out and Benitez being given the Club World cup to save his job. The murmurs from the players also indicate unhappiness all around. So a deserved sacking might not be far off. Nobody would have thought that an Inter fan would be desperately praying for their coach to be sacked. Such are the turn of events.

[To be continued..]

– Arvind Balasubramanian

6 Responses to “From European Champs To European Clowns – Rafa’s Transformation Of The Treble Winners (Part 1/2)”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. rednbalck_blood says:

    ohh plz dnt fire him……. 😀

    gawwd u replace on of the best managers ever with him.. brillaint work Moratti… I mean anybody who came to inter this season in the manager shoes would have find it difficult as replicating JOMO would be the least Merda supporters would wish from him .. and knowuing all that u guys get the Fat spanish goblin… hahahahahhah can’t stop laughing… and i hope u win the CWC so that Moratti will be forced to keep this spaniard in charge for a longer time… 😀

    I read the rxn of inter fans in their forum to the UCL pre-match press conference of Rafa ….. the fasna re banging their head on the wall……. brillaint signing Moratti…
    agreed u have injuries to all your major players who won you the treble last season but the form inter is displayin currently is humiliating …..

  2. Parth Pandya says:

    There is more to it than what meets the eye. While I do not make an attempt to defend Benitez, it is not entirely right to pass the blame on his solely. There are factors that have made this transition go not so seamlessly like any other.

    Any manager had to find this job tough as it is very hard to re-inspire a squad that has potentially won everything. Barca’s story was different. I am sure, had Mourinho still been with Inter, we would have by now seen them running out of reaches of Milan and Juventus at the league and also would have handsomely topped their group in Europe.

    It is surely going to take time and Morrati must decide fast how patient ha can afford to be. I have tried to document several aspects of the troubles Inter are facing while transiting from Mourinho to Benitez. Here’s the link to the article.
    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/524121-inter-milan-after-jose-mourinho-what-is-going-wrong-with-the-rafa-benitez-side
    This actually is a three weeks old article immediately after the defeat to Chievo but even since then the campaign has gone only worse so it would not present any inconsistencies in the present scene of team’s display.

  3. Dinar says:

    Wouldn’t one blame so many injuries on to the training methods that Rafa has brought at Inter this season?