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Inter Milan: The fall of Italian titans

Hrishi Anand writes about Inter Milan’s sudden decline after the treble win in 2010.


It’s not very hard to remember Inter Milan as the treble winning side of the 2009-2010 season. With the elegance of Diego Milito and Samuel Eto’o, the power of Esteban Cambiasso, the charisma of Javier Zanetti and the solidity of Lucio, it seemed as if Inter could only get better. However fast forward to 1st November 2016, and you will see the sacking of Frank De Boer with the Nerazzuri languishing in the bottom half of the table. So where has it gone wrong for a team that once competed at the highest level of every competition?

Planning for the Future? Or Not..

Perhaps a complaint one could have of Inter after the treble winning season was a lack of preparation for the future. With players like Zanetti and Cambiasso on the wrong side of 30, Inter did not have an adequate youth set-up or solid transfer policy in place to cater to the departures and retirement of key players. Jose Mourinho was taken by the allure of Real Madrid and no sooner did Inter celebrate a treble did they find themselves in a queer position.

The Wrong Ownership

When Massimo Moratti sold minority interests of Inter to a Chinese consortium in August 2012, it was probably a signal of things to come. A lucrative new stadium deal came with the Chinese. Interestingly though, the deal collapsed and  Moratti’s Internazionale Holding S.r.l. held 98.2% shares of F.C. Internazionale Milano. This was followed by the appointment of Walter Mazzari and Inter having a terrible season finishing 9th in the Serie A.

Enter Eric Thohir. The Indonesian and his consortium International Sports Capital HK Ltd signed an agreement to acquire 70 percent of Inter’s shares from Internazionale Holding. This resulted in Inter being owned by a number of companies as ‘International Sports Capital’ itself was owned by a variety of shareholders. Confused? Clearly so were Inter.

The problem with foreign investment *ahem China* is that very often, the investors themselves do not care about the performance of a club they buy. The profit making aspect is far more valued therefore resulting in the commercialization of the club itself to turn it into a profit making project rather than a passionately followed and respected club. This is especially sad when it happens to teams with rich histories like Inter and AC Milan. Ironically around the same time Inter were bought by Thohir, AC Milan signed a preliminary deal to sell 48 percent of the club’s stake to Bee Taechaubol, a deal which fell through as well.

On June 6th 2016, The far-east came calling again as Zhang Jindong and Suning Sports purchased the majority stake of Inter from Eric Thohir and Massimo Moratti. 2 days later, Roberto Mancini left as head coach to be replaced by Dutchman Frank De Boer. De Boer however lasted only 85 days till his sacking in November 2016.

As I mentioned before, Inter have lost their way financially and logistically as a result of heavy boardroom changes. Any club, especially one in transition requires boardroom stability to ensure a smooth recovery. Inter need to ensure this as much as possible in the foreseeable future.

Miscommunication and Lack Of Transparency

Ronald De Boer came out after the sacking of his brother Frank claiming that the ex Inter manager did not have the control he wanted over affairs at the club. He also claimed that the signing of Gabigol was not something Frank had planned and the transfer was carried out by the club without the consent of Frank.

To quote Ronald De Boer “The squad was not yet ready to play the type of football he wanted — and was far too big.

“There were about seven or eight players the he either wanted to get or rid of or didn’t want to sign.

“Among these was Gabriel Barbosa. Frank had absolutely no say on this transfer and Gabriel arrived all of a sudden.

Clearly De Boer was not given a free hand at the San Siro and considering his appointment, one would feel that he deserved a certain amount of freedom to manage his squad and bring in players he felt would boost the team. This is the biggest issue that Inter face as a result of foreign ownership. A lack of clarity and direction are keeping the club stuck in a rut and unfortunately funds are being spent on players in positions that are not a priority.

Another issue that garnered much media attention was the entire ‘Mauro Icardi -Ultras’ fracas. Icardi has had his share of scandals both on and off the pitch and to appoint him as club captain was a brave move by Inter to say the least. This isn’t to say that the Argentine isn’t worthy of being club captain. However, Inter which has had the likes of Javier Zanetti as captain with all his class and calm, should have done a better job of protecting their star forward and maintaining an amicable relationship between him and the Ultras. While it was rather unnecessary on the part of Icardi to release a book at the age of 22 and criticizing the Ultras of the club he plays for, the situation ended up affecting the whole team. A low point was when the Curva Nord cheered when their own club captain missed an important penalty. Surely this would create a huge mental impact on a team that was already struggling with form and adjusting to De Boer’s tactics.

How do Inter Move Forward?

Inter have an exceptionally talented team. What the Board do need to ensure is a period of solidity and sustained development. While it may be too early to judge the appointment of Stefano Pioli, Inter have to ensure that Pioli is given adequate time and freedom to steady the ship. Too many changes are what Inter should avoid to ensure that the existing balance is not disturbed. De Boer’s sacking and the issues in the background will leave a bad taste but it’s necessary that The Board and Management at Inter forget all that has taken place in the last couple of years, and look to bringing back the Nerazzuri to its past glory

Hrishi Anand

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