The special one needs a special delivery at Inter
With four consecutive Scudetti to their name, it would be easy to assume that Inter Milan President Massimo Morratti sleeps soundly at night.
But no, his club’s continuing failure in Europe’s premier competition remains a huge bone of contention. Charismatic Coach Jose Mourinho has just one brief for the upcoming campaign, to deliver the Champions League at all costs.
At the start of the last season, a huge wave of optimism swept through the corridors of power at Via Durini. The self proclaimed special one had arrived to try to bring the Holy Grail to a club starved of success in the competition since 1965.
President Morratti had little to fear domestically as the Nerazzurri were on paper, overwhelming favourites to retain the Serie A title for a fourth consecutive year. Jose Mourinho brought with him an impressive CV that boasted honours at the highest level, including a Champions League victory with Porto in 2004, domestic success in England with Chelsea where he broke the strangle hold on the Premier League by Manchester United and Arsenal. Finally, had Morratti got his man?
Domestically, the season went pretty much to plan as Inter sat comfortably on top of Serie A. They had also reached the last 16 of the Champions League. Mourinho’s priority was progression to the quarter final stage.
Standing in his way was old sparring partner Sir Alex Ferguson and his all conquering Manchester United team. The first leg at the San Siro finished goalless with United clearly the dominant team. In the return at Old Trafford, an early strike from Nemanja Vidic followed by a Cristiano Ronaldo header just after half time sealed Inter’s fate.
Yet again, the Italians were left to lick their wounds as another campaign in Europe ended prematurely. Mourinho was brutally honest in his assessment and realised his squad was just not strong enough. To make an assault for Europe’s top prize, reinforcements would be necessary.
Immediately he targeted two players to strengthen his side, Diego Milito, the brilliant centre forward from Genoa and his teammate, the combative midfielder Thiago Motta. President Morratti is nothing if not generous and a deal was done for both with a combined transfer total of 40 million Euros. They both arrived in Milan on July 1. As part of the deal, four of Inter’s primavera (youth team) players went in the opposite direction. Milito is an inspired signing, 24 goals last season for Genoa gave him the runners up spot in the goal scoring charts, one behind his new club mate, the irrepressible Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
With Hernan Crespo now also on his way to Genoa, Julio Cruz deemed surplus to requirements and Adriano back home in Brazil, the forthcoming campaign will start with a new look Nerazzurri having one of Europe’s most exciting strike forces. The time has come for Ibrahimovic to deliver on the biggest stage, domestically, his ability is beyond compare but in Europe he has failed to live up to his formidable reputation. With Milito alongside him, can the big Swede hit the heights we know he is capable of?
It is invariably in midfield where games are won and lost and with Thiago Motta playing as part of a midfield trident with Argentina’s Esteban Cambiasso and club stalwart Javier Zanetti, Inter have the strength to stamp their authority on any match. Serbia’s temperamental Dejan Stankovic will play just behind the strikers, playing the “fantasista” role.
Having one of the worlds best goalkeepers in Julio Cesar is the foundation on which to build any successful back line, but Mourinho delivered a masterstroke in the second part of last season, bringing in the 18 year old full back Davide Santon from the Primavera side. Questions were asked but the youngster has repaid his coach’s faith by producing some outstanding displays. This versatile defender is comfortable at both left and right back, his potential is huge. If Santon is the future then Douglas Maicon is certainly the present, arguably the best right back in world football. He is the complete footballer, pace, power, fantastic in the air with an explosive right foot shot. As many clubs around Europe try to prize him away from the San Siro, Mourinho knows only too well his value to the team.
With Uruguayan hard man Ivan Cordoba and Romania’s Christian Chivu completing the defensive line up, the signs are promising for next season. Mourinho is an intelligent coach; it has taken him time to settle in to the hot seat at Inter. He has now stamped his authority on the club, upsetting many observers along the way. If success is going to be achieved then the “Special One” is going to do it his way.
It is a sad indication of the decline of football in the peninsula that a team so dominant in its domestic championship can fall so woefully short on the European stage, but with Mourinho putting the final pieces in place, maybe its time for Morratti to rest that little more easily.