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SerieAWeekly On September - 30 - 2011

Only The Brave Take The Inter Challenge

Serie A Weekly guest writer Michael Moruzzi with a few words on an Inter turnaround in the making

Inter didn’t lend themselves to stability during the past two decades. The dogmatic approach to accumulating silverware – epitomised by Milan and Juventus in the late 1980’s and 90’s – was not for them. They followed their own path and for a long time there were few in Europe that could rival Inter’s spending, but as numerous immensely talented players came and went - Ronaldo, Vieri, Seedorf, Bergkamp - the scudetto stubbornly refused their advances.

Many coaches tried to prove themselves capable of averting the trend, but like Knights queuing up to draw the sword from the stone, one after the other, they were defeated and humiliated. The club tried importing proven success from elsewhere, most notably by hiring Marcello Lippi; a man who had delivered three championships for Juventus. This being Inter, he was fired a year later and returned to Turin, where he proceeded to win two more scudetti.

However, the most dramatic finale was yet to come. When Hector Cuper’s Inter entered the final game of the 2001/02 season they needed victory at Lazio to secure a first title since 1989. They were playing a Lazio side whose own supporters wanted Inter to win to prevent any possibility of Roma claiming the title. Indeed, the Laziali could barely muster any support for their own team, so concerned were they that they might inadvertently bring glory to the other side of Rome. Name on the trophy for Inter? The more cynical Inter fans weren’t popping the corks on the prosecco just yet: Lazio thumped them 4-2 in front of a stunned Olimpico. Juventus, marshalled by the recently scorned Lippi, claimed another title. If Inter were involved in match fixing – as it has been alleged they were – this would surely be exhibit A in their defence. Either they are innocent, or the most shambolic and woefully inept crooks in Italy.

After that monumental failure it was clearly going to take something huge to tilt the balance of power in their favour, and the calciopoli scandal delivered it. The removal or handicapping of their immediate rivals, and the financial problems at Roma, set the ground for what should have been a decade of dominance. But, following their historic treble in 2010, the club has been in turmoil. An immediate repeat of the treble season was unrealistic, but at the beginning of last season Inter still possessed one of the finest first XI’s in Europe, let alone Italy. Despite this, Inter are on their fourth appointment as head coach since Jose Mourinho’s departure. Four managers in little over a year – forget the successful blip, that is classic Inter.

The concern for Interisti must be that the huge advantage they had over their rivals has already been squandered: Juventus are building for the future with their new stadium; Napoli are flying high in Serie A and in Europe; Roma are embarking on a new era under ambitious new ownership; and, Milan have retained superior quality to most of their rivals.

To counter this Inter have appointed Claudio Ranieri – a safe pair of hands with a proven track record in not winning league titles. Does this mean a prolonged return to the barren years? It really shouldn’t, as any objective analysis of each Serie A squad would have to consider Inter one of the favourites, despite the chaos that reigns over them. Ranieri’s appointment is unlikely to excite the fans craving success, but at Roma he proved he can find a winning formula when his side came agonizingly close to upsetting Inter’s treble season. Inter have retained some exceptional talent and Ranieri will never have a better chance of winning his maiden scudetto, but history suggests he shouldn’t get too attached to his seat in the San Siro dugout.


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