~ Vishwas Shashidhar
“Addio, amici.Sonoun ‘gloria!” – which translates to “Farewell, my friends. I’m going to glory!” – were the last words from “The Special One” Jose Mourinho to the Inter fans after the Nerazzurri enjoyed what arguably was their finest hour in almost four decades.
It had been 45 years since the current European champions had lifted the grandest trophy in Club football. And, it just took 2 years for the man from Portugal to recreate those glory days at Inter. Inter president Massimo Moratti had tried and tested every single coach and formula to give La Beneamatathe the status, their fiercest rivals Milan had enjoyed in the first decade of the 21st Century. Inter recruited many talented players and coaches, but there was something missing – some spark, maybe something “Special”.
Finally, Moratti was convinced that the “Darling” of “English Media” was the right man to take Inter that one step further and win the Champions league. As they say, rest is history. Mourinho not only delivered what Inter fans were thriving for, for half a century but also gave them the bonus by delivering “The Treble” which is a remarkable feat as Inter are the first and only Italian team to have done that. Not even the great AC Milan and Juventus have achieved it, which goes to show the magnitude of Jose’s achievement.
So, what would you, as a president, do when you lose arguably the best coach in the world, a man who has a hunger for delivering trophies like eating spaghetti? It’s an understatement to say the least that people like Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Marcelo Lippi and co are irreplaceable and Jose Mourinho is a man who can be put in the same bracket.
Eyebrows were raised, questions were asked, some fans even protested when the Inter president appointed Rafa Benitez, a man who had not only failed to deliver a trophy for a historical team like Liverpool, but the Spanish master also let the English Giants slip out from the Champions league places to the Europa league spots in the Premier League. No doubt, the man from Madrid delivered the European cup to the Merseysiders in his very first season after his wonderful time with Valencia, where he had won two Spanish league titles in the presence of the mighty Real Madrid and Barcelona, and had also won the UEFA Cup then.
Though the man had a torrid spell at the Anfield towards the end of his run, he was received confidently by the Inter President and the players. Yet, some of the players like Sneijder couldn’t stop praising “The Special One”. Inter certainly have won almost everything that was to be won, last year. Will they have the motivation to challenge their European and Domestic rivals on all fronts again?
Inter contested the UEFA supercup against Spanish side Atletico Madrid and eventually came short to lift the trophy for the first time. Games like these are Mourinho’s cup of tea and he would have guaranteed Inter another trophy in their ever growing cabinet. This is where Benitez will be scrutinized as the Nerazzuri will not come up with a chance to win these trophies every year.
Not only did they miss out the Supercup, they lost a hotly contested match against their arch rivals and last year’s runners up Roma, where Mirko Vucinic scored the winner in the last few seconds of the game. Although Jose wasn’t able to beat Roma in the league last year, he won against them in their most important match in the Italian Cup final with a 1-0 scoreline.
It’s unfair to compare Jose’s record with Rafa, as the latter has only had a couple of chances to prove himself on the big occasion. Speaking of that, he has failed to capture the imagination of the fans of winning these very important games so far. So, he has a lot to prove in that perspective by winning the big games.
CLUB WORLD CUP
If the new Inter manager has a chance to prove himself, it is this stage in December where he’ll be contesting two games against other continent’s top clubs for the Club World Cup. If he can guide Inter towards winning this competition, there is no doubt that he would impress the Nerazurri fans and enhance his already damaged reputation.
The battle between Jose and Rafa back in England was a joy to behold with the latter highly successful in the Champions league pipping Mourinho twice in the Semi-finals. So, it is fair to say that Rafa was tactically as sound as Jose when they came up against each other.
However, it is too early to analyze his formations and tactics and the way he uses his players’ strengths at Inter Milan.
When it comes to getting the best out of his players, “The Special One” is one of the best in the business ,with many players expressing their admiration for the man. This is where Rafa Benitez has lost it in the last couple of years at Liverpool. Whether it was the fact that he had lost the motivation himself or if he wasn’t able to motivate his players, still remains a mystery. Benitez has a lot to prove at Inter in this regard.
Inter have hardly made any signings this year with only a few youth signings like Rannochia from Genoa, Jiminez from Cesena and Faraoni from Lazio. Mourinho was very smart in the transfer market and made a number of brilliant signings during his tenure at the Guiseppe Meazza. The contestant for the “World Player of the Year” Sneijder entered the city of Milan last year and proved to be the signing of the summer for the Italians. Diego Milito who scored two goals in the Champions league final was another very important signing. Samuel Eto’o, although didn’t fare as well as Sneijder or Milito, was still a very important player in the team notching few important goals in the process.
While Benitez had made a lot of signings at Liverpool, most of them, apart from Torres, failed to live up to their potentials. It is in this area that Benitez has to mature his managerial skills. However, it’s a different case at Inter as there are already established players, so Inter fans can rest at peace at least for the next couple of seasons.
Mourinho is a master at finishing a season on a high. This is where all the things are won or lost and the “Special One” surely knows how to end it on a positive note. In his every season with Chelsea ,he won a trophy and repeated the very same amazing feat with Inter. On the other hand, Benitez has managed to do the same only on a handful of times at Valencia and Liverpool in a span of total 10 years. The famous night in 2005 is the one which all the Liverpool fans will remember. With AC Milan and Juventus strengthening their squads, things are going to get even more difficult for Benitez. How he manages to contend with all these is a big suspense.
Inter have started the season on a positive note with only a couple of shortcomings against Atletico and Roma. A big shadow is cast over the Nerazzuri after “The Special One” left and that sure is not a good thing. But it is fair to say that Inter have started quite competitively and it remains to be seen how they will cope without “The Special One” at the helm.
It is criminal to expect Benitez to deliver trophies like Jose did in his first year, but one can surely expect the man from Madrid to settle in and start filling the trophy Cabinet in a couple of years time. Rafa will surely have the support from his President, players and fans, as long as he fulfills their expectations. From Jose to Rafa, the immediate future is quite safe for Inter considering the fact that there are few teams who are on the same level as Inter in the Serie A. But as they say, you can predict nothing in football !