Serie A: Leonardo quick to make his mark at Inter Milan

Leonardo has already proved he is the right man to take Inter forward, writes Ben Lyttleton

The Sport Review staff
By The Sport Review staff
inter milan

inter milan

There was a 13-point gap between Inter Milan and their city rivals at the top of the table when Inter president Massimo Moratti decided to sack Rafael Benítez and replace him with Leonardo just after the club had won the Club World Cup last December.

If losing Benítez was not a risk—he had alienated his players with his training methods and refused to acknowledge the success of his nemesis and predecessor, the treble-winning José Mourinho—the appointment of Leonardo was.

Not only did Leonardo have just one year’s worth of managerial experience but that was at Milan – where he had spent 13 years as a player, ambassador, director and then coach.

But Moratti was confident that Leonardo’s personality would fit at his club.

Inter’s players have responded to the Brazilian’s motivational skills and ball-based as opposed to gym-based training methods.

Inter won their first five games with the new man at the helm and, after Sunday night’s rip-roaring 5-3 win over ten-man Roma, have now reduced the gap to five points with a game in hand.

Reports emanating from the other side of the city suggest that Milan, who could only draw 1-1 with Genoa, are getting extremely nervous about Inter’s recovery.

To add further insult to Benítez, who also complained that Mourinho had been given €80m to spend the previous summer whereas he had nothing, Moratti has dipped into his pockets in January, spending over €20m to land Italy internationals Andrea Ranocchia and Giampaolo Pazzini and Japanese full-back Yuto Nagamoto.

All three played against Roma, but the big boost for Inter came from the return of Wesley Sneijder, in place of Diego Milito, for his first start since December: it took him just two minutes to open the scoring.

Fabio Simplicio equalised ten minutes later. Inter were then 4-1 ahead and had a one-man advantage following Nicolas Burdisso’s red card before Roma began an unlikely comeback. Mirko Vucinic and Simone Loria pulled goals back to make it a nervy finale before Esteban Cambiasso netted Inter’s fifth in the last minute.

For all Inter’s run of form – seven wins in their last eight league matches – their defence remains leaky, with only one clean sheet in that run. They have let in five goals in their last three matches.

“We have conceded a lot of goals but I don’t want to discuss anything negative when I’m just delighted we keep on winning,” said Leonardo after the game. “We have to keep going with this passion.”

Both Inter and AC Milan’s title chances may depend on how they fare in Europe, with Milan facing Spurs in ten days while Inter have an extra week to prepare for their clash against Bayern Munich in a repeat of last year’s final.

Inter’s three January buys could make all the difference in the final analysis – and Pazzini has already helped Inter turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 win last week against Palermo.

Roma coach Claudio Ranieri bemoaned his lack of options from the bench while suggesting Inter’s squad depth was crucial to their victory. Roma are ten points back from Milan but also have a game in hand.

But for much of the season this Scudetto race has been about which team could end Inter’s run of five straight titles, with Milan, Napoli, and briefly, Lazio, fancying their chances.

Now, however, it looks like it could end up being straight fight between the Milanese clubs – with Leonardo the man who could make the difference.

Reproduced with permission from © The Sporting Exchange Limited


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