It’s like waiting for a bus. You know it is coming, it will be here any minute and yet it is not here. You check your watch and have another look before reassuring yourself it will be along any time now…very soon…just a little longer and then it’ll be here…
Reflecting on that opening gambit, it does seem a little harsh, not to mention discrediting, to compare Inter winning a fourth consecutive Scudetto, to waiting for a bus, but considering Jose Mourinho is fond of using strange bus analogies, we’ll carry on. Anyhow, that’s probably how the Interisti feel at the moment, being forced to wait at least another week until their side are once again crowned Serie A champions. A Nerazzurri victory over Chievo in Week 35, along with a Juventus defeat of Milan would have sealed the deal, but with both games ending in draws, the gap remains at seven points, and the champagne remains on ice.
Twice Inter took the lead against the Flying Donkeys, twice pegged back. Hernan Crespo’s opportunistic strike after three minutes was cancelled out by Michele Marcolini’s crisp drive, before Mario Balotelli gave another indication of his prowess by thumping a sweet volley into the top corner to restore il Biscione’s lead. Uncharacteristically poor marking allowed Luciano to equalise again for Ceo to take a share of the spoils, and ease their own relegation fears. Inter travelled to Verona without Capocannoniere Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but will have been pleased at the way Mario Balotelli once again stepped into the breach, his clinically executed volley at the Stadio Bentegodi was his seventh goal in only 13 starts this season. Not even 19 until August, Balotelli’s output in his first full season has been impressive with goals in key games against Roma and Juve. What is equally impressive is Balotelli’s conduct in the face of continued racial abuse, most notably at the Stadio Olimpico di Torino, and again during the Chievo game.
Balotelli’s attributes are immediate on the eye. Like most modern forwards he has a combination of pace and power aligned with a fleet of foot that make him difficult to stop. Two-footed and with a good footballing brain, it is easy to see why he has attracted so much admiration. Balotelli has benefited from Adriano’s departure, and Mourinho’s faith in his young tyro has seen him regularly picked ahead of Crespo and Julio Cruz. Next season will be an interesting proposition for the Azzurrini forward, where attention and expectation will be increased. As well as seven goals this term, Super Mario has contrived to pick up seven bookings, not bad going for a striker who’s started thirteen games, whilst there have also been questions raised about his work-ethic in training.
Earlier this season, Mourinho criticised Balotelli’s effort in training claiming: “If Balotelli trained at just 50 per-cent he would be one of the best in the world, however, Balotelli doesn’t even train at 25 per-cent.” A potentially frightening thought for Serie A defences, all the more frightening is that an 18-year-old should show such disdain for honing his skills, especially at the champions of Italy and under supervision of one of the most respected Coaches in world football. With a sketchy disciplinary record, and a lax attitude in training, Balotelli could well do with being reminded that there is a fine line between the have’s and the have-not’s, those who do and those who don’t, and young talented footballers with the world at your feet can easily end up with their heads in their hands. Just ask Adriano.
Talking of whom, ‘The Emperor’ has signed for Brazilian side Flamengo just weeks after claiming he wanted a break from football ‘for two or three months.’ Having had his contract terminated by la Beneamata, Adriano said; “I have come back to Brazil to find happiness again. I am back home where I grew up and there is nothing better than being here amongst friends and family.”
The Adriano void at Inter could well be filled this summer by a Brazilian called…Adriano. Adriano Correia to be precise, and if we are to believe a combination of the Sevilla player’s agent and Spanish newspaper Marca, he could well be on his way to the San Siro: “I spoke to my agent on Wednesday and we agreed to talk about things at the end of the season. I was pleased to hear about the interest from Inter.”
Also pedalling interest from Inter was the agent of Roma midfielder Matteo Brighi: “Obviously knowing he is appreciated by such an important club as Inter makes him honoured and very pleased. Matteo’s season has seen his reputation grow and among the Italian midfielders out there right now he is among the most complete, as he can push forward and has great timing on counter-attacks.”
Completing what would be a heavily congested midfield following the arrivals of Brighi and Adriano, are Cesc Fabregas and John Obi Mikel for a combined sum of approaching £60m, although a more viable recruit from Stamford Bridge could be Didier Drogba, with the Nerazzurri certain to bolster their attacking ranks, and Roman Abramovich said to have had enough of the Ivorian’s antics.
This weekend sees Inter host Siena knowing a victory in front of their home support will finally confirm their status as champions. The Giuseppe Meazza will be packed to capacity to see if Mourinho’s men can get the points to record their 17th Scudetto, equalling the number of city rivals Milan. The Rossoneri play Udinese 24 hours earlier, with the unpalatable thought that defeat at the Stadio Friuli would hand the title to their old foes. Both Coach Carlo Ancelotti and President Silvio Berlusconi have this week begrudgingly conceded that Inter are worthy Champions, with Berlusconi admitting il Biscione ‘deserve’ the Scudetto whilst a resigned Ancelotti added: “I don’t know whether the best team won even if they were the most consistent.”
Heaping praise on Inter is one thing, handing them their trophy is another. Either way, here comes the bus, open topped, open for celebration, and ready for the opened champagne.