Club Focus – Inter – The curious case of Rafael Benitez, is it a matter of if or when?

After only twelve games in the Serie A season Inter’s treble-winning side of last year lie fifth in the table and six points adrift of arch rivals Milan. Rafael Benitez’s position as head coach seems as secure as Balotelli’s Manchester City future and now mixed messages are coming from the Inter camp.

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Inter’s season has been a let down so far to say the least, good performances against Bari, Werder Bremen and one half of the Tottenham game and the Meazza have been the only time Inter have played anywhere near their full potential. This is set against a back drop of disasters that started with a terrible performance against Atletico Madrid in the European Super Cup, this was followed with a poor 0-0 draw with Bologna on the opening day, a 1-0 defeat to Roma in the Stadio Olimpico, two poor draws against Brescia and Lecce and of course the embarrassment of the 1-0 defeat in the Milanese derby. The Nerazzurri’s European form has also been poor – a draw at FC Twente was followed by an implosion against Tottenham in the second half at the Giuseppe Meazza. Things only got worse in London as Inter suffered their most humiliating defeat in recent years as they were well beaten by Tottenham. It is true there have been injuries but, as has been publicised by so much of the Italian and International media, Rafael Benitez is quite simply looking like a man who is out of his depth.
Italian football is always interesting when it comes to disposing of managers as it is certainly a subject that creates drama, shocks and endless narrative all concluding in the inevitable that everyone already knew in the first place. It seems that once the dye is cast then not many escape the eventual indignity of being stripped of their position.
Benitez’s situation looks like it maybe heading in the same direction, his tactics, man management, training methods and infuriating indecisiveness have accumulated in the Italian press screaming for his expulsion from the position. Even his chairman is making noises that sound like he may agree with them. After the Milan derby Massimo Moratti stated “I didn’t like anything. One can understand losing a derby, but this time I didn’t like the approach or the aftermath.”
This comment among others saw various high profile names being linked to the “vacancy to be”, these included Carlos Dunga, Leonardo, Frank Rijkaard and Giovanni Trapattoni. However, nothing in Calcio is ever this straight forward and Moratti himself would no doubt find it hard to hold his hands up and say that he made a mistake so soon after the appointment. Instead the drama is starting to unfold with confused and masked messages emerging.
La Gazzetta dello Sports headline “Benitez hangs by a thread” was shown by journalists to Moratti, he replied “There isn’t any traumatic decision,” this before he had an emergency meeting at Inter’s training facility. However, later that day and reports were out that after lunch with Inter’s director Marco Branca, there would be talks with Benitez and then a final meeting between Branca and Moratti supposedly signalling the end of the Spaniard’s tenure at the club. Incredibly Moratti came to talk to journalists again after this meeting and again showed faith in his coach stating that “I believe that is an invention of you journalists, I read it on the papers. There is no kind of traumatising decision, in any way whatsoever. The project we chose goes on, and there is total faith in Benitez, as I already said the other day. This doesn’t deny the fact that I am annoyed after a game like the one on Sunday, but it doesn’t change the club plans in any way whatsoever.”
Benitez will take charge of Inter’s next game against Chievo although this was never really in doubt, it seems that the Spaniard has been told that things must improve and quickly and any more slip ups will see his position become dangerously untenable. Disputes between Moratti and Benitez over the need to strengthen in January are also causing a rift and it is highly unlikely he will be given money to spend if results do not improve.
The writing seems like it is already on the wall for Rafael Benitez as he is sailing dangerously close to the rocks, games have become must win from now until the winter break and with the fixture list throwing up games against Chievo, FC Twente, Parma, Lazio, Werder Bremen and Fiorentina. The future does not look bright especially with new reports emerging that Benitez has two games to save himself. It is worth remembering that Roberto Mancini was told that winning the league was not enough and Europe was the goal, failure to win the league at the end of the season will surely see a job vacancy sign on the door of the Giuseppe Meazza.
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