~By Arvind S Balasubramanian
The burden of victory
So how do you make a Treble winning squad better? Not many team owners have faced this dilemma in the recent past, and not many are likely to do so in the near future. In fact no one has ever faced it in Italy before. Philosophically speaking, the only way forward from the summit of Mount Everest is down. So coming off a historic season, Inter will definitely find it tough to match the achievements of Jose Mourinho’s band of merry men.
The last man to achieve greatness both as a player and as a manager, the legendary Johan Cruyff, is credited with saying that once a team had won everything that was to be won, it was better to disband the team and start all over again. This retains the hunger in the team and ensures that complacency doesn’t set in. In recent past many successful teams failed to refresh their squads after a winning spree only to taste failure soon. Case in point Barcelona between 2006-08, Milan between 1996-99, Juventus between 1998-2001.
Change in owner’s Attitude
Last season was a culmination of Massimo Moratti’s dream ever since he bought the club in mid 90s. Like many other mega rich Owners of Italian clubs, Moratti has simply reduced the amount of money he is willing to spend. However the belief is that if a marquee name becomes available, he will do anything to sign him.
At the end of last season, having won everything possible, Jose Mourinho decided to end his association with Italian football and look for a new challenge as the ringmaster of the Madrid Circus. Branca and Moratti eventually settled on Rafael Benitez as the replacement.
He ended his association with Liverpool after 6 years of mixed results. While he gave the Liverpool fans a 5th Champions league to savour, ultimately he failed to deliver what they craved the most, the premier league title. As per the results, his transfer record has been mixed to say the best. For a Torres/Mascherano, he has more than a dozen turkeys to his name. However his record at Valencia suggests that, he can deliver results with the right set of players. Thankfully at Inter, he will work in situation similar to that of Valencia, rather than that of Liverpool where he had too much freedom.
A compromising choice, given no better option was available at the time. Moratti’s initial preferences Capello, Hiddink and Blanc opted to continue with their national team jobs, which they had signed up for prior to Mourinho’s resignation. Inter fans will be hoping that it is the Valencia version of Rafael Benitez who takes over, rather than the Liverpool version.
A Former Italy international who had played under Benitez at Valencia and also served his backroom staff, will join as the liaison between players and the manager. As a native Italian, his task will be very important as in the past year or so, at least 4 players have come out in the open questioning Benitez’s man management skills.
Mauricio Pellegrino, Francisco Miguel, Vicente Valero:
Assistant Coach, Goal keeping coach and Fitness coach respectively under Benitez at Liverpool. They have followed their boss to Inter. Hopefully they can continue where Jose’s staff left off.
Historically Moratti has never balked from spending any amount for the club. However, prudence has been the name of the game in these last few seasons. This season too after a historic treble, the rumoured budget is about 40m Euros plus any money generated from player sales. With Maicon and/or Balotelli being linked heavily to a big money transfer, this kitty could easily cross 100m Euros. With Inter already having the strongest squad in the peninsula, it might be the second season in a row where the squad is strengthened without incurring any expense.
1. Nicolas Burdisso: Returns after a fairly successful loan spell at Roma. He is expected to be sold off to Roma, who at the moment cannot afford the fee Inter are demanding (10m Euros)
2. Nelson Rivas: Returns after an uneventful season at Livorno. No future at Inter, should be shipped off to one of the newly promoted clubs either on loan or on outright sale.
3. Kerlon: The seal dribbler. Spent last season at Ajax having convinced nobody. Again no future at Inter, should be off to a Serie-b Club.
4. David Suazo: Returns from Genoa, where he failed to shine. His former club Cagliari are interested, and he should again go off
5. Victor Obinna: Returns from Malaga, should be sold
6. Amantino Mancini: A Curious case. Nobody wants him and he refuses to go, probably knowing that he cannot get the salary elsewhere. For everyone’s sake it’s better that he leaves.
In: Philippe Coutinho (Vasco da Gama), Jonathan Biabiany, Luca Castelazzi (Sampdoria)
Out: Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas), Luis Jimenez (Terana), Francesco Toldo (Retired)
18 year old Philippe Coutinho arrives with a reputation of being the most talented attacking midfielder to come out of Brazil since Kaka. He wanted to stay on for a year more on loan, but Inter insisted on his being available next season. Expect him to be a substitute for Sneijder for most parts.
Luca Castelazzi will be an understudy for Julio Cesar, now that Toldo has retired.
Jonathan Biabiany is an support striker and Inter youth product, who has been brought back with an eye to complete the 4 home grown spots mandated by UEFA for champions league.
Ricardo Quaresma ends his unsuccessful spell at Inter during which he won the dreaded Bidone d’Oro (Golden bin). He moves to Besiktas for a rumoured fee of 7.5m Euros. Hopefully he can fulfill his potential there
It is basically a free for all. Ever since Rafael Benitez has been announced as the new Inter Manager, almost half of Liverpool team is linked with a transfer to Inter; similarly half of Inter team has been linked to a transfer to Madrid. The biggest saga however is reserved for Maicon and Balotelli. The club is divided over letting the latter go. He is the best talent to have come out of the academy in over a decade, yet his attitude leave a lot to be desired. After his multiple altercations with the fans, maybe he will quit for the right amount.
Other big names linked with a transfer to Inter include Carlos Tevez and most of the German World cup Squad. Javier Mascherano has been making all the right noises about linking up again with Rafa.
Top wishful rumours Inter fans would like to see materialize:
Early resolution to Maicon / Balotelli Circus
Too many news items have been floating in the air for past month or so. A lot of it is completely rubbish and being stirred around by the agents; however, the news can be distracting to the club. The fans would want conclusion of the circus at the earliest.
While Balotelli is undoubtedly the best talent to have come out of Inter academy since a guy named Andrea Pirlo, his attitude leaves a lot to be desired. Last season he had one too many tiffs with the fans, and might find it hard to regain their affection. A move to either team of Manchester might suit all three parties. While Mancini was the one instrumental in giving the boy a break into the first team and remains a father figure to him, Sir Alex Fergusson’s reputation in taming wild talented youngsters (Read Rooney) remain unparalleled. It would be a loss to the game if Balotelli doesn’t realize his potential, so a move might be the only means to save him.
Maicon, on the other hand, has rightfully cemented his reputation as the best right-back in the world. Inter have a good alternative in Davide Santon, and at 29 it might be the best opportunity to cash in on him.
Possibility: High for both players
Sulley Muntari to Tottenham
He is a Premier league quality player, a red card magnet. Can’t make 3 passes without losing the ball. Spurs like him, especially Redknapp, who had coached him at Portsmouth. If the move materializes it will great for all the parties involved.
Signing of Andrea Ranochchia/ Next generation Azzurri players:
If there is one justified criticism of Inter squad, it has been the lack of Italian players, either home-grown or acquired. With UEFA rules demanding 8 players who are trained in association including 4 in-house, it makes perfect sense for Inter to sign up young Italians. In Leonardo Bonucci Inter had a player meeting both criteria, but were beaten in the race by Arch rivals Juventus.
Possibility: Ranochchia is rumoured to have already been signed. Medium probability for other youngsters.
Arrival of a (preferably left footed) winger:
If there was one noticeable flaw in Inter, it was the lack of genuine width option, with the fullbacks bombing forward to provide the width. With Maicon likely to leave, it would mean Inter will lose that option too. So it is pertinent that Inter sign a winger of quality. Unfortunately the two biggest names viz. David Silva and Angel Di Maria have both been snapped up. Juan Vargas would be an excellent acquisition if that happens.
Top rumours Inter fans would NOT like to materialize:
Esteban Cambiasso sold in part exchange for Javier Macherano:
By many means it is a Sun kind of rumour. However this is a real nightmarish scenario for any Inter fan to exchange the best defensive midfielder in the league for unproven (in the league) and brash red-card magnet.
Possibility: Minimal to zero. Mascherano might arrive, but Cambiasso leaving is ruled out.
Dirk Kuyt coming in:
He is another of the typical English league player. Absolutely rubbish first touch, poor vision and generally unintelligent footballer. Had it not been for his selflessness and his almost boundless stamina, he would be plying his trade for a lower mid-table or relegation fighting club.
Possibility: Rafael Benitez likes him. And he might still come in as the compromise solution.
Wesley Sneijder leaving for Manchester United:
At United he will be the perfect replacement for Paul Scholes. However at Inter, he is priceless. His presence was the reason why Europe was conquered.
Amantino Mancini staying put:
A bad dressing room influence and sky high wages, it would be better for everyone if he is left out. But nobody in Italy would touch him with a barge pole and he isn’t keen on moving out of Italy.