2008/09 – With Milan and Juventus still reeling in the wake of Calciopoli scandal, Inter were the favorites to win the Scudetto for a fourth consecutive time. They duly obliged and conquered the league without a single hiccup. As it became clear that it would be a two-horse race between Inter and Juventus, the Nerazzurri completely overpowered Juventus at the San Siro and showed why they are far ahead of their Turin rivals. However, Inter’s Champions’ League performance was far from satisfactory. They were eliminated in the knockout stage for a third consecutive year by a far stronger Manchester United side. Overall, the season could be termed as disappointing due to no improvement over the previous one.
2009/10 – It is expected that Inter’s focus this season is primarily on the Champions’ League, in spite of coy declaration from Mourinho that Inter have 10% chance of winning the competition. The main discussion point is that the loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be difficult to cope with. But with Samuel Eto’o replacing him, they have a proven goal-scorer who can deliver on the big stage. The strike-force of Diego Milito and Eto’o is very potent, the Nerazzurri are still in the market for a creative midfielder who can provide service from behind the front two. Victor Obinna, Nelson Rivas, and David Suazo, are surplus to Inter’s requirements and their departures are expected, whilst Amantino Mancini was also expected to move on but featured quite regularly in pre season.
Transfer campaign – One of the biggest transfer sagas in this summer came to end when star striker Ibrahimovic was signed by Barcelona for a massive fee. The offer of Eto’o plus cash was too good to refuse. Considering that Eto’o is only a year older than Ibrahimovic, it was an excellent move. Brazilian defender Lucio will reinforce the steel-like Inter defence and his addition leaves the door open for the departures of Nelson Rivas and Nicolas Burdisso. Marko Arnautovic has been brought in for his similarity to Ibrahimovic – not only with respect to physical build, but also playing style. Thiago Motta will also reinforce the already strong midfield, and Ricardo Quaresma is expected to stay as Jose Mourinho has promised to give him another chance this season. However, Inter desperately need a playmaker and are linked with a host of them including Deco, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael Van der Vaart.
Samuel Eto’o – Barcelona – Included in deal for Ibrahimovic
Lucio – Bayern Munich – €5m
Diego Milito – Genoa – €22m
Thiago Motta – Genoa – €18m
Marko Arnautovic – FC Twente – Loan
Ricardo Quaresma – Chelsea – End of Loan
David Suazo – Benfica – End of Loan
Kerlon – Chievo – Free
Denis Alibec – Farul Costanza – €500,000
Robert Acquafresca – Genoa – Included in deal for Milito
Ivan Fatic – Chievo – Co-ownership Resolution
Ibrahim Maaroufi – Vicenza – Co-ownership Resolution
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Barcelona – €45m + Eto’o
Maxwell – Barcelona – €4.5m
Hernan Crespo – Genoa – Free
Julio Cruz – Lazio – Free
Olivier Dacourt – End of Contract
Adriano – Released
Luis Figo – Retired
Jonathan Biabiany – Parma – Loan
Albergo Gerbo – Ancona – Loan
Luca Siligardi – Triestina – Loan
Attila Filkor – Sassuolo – Loan
Simone Fautario – Grosseto – Co-ownership Resolution
Daniele Pedrelli – Cesena – Loan
Paolo Tornaghi – Rimini – Co-ownership Resolution
Aiman Napoli – Modena – Loan
Enrico Alfonso – Modena – Loan
Cristian Daminuta – Modena – Loan
Jean Mbida – Como – Loan
Dennis Esposito – Monza – Loan
Daniele Marino – Melfi – Co-ownership Resolution
Andrea Mei – Crotone – Loan
Luis Jimenez – West Ham United – Loan
Francesco Bolzoni – Genoa – Included in Thiago Motta Deal
Leonardo Bonucci – Genoa – Included in Thiago Motta Deal
Riccardo Meggiorini – Genoa – Included in Thiago Motta Deal
Robert Acquafresca – Genoa – Included in Diego Milito Deal
Ivan Fatic – Chievo – Co-ownership Resolution
Ibrahim Maaroufi – Vicenza – Co-ownership Resolution
First XI – New signing Lucio is expected to partner Walter Samuel as the first choice pairing, with Ivan Cordoba and Cristian Chivu rotating between them in the center. Teenage sensation Davide Santon will also fight for the full-back position on the opposite flank to right-back mainstay Douglas Maicon. The young Italian could take up the left-back slot and shift Chivu in the center. Further forward, Esteban Cambiasso is the classic holding midfielder who pulls strings from behind, while the first choice forwards will be Eto’o and Milito without a doubt. Quaresma could replace veteran Javier Zanetti on the right flank, and Stankovic could act as an attacking midfielder, or he could fit on the left flank in a classic 4-4-2. If Inter get their creative midfielder, he will replace Stankovic behind the front two.
13 Maicon – 25 Samuel – 6 Lucio- 26 Chivu
4 Zanetti – 19 Cambiasso – 8 Motta
9 Eto’o – 22 Milito
The Coach – Mourinho is not the long-term Coach who will build a team. He will not invest in youth players as is amply illustrated by his latest transfers. Eto’o and Milito are 28 and 30, respectively. Motta is 26 and Lucio is 31. Give him a readymade team and Mourinho will make the best out of it. He will, however, give chance to talented Davide Santon and explosive Mario Balotelli. Mourinho has already achieved tremendous success in Portugal and England. After achieving success in Italy, he can move to Spain, win trophies over there, go back to Portugal, maybe coach the national team and cement his place in history as one of the greatest coaches of all time. For this, he needs to win the Champions League with an Italian club and will try his level best to do so. Considering that there were rumors surrounding his future at Inter just after a year in charge, not many would be surprised if he leaves after another campaign, successful or not.
Team/reliable player – Esteban Cambiasso, without a doubt, is the unsung hero of the team. Quiet off the pitch and hardworking on it, he is the engine room of the Nerazzurri machine. He is deployed in the classic holding midfielder position, but can play anywhere on the pitch and often holds the midfield on his own. Very few in the world can match his tactical astuteness and sense of positioning on the pitch. He can make the life of any trequartista difficult whilst also initiating attacks, and can even be deployed in central defence when called upon. With 47 games played in last season (in which he got only one yellow card), he is Inter’s team/reliable player of the year. It remains to be seen how well they will cope without him early in the season following his recent knee injury sustained in the Trofeo TIM against title rivals Juventus.
Creative force – It is well-known that Inter are lacking in this department and Mourinho is in the hunt for a playmaker. The arrival of Roberto Mancini and Quaresma was supposed to alleviate this problem but they flopped big time last season. In this scenario Dejan Stankovic, who nearly got transferred last season, provided the attacking threat. His style of play is devoid of thrills and frills, but his direct style of offence is what makes him effective. His runs into the penalty area and long-range shots created lots of problems for the opposition. However, If Inter do manage to buy the creative midfielder they crave, it will signal the end of first-team place for Stankovic.
Youth prospect – With Maxwell sold to Barcelona, the left-back position at Inter is up for grabs. Normally, Christian Chivu would have slotted in at that position. However, the emergence of Inter’s youth product Davide Santon could very well see him take over at the left-back position permanently. Normally Santon plays at right-back but is hugely effective on both flanks, which can be seen, as at only the age of 18, he is already being compared to the legendary Paolo Maldini. He has the necessary talent, grace and agility to succeed at the highest level and has already proved himself with remarkable performances in the Milan Derby and Champions’ League tie against Manchester United.
The fixtures – It is expected that Juventus will be Inter’s main challengers for the Scudetto, so both the Juventus fixtures will be crucial for Inter. Notably, if Inter don’t qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League in the first five group matches – something they struggled to do last season – the sixth match is two or three days away from their visit to Stadio Olimpico di Torino on Dec 6, 2009. Furthermore, Starting from mid-February to early March, Inter face a consecutive run of tricky matches against Napoli, Sampdoria, Udinese and Genoa. These matches will be sandwiched in between the knockout stages of the Champions League. In April, Inter face a string of difficult ties against Fiorentina, Juventus, Atalanta and Lazio.
Dec 06, 2009 – Juventus-Inter (just before UCL Group Stage Matchday 6)
Nov 29, 2009 – Inter-Fiorentina (just after UCL Group Stage Matchday 5)
Jan 24, 2010 – Inter-Milan
Apr 11, 2010 – Fiorentina-Inter (just after UCL Quarter-Final Second Leg)
Apr 18, 2010 – Inter-Juventus
May 02, 2010 – Lazio-Inter
Home grown players – Inter have received a lot of criticism for not developing and playing Italian players. Out of their 31 first team players, only 6 are Italians, and no one apart from Santon and Balotelli have a chance of making it to the first squad. Which means only 19.35% of their first team players are homegrown. If Michel Platini and Co. decide to hasten the application of 6+5 rule, Inter will be in real trouble. However, Inter have invested significantly in their youth system over last five years or so in order to cut down costs.
Predictions – The departure of Ibrahimovic is a huge loss for Inter. His ability to create something out of nothing and win all three points in a game otherwise headed for a draw will be sorely missed. Although Eto’o himself is a top-class goal scorer, he could take time to settle into the slower and more tactical Serie A. Furthermore, though Eto’o and Milito have the potential to forge a fearsome striking partnership, they cannot score goals on their own and need quality service from the midfield. As of now, there is no creative player in Inter who can run at the defenders, dribble around them and find that perfect pass for the forwards to finish. If they do not find one before the transfer window closes, Inter will perhaps have a real chance of losing the title to Juventus, as the Bianconeri have considerably strengthened their squad over last year. On the basis of the current squad, they’ll finish second in the league and will not get beyond the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Prediction – 2nd