Sanity Returns – The Mancini/Orialli/Branca Era
In 2004, Roberto Mancini was appointed as the head coach of Inter. Nine years of Jr. Moratti’s tenure was characterized by multiple sacking of coaches. Moratti was known to be a very ‘hands on’ president and bought players on whim without consulting much with the coach. Apart from that, he had favourites in the squad, with whom he maintained a parallel line of communication.
This allowed indiscipline to fester as President’s favourites decided to bend the rulebook whenever it suited them. The most common example was to return late from international break, thus affecting the preparation for the game. In short the club and its president had been reduced to a joke.
Roberto Mancini – Ex-Inter manager
Finally better sense prevailed and Moratti took more of a backseat and allowed his coach to handle affairs of the first team. To help Mancini, two former Inter players joined the staff – Marco Branca appointed as the technical director and Gabriele Orialli appointed as the transfer market consultant.
The Era of Sensible Transfers
Unlike England, where the manager is responsible for all matters corresponding to the team including signing players, such a decision is led by the technical director in Italy. The coach has his inputs, but in most cases it is the choice of the director. This is especially true in case of coaches without much of a reputation.
The trio of Branca-Orialli-Mancio recognized that Inter had great strikers and a good back line, but the midfield lacked strength.
However, the first decision of the trio was full of stupidity. They let go of the Italian captain to their bitter rivals Juventus for a measly ten million Euros and third choice goalkeeper Carini. The summer of 2004 saw the arrivals of Stankovic and Cambiasso. Adriano was recalled from his co-ownership/loan spell at Parma, while Juan Sebastian Veron was signed on a loan deal with Chelsea. Combined with other squad signings like Nicolas Burdisso and Sinisa Mihajlovic – Inter started looking more of a team and less of a joke.
The year 2005 saw the arrival of Luis Figo and Walter Samuel from Real Madrid. While Samuel was rescued from the disaster in Spain and managed to rebuild his reputation as one of the best defenders in the league, Figo enjoyed a mini revival to his career even though he was physically over the hill. Unlike the past, Inter didn’t spend crazy money chasing superstars.
Adriano (R) at Inter
Slow and steady progress
Powered by the goals of Adriano, Inter finished 2004-05 season in a much stronger position with 72 points, 13 points better than the previous season (The season itself had four additional games as Serie-A now had 20 teams). Fabio Capello in his first season at Juventus managed to win the title (Since revoked), with Milan finishing second.
The next was even better with 76 points, Juventus and Milan again finishing first and second. Steady progress meant that the Mancini project was working and on track. The project however was about to get fast tracked by happenings that will shake the world of Italian Football.
Rivals caught cheating
Since the Giovanni Agnelli era, Juventus had always been rumoured to be getting special favours from Italian authorities. Multiple teams had complained about this in the past but without clear proof. Fiorentina had a chant for Juventus “Meglio secondi che ladri” translated as “Better to be second than be thieves”.
The rumours got stronger since the arrival of Luciano Moggi nicknamed as “Lucky Luciano” in reference to the famous American mobster and Moggi’s dubious past with Napoli. The 1998 version of Derby d’Italia along with a series of refereeing decisions the next couple of years added more fuel to the fire.
All was about to change when in 2006 Moggi made calls asking for referees to be favourable towards Juventus. Calciopoli entered the dictionary of football and sent the world of Calcio into tailspin.