As things turned out, it was actually a fairly comfortable victory for Inter over Rubin Kazan to send them through in the Champions League. The only problem now, because they finished second in the group, is that they may well have to face Manchester United, Arsenal, Real Madrid or Chelsea, with the ‘soft’ options being Sevilla or Bordeaux – two teams in excellent form. Nerazzurri fans will surely be watching the draw for the knockout round next week whilst sending up a quiet prayer.
The positive side of Wednesday was that Inter finally beat someone in Europe without looking like they were always a moment away from capitulation. The goal by Samuel Eto’o – who hit his shot with unbelievable power – was just reward for a determined and attacking side that went out with the intention of trying to win the game, as opposed to waiting for their opponents to make a mistake. Whatever José Mourinho said to his team before this match clearly had the desired effect, lifting a team that had every reason to fear the worst going into the game.
Unfortunately, the strain of the current campaign seems to be getting to Mourinho. After the match he took the opportunity for yet another attack on the media, accusing them of being biased against his side. José has always been very good at creating a siege mentality with his teams, just as he did at Chelsea, enhancing squad unity, but lately he seems to be lashing out all the time. We know he is a man who does not like criticism, but one has to wonder if he is beginning to regret his decision to manage the Nerazzurri. If another big team comes in for him in the summer, will he really want to stay in Milan where he is making it increasingly clear that he is unhappy?
The ‘Special One’ has also embroiled himself in a war of words with Inter legend Sandro Mazzola. It began earlier this week with Mazzola’s suggestion that Mourinho may well be fired should his side exit the Champions league. Mourinho, as ever, was unable to ignore the comments and hit back, saying: “Mazzola? He doesn’t pay my wages and doesn’t sign the cheques. What does he do for Inter? Will he decide if I leave in June?” These words also elicited a response, only strengthening the belief that football is just like a children’s playground, with Mazzola telling the current Inter Coach to waste less time with him and concentrate on beating Rubin Kazan. Even though the talisman of ‘la Grande Inter’ says he considers the argument to now be over, it would be unlike Mourinho to let someone else have the last word.
Mazzola also had words to say about Mario Balotelli, suggesting that the striker could be a future leader of the Nerazzurri. Whilst Super Mario did score a very good free-kick against Rubin Kazan, it is probably not a good idea to put suggestions into his head, because he is unpredictable enough that he may well be demanding the captaincy from Javier Zanetti next week. On the positive side, Balotelli played very well on Wednesday – despite missing a few chances – but showed that if Inter can persevere with him they are going to have a very good player on their hands.
With not long to go before the winter break it looks as if Inter are certain to be crowned winter champions, and have to be very pleased with the way things seem to be going at the moment. Juventus have a tricky away trip to Bari on Saturday night and, Milan host Palermo whilst Inter travel the short distance to face Atalanta. All the Nerazzurri have to do is continue playing as they have done and let the other two sides worry about catching them. The most likely source of derailment for the team is off-pitch drama, of which they never seem to be short (and let’s face it, with Mourinho as your Coach, drama is never far away). But for the next few days at least, everything is happy with the Italian champions.
Inter Club Focus 2009/10
Another Scudetto for the Nerazzurri? – August 18, 2009
A stuttering start, and a Portuguese explosion – August 25, 2009
It’s derby time – August 28, 2009
A wonderful derby but the champions of Europe are waiting – September 1, 2009
All is well for la Beneamata – September 4, 2009
International week (Georgia-Italy, Italy-Bulgaria)
Friendlies, injuries and stolen boots… – September 7, 2009
Nerazzurri look to the future as Ibra looks back – September 11, 2009
Inter get a point, but that’s not the point – September 18, 2009
They never had a problem with ugly wins – September 22, 2009
Partenopei are beaten Black and Blue – September 25, 2009
Blucerchiati run rings round Inter – September 29, 2009
Champions League? You’re having a laugh – October 2, 2009
I’d rather be lucky than good – October 6, 2009
The international break – October 6, 2009
International Week (Republic of Ireland-Italy, Italy-Cyprus)
Transfer Talk – October 13, 2009
Back to Genova – October 16, 2009
The Puzzle continues – October 20, 2009
What next? – October 23, 2009
Papering over the cracks – October 27, 2009
The pressure is on as Inter almost throw it away against Palermo – October 30, 2009
Judgement day awaits – November 3, 2009
Just in time – November 6, 2009
A draw with Roma, but things look good – November 10, 2009
Back to the day job – November 20, 2009
A Messi situation – November 24, 2009
It was embarrassing – November 27, 2009
José gets ruffled – December 1, 2009
Derby d’Italia – December 4, 2009
It could be worse – December 8, 2009
Disaster averted – December 11, 2009