When Inter Milan axed Walter Mazzarri and opted to place their faith in returning hero Roberto Mancini, few envisaged the appointment of the former Manchester City manager would see their malaise descend into even more horror.
But now, with just mere months of the season left to make amends, Inter are a team on the ropes. Sunday’s shock defeat to Sassoulo has sent them spiralling towards the bottom half of the table, and despite shrewd January investment their time in the wilderness is showing no signs of ending.
The responsibility lies with Mancini who must now rally his troupes ahead of the crunch months of the campaign. Failure to do so could see him leave the San Siro for a second time, and deem him just as big a failure as the man who preceded him.
When the news broke on a cold November afternoon that Mancini would be returning to the club, many had high hopes that they would soon accelerate up the table and challenge for the third and final Champions League slot.
His first spell at the club was one laden with silverware and, though Jose Mourinho would ultimately lead them to the treble in 2010 two years after succeeding the Italian, he was the one who laid the foundations in which the Portuguese would eventually build.
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The 50-year-old led them to three consecutive league titles, and also managed to coax the best from the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Patrick Viera who moved to the club in the aftermath of the match-fixing scandal of 2006 that rocked the country and saw Juventus relegated to Serie B as a result.
Mancini is running out of excuses at Inter, particularly given the signings he has brought to the club this month.
Lukas Podolski was the first, ending his miserable stint in north London with Arsenal to sign on loan until the end of the season. Despite being known as a somewhat troublesome character at club level, his experience on the international stage with Germany was expected to prompt a significant upturn in fortunes.
As was the arrival of Xherdan Shaqiri. A significant coup given the attentions of the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool, the news that he had left Bayern Munich for a new challenge in Serie A was met with much enthusiasm from the fans.
Yet still, despite their lavish spending, Inter are stuck in a rut. Missing out on European football altogether would be nothing short of a disaster and, with Juventus’ dominance showing no signs of waning, Mancini must turn things around to avoid the axe.
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