Who is behind the crisis at Inter?
'Dear President, we asked for a strong man in the club... nothing. We asked for clarity... Nothing’. So said the words on a banner held in the Curva Nord by Inter fans. After a 2-2 draw with Catania extended their winless run to seven games and with the Nerazzurri laying 7th in Serie A, what has gone wrong at Italy’s second biggest club?
The word crisis is over-used in Calcio, often used when a big club draws a game or a coach loses two games in a row. But the word crisis can be used when one of the giants of the world game hasn’t won for seven matches, faces elimination from the Champions League and appears to lack direction so soon after conquering the world under in 2010. Things turned so sour in Sunday nights draw with Catania that fans jeered off Curva idol Esteban Cambiasso, reducing the Argentine to tears. So often the darling of Interisti, it seems no-one is immune from the fans wrath. Coach Claudio Ranieri has received criticism, but is he responsible for the current run, or has time caught up with an ageing squad not appropriately addressed in the most recent transfer windows? Sporting Director Marco Branca will have some serious questions to answer in the coming days and weeks.
The average age of Inter’s starting 11 against the Sicilians was 30.3 years old, an amazing number in the modern game. A quick glance down the 18 named in Ranieri’s squad highlights the lack of fresh blood coming through the side, but most importantly the younger players that are in the squad are seemingly not of an important club like Inter’s standard. Nagatomo is often caught out too high up the pitch, Faraoni may have potential but was anonymous in the first half, whilst Zarate is far from the player Lazio fans remembered when he first arrived in Italy. The fact that the veteran tactician asked youngsters Joel Obi and Andrea Poli to rescue Inter when they were 2-0 down aptly sums the situation up, neither player justifying such responsibility in past games.
After selling key players such as Samuel Eto’o in August and Thiago Motta in January, players of similar standard have not come back though the Nerazzurri gates. The fans frustrations are evident at home games, they want answers from the hierarchy, yet all they receive is president Massimo Moratti confirming his faith in Claudio Ranieri for another week at least. This January window saw just three arrivals, Palombo and Guarin on loan in midfield and Juan Jesus arriving permanently from Brazil. In the 2011 summer window, the outgoing Eto’o was replaced by Diego Forlan, hardly a like for like swap, whilst Ricky Alvarez cost around £10 million from Velez in Argentina, a fee he has yet to look like repaying. If Inter want to be back amongst the elite next season, Branca must use his money wisely.
As well as Marco Branca’s dealings in the transfer market, Moratti hasn’t covered himself in glory when choosing coaches this season. After trying and failing to convince Marcelo Bielsa amongst others to take the coaches job, the patron chose former Genoa coach Gian Piero Gasperini, despite the coach favouring a 3-4-3 formation that Inter simply didn’t have the players to utilise. Gasp was axed after four disastrous games culminating in a humiliating 3-1 defeat in Novara. Ranieri arrived and after a slow start reversed the decline and even beat leaders and rivals Milan 1-0. Since that derby win in January, Inter have crumbled. The Tinkerman leaving out Wesley Sneijder for the Catania game suggested a coach not in control and hoping to stumble across a solution. After the Dutchman arrived for the second half, Inter seemed more energetic and after equalising could have even won it at the end.
So where now for Inter? It’s almost certain that Ranieri won’t start on the bench next season, and the talk in Milano is an attempt to bring long-term target Pep Guardiola if the former Brescia and Roma man decided to leave Barcelona this summer. Both Moratti and Pep have flirted outrageously in recent years and would be a good match in theory, fallen giant with a coach who wants to prove himself with another side after perhaps creating the greatest team of all time at Barca. Coupled with some exciting signings from Branca, Guardiola would excite Inter fans and give them hope after a miserable two seasons.
For decades it has never been boring at Inter, although this latest chapter is something of a horror for Inter tifosi rather than a thriller. The Nerazzurri faithful must hope that the lead characters can stick to the script and turn Inter around to make the next part of the story a happier read.