News regarding Inter is beginning to take on a rather familiar theme. On home soil, although far from perfect, things are pretty much going according to plan. An impressive 5-0 humbling of Genoa at the weekend kept the Nerazzurri safely sat in their resident top spot on the Serie A ladder. Unfortunately, ventures on the European scene are far from cosy, a 2-2 draw with Dynamo Kiev at the San Siro on Tuesday means la Beneamata are faced with the all-too-real prospect of failing to qualify from their Champions League group.
Although Rubin Kazan’s shock victory in the Camp Nou has congealed Group F together, Inter’s fixtures don’t fall too kind. A trip into the frosty perils of Kiev is next up, before facing Barca on their usually impenetrable home patch. A run of eight Champions League games without a win must be halted immediately if Inter are to be involved in the competition in the New Year. Perhaps the most baffling aspect of the struggles is that their position tells no lies. The performances of the team have not merited results greater than they have achieved, and this case stretches back over a year to the time they last recorded a win in the ‘Big Cup.’ For all of their domestic dominance, Jose Mourinho’s side are struggling to adapt to the challenges of facing the continent’s best teams. Group F is no stroll, but should prove ultimately manageable for a team of Inter’s ambition. Following the Kiev stumble, Inter legend Marco Tardelli spoke of his former side lacking the ‘DNA’ to play in Europe, and it is certainly a case that in European ties il Biscione lack the conviction of Italian champions.
By trying to dissect what’s gone wrong, there are no obvious signs as to why the transition is such an issue. The squad has been suitably bolstered to a level whereby President Massimo Moratti and the Interisti should expect a decent assault on the competition, or at the very least there should be signs of improvement and a sense of evolution towards a side capable of winning the Champions League. There haven’t been any great injury crises or refereeing injustices. Indeed the Special One has few excuses as to why his troops are performing so badly on an arena he was hired to excel in. The buck must stop with Mourinho, as a tactician and a motivator, to raise the team from its slumber, and resemble the powerhouse club it can be. Given his salary and reputation, Mourinho would be treading very thin ice should the worst happen. Since his 2004 success with Porto, he has enjoyed great resource both from Chelsea and Inter to replicate that achievement. Numerous failed attempts later, the ‘special’ tag is in danger of becoming myth, not legend.
Meanwhile, neighbour’s Milan’s mini resurgence has eased the pressure slightly on Coach Leonardo, although the upturn will have to be sustained for a good few weeks yet to dispel fears that the Rossoneri hot seat is a job too soon for the Brazilian. Some of the many on-field woes for il Diavolo has been about the woeful goals tally they’ve returned. Just six in eight league games has done little to take the pressure off a defence who remain creakier than an Ikea book-shelf. Good news then that Alexandre Pato has kicked into gear, scoring the decisive goal against Roma, and adding another two at the Bernabeu. Since arriving at the San Siro, Pato averages just under a goal every two games – a healthy return for a recently turned 20-year-old, who’s been used off the bench and had to acclimatise to a new league. With Ronaldinho erratic and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar struggling, Leonardo will be looking to his young countryman to show what all the hype is about.
It has been reported that Luciano Spalletti has politely declined the vacant Coach’s position at Atletico Madrid. Spalletti, 50, has been out of work since quitting Roma in the summer, and decided against taking over from Abel Resino, who picked up his P45 as a result of Atletico’s awful start to the campaign. With the notorious Gil family still having heavy influence on the Atletico board, it is no surprise the job has arose 17 times in the last 19 years. Former Valencia tactician Quique Sanchez Flores has bravely stepped up to the slaughter.
Christian Vieri has this week announced he’s decided to hang up his boots. Vieri, now 36, has been without a club since terminating his contract with Atalanta in April, and says he is finished with football: “I no longer have the desire to play and I am not even tempted to move abroad.” Bobo terrified Serie A defences in the early part of the decade – his spell at Inter following his then world record transfer move from Lazio in 1999 saw him become the most prolific striker in Europe before injuries caught up with him. The physique of the gladiator has gone – now reminiscent of a Roman ruin. Vieri has joined the world poker tour and is still involved in a legal battle with former employers Inter over alleged tapping of his phones during his time at the Meazza.
News from the Peninsula
Week 6-7 –
Milanese managerial mess – September 27 – October 3
Week 7-International week (Rep. of Ireland vs. Italy, Italy vs. Cyprus) –
Cannavaro stung by doping claims – October 4 – October 10
International week (Rep. of Ireland vs. Italy, Italy vs. Cyprus)-Week 8 –
Lippy Marcello blasts the tifosi – October 11 – October 17
Inter-spective look at Mourinho’s European Nerazzurri – October 18 – October 24