Three years ago in an eventful night in Madrid, Inter Milan went down in history as they beat a strong Bayern Munich side to land the Champions League title, going on to pick up both the Serie A title and Coppa Italia.
Led by Jose Mourinho, the team played an impressive tactical style of football that was cleverly adjusted in order to counter whatever opponents were before them. Inter’s line-up was littered with star talent and big names, with the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Maicon, Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito all representing the Italians.
They had the on-field talent, a superb manager and an expanding trophy cabinet. So why is it that the two most recent seasons in Serie A they have underperformed? Last year they only managed a dismal points total of 54, which saw them placed ninth in the table. Here we look at possible reasons for their recent demise.
The first point to examine is the managerial position. After the historic treble winning season in 2010, Jose Mourinho left the club, switching Inter for Real Madrid, feeling that he needed to undertake a new challenge elsewhere.
This was a blow for Inter, as it was his tactical genius that allowed them to topple Europe’s top clubs and he possessed an incredible ability to get the best out of a group of players.
Arriving in his place was Rafael Benitez, an appointment at the time that was well-looked upon given his track record. However, the Spaniards stay was extremely short-lived as just a few months into the job, he was sacked due to the club’s poor performance in Serie A.
To replace Benitez, Inter brought in Leonardo, a hugely controversial appointment considering the Brazilian’s history with fierce rivals AC Milan, both as player and coach.
Leonardo had stepped down as AC Milan’s manager at the end of the previous season, but it didn’t take long for him to get back in the dugout at the San Siro. With a new manager, Inter’s performances vastly improved, as they set point-gaining records in Serie A.
Things were also looking up on the continent too, as once again they beat Bayern in the Champions League, this time the Round of 16, to book themselves a quarter-final place.
However, this is where things started to go downhill, as after a series of poor results in the league their title ambitions were over. This, coupled with losing out to Schalke in Europe, marked an overall disappointing season, in spite of the fact they managed to retain the Coppa Italia. Leonardo resigned soon after, meaning the club were once again on a managerial hunt.
The managerial revolving-door continued at the club. Since Leonardo, a further four men have coached Inter, among them Claudio Ranieri, and current boss ex-Napoli coach Walter Mazzari.
The instability at the club was evident in their on-field performances, as they failed to recapture the brilliance of the treble season over the course of the past two years.
One only needs to look to the likes of Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson as proof of continuing faith in a manager is in the long-term better for a football club.
Players often become unsettled having to adapt to new coaching styles, especially when four or five coaches come and go over the course of a few years.
The managerial turnover at Inter can certainly be seen as a reason why they have not been up to the mark in recent years.
Whilst having managerial stability at a club is of great importance, the success of a football club ultimately boils down to what they can do on the pitch during 90 minutes.
Inter boasts a history of footballing legends, with the likes of Ronaldo, Javier Zanetti and Giuseppe Bergomi, but does their current crop of players possess the necessary talent to help Inter once again challenge for trophies at home and abroad?
The current Inter squad has a huge wealth of experience, provided by the likes of Zanetti, Cambiasso, Samuel and Milito. Whilst the knowhow that such players possess can be invaluable to a squad, they still need to be able to play at a certain level to warrant a first team place, and this seems to be where the problem arises. Whilst being world-beaters in their day, it can be said that Zanetti and co. are past their prime, no longer being able to reproduce performances they were once capable of in the past.
Recently the club has taken to signing younger players in an attempt to gradually phase out the mature players whilst still being competitive. Inter do have a healthy crop of young talents at their disposal, but whether or not they ready pull on the famous blue-and-black jersey is another question.
Some of the players they have turned to and relied on are questionable, such as Schelotto, an Italian winger whom they signed this January from Atalanta. Whilst possessing a good footballing talent, his critics say he is simply not up to the standard required to play for Inter, and it seems the club agrees as a move away from the San Siro after just half a season filled with lack-lustre performances.
Elsewhere, Inter have failed to keep a hold of their better players, with the Dutch playmaker Sneidjer being shipped off to Galatasary, and Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto’o swapping glitzy Milan for the slightly less glamorous mega-rich Anzhi Makhachkala.
Coutinho, the Brazilian youngster currently at Liverpool was also allowed to leave, and his form since arriving at Anfield has caused a sense of regret in letting him go. Inter however have made attempts to strengthen their current squad thus far during the transfer window, with the biggest arrival being that of Hugo Campagnaro on a free from Napoli.
However, with the club unable to offer European football, attracting big-name talents to Milan is not as easy as it once was.
Inter are undoubtedly not at the level that used to be under Mourinho, lacking real strength that allows them to compete against elite competition.
They need to put their utmost faith in Mazzari that he is the man to lead them back to the top. Investing money into the squad also seems necessary, as it is not currently at the level of Inter’s main competitors.
Patience is key as rebuilding may take a season or two, but if they believe in their Mazarri and his players they will start to markable improvements. Inter can only hope that their poor performances in recent years are now behind them, and that they will not persist into the future for one of the world’s most famous clubs.
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