It’s been a rollercoaster season for Inter and their fans. After a glorious winning cycle that saw the club claim 15 titles (5 Scudetti, 4 Coppe Italia, 4 Supercoppe Italiane, a Champions League and a Clubs World Cup), the club is set to finish the season empty handed for the first time in 7 years .
Back in the summer of 2011, Brazilian coach Leonardo decided to leave the club unexpectedly after receiving a lucrative offer from French giants PSG when he only was in charge for 6 months. The club, who have already appointed the former Milan midfielder, after sacking José Mourinho’s replacement Rafael Benítez, found itself looking for another man to lead the ‘World Champions’ at the time. After a month or so of painful search that saw them being linked to the likes of Fabio Capello, Siniša Mihajlović, Marcelo Bielsa, and Luciano Spalletti, the club finally decided to go with former Juventus Primavera and Genoa coach Gian Piero Gasperini, and this is where the disastrous journey started.
Gasperini was well known in Italy for playing the 3-4-3 formation, a setup that requires his team to keep ball possession and run tirelessly for the full 90 minutes. Moreover, his teams were known to be poor defensively. He took over an aging side and wasn’t given any of the players he asked for, especially his trusted Genoa players Argentinian forward Rodrigo Palacio and Slovakian midfielder Juraj Kucka. Instead of that and contrary to what the club has promised him, Samuel Eto’o was sold to Russian outfit Anzhi and Wesley Sneijder who was linked with a move away from Milano all summer long was kept. In summary, Gasperini was anything but what Inter needed.
However, it wasn’t all his fault as the Club’s President and Owner Massimo Moratti wanted to imply recently after the sacking his replacement Claudio Ranieri. If anything, it was the Club and its Directors who chose”Gasperson” although they knew well beforehand what type of football he plays and what kind of players he needed to make it work. It’s the lack of planning and direction which are Inter’s real problems. Most of the Nerazzurri faithful knew that Claudio Ranieri was brought to ‘save’ the club from the unknown but that he wasn’t a long term solution.
The ‘Tinkerman’ did fairly well to steer the club out of the relegation zone and brought them to within 6 points of the Serie A’s league leaders when Inter won ‘Derby della Madonnina’ after beating arch rivals Milan 1-0 (away). Things were looking good again and the fans started to believe, until another key moment in Inter’s season occurred: the sale of Thiago Motta. The Italo-Brazilian who was a key member of the ‘tripletta’ team was also the ‘heart’ of Ranieri’s side. He couldn’t resist the temptation of experiencing a new challenge and moved to PSG on the very last day of the January transfer Mercato. The club, in their defense, had no choice but to sell ‘Thiagone’ as they would’ve lost the opportunity of cashing on him since he only had one & a half years left on his contract.
With him leaving, the team lost its balance and the club went into one of its worst negative streaks ever and eventually Ranieri lost his job after the defeat against the ‘old enemy’ Juventus.Ranieri’s sacking was always on the cards since the club started that negative run of results back in February and it was only a matter of time. The team reached a new low at the time of writing this article, they’re currently 8th in the table with 41 points from 29 matches: 10 points behind 3rd placed Lazio in the race for Champions League qualification for next season & a massive 22 points behind league leaders and arch rivals Milan.
In the midst of all the misery though, came the triumph of the Primavera side in Europe. The Inter under 19’s Primavera side, which includes exciting prospects such as Daniel Bessa, Samuele Longo, Joseph Alfred Duncan, and team captain Simone Picorini led by former Roma youth coach Andrea Stramaccioni have conquered Europe when they defeated Ajax in the final of the inaugural NextGen tournament (equivalent to the seniors Champions League).
The club, euphoric after that triumph which came only few hours before Inter’s latest defeat against Juventus in Serie A, decided that ‘Stramala’ was the right man to bring back enthusiasm and restore pride. Stramaccioni became the 18th coach in Massimo Moratti’s era that started back in 1995. Many would say that the appointment of Stramaccioni was a ‘rash decision’ and many others see him as only a ‘caretaker’ until the end of the season.
Personally, I feel that someone like ‘Stramala’ is what the club has needed for a long time. Although his appointment is a result of ‘chance’ rather than proper planning and direction, one would hope that this young coach will impress in the remaining 9 matches this season just to be confirmed for next season. The club needs to rebuild the team from scratch for next season, but it’s not feasible nor necessary to do so by doing the usual business of ‘buying success’.
Inter has a crop of young promising players within the first team as well as the Primavera. Come the time when the club must exploit that great potential and lay off the legendary ‘old guard’. Given enough time and the healthy environment, the club can start a project that focuses on youth and long term planning and the man they we affectionately call ‘Stramala’ has the credentials and the ability to be in the middle of such project.