A ninth placed finish and no European football wasn’t what the Nerazzurri doctor ordered. Inter’s lacklustre season and subsequent decision to sack Andrea Stramaccioni means they start again. They are preparing for a voyage into the unknown at Alpine resort Pinzolo, with questions – and perhaps a quiet degree of optimism – surrounding their playing stocks and new Coach Walter Mazzarri.
As per the last few transfer campaigns, Inter are looking long-term while departing from the high-earners. Gone are Antonio Cassano and Dejan Stankovic, while Walter Gargano returns to Napoli. Although intriguingly the Beneamata also parted with two budding talents in Giulio Donati and Luca Caldirola, who move to German pair Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen respectively.
Inter’s two major summer signings confirm the renewal process. Mauro Icardi was the subject of interest from a number of clubs following his breakthrough at Sampdoria. Only 20, the Argentine ended last term with 10 goals, enough to convince the Nerazzurri into a co-ownership agreement.
Despite just 31 Serie A games under his belt, Icardi is not overawed.“Mazzarri promised me I’ll be important for Inter and I hope that I don’t let him down. Taking on the No 9 is an important challenge at a side like Inter, but I am not afraid. I want to score many goals and help fight for the Scudetto.”
Another attacking acquisition is Ishak Belfodil, also on a co-ownership basis, from Parma. He’s only scored eight goals in his career, but all came at the Stadio Ennio Tardini last term. The signings do raise the question of what to immediately expect from the pair, but aiding their development will be experienced pair Diego Milito and Rodrigo Palacio. Ruben Botta will have to wait a little longer to debut following a serious knee injury in March, but the 23-year-old former Tigre man comes with a reputation for being a highly skilled attacking player.
The Mazzarri impact will be something to keenly gauge. The tactician felt his cycle at Napoli – he twice led the club to the Champions League, plus their first trophy since 1990 – was over. Known for his high discipline and affinity for a defensive trio, his immediate concern is to gel the system and squad.
It may not suit somebody like Andrea Ranocchia, but does the engines of likely wingbacks Yuto Nagatomo and Jonathan. Assisting Mazzarri in making the transition smoother is another new face, Hugo Campagnaro. The Argentine has been led by Mazzarri since 2007 at Sampdoria. “I know Mazzarri perfectly by now, as this is my seventh pre-season training camp with him,” said Campagnaro at his Press Conference. “I must try to help the others who have never had to assimilate those details before, as they are crucial.”
On Sunday he further commented on Mazzarri’s pre-season programme. “We are doing all we can on strength and tactics. Mazzarri has got results with a three-man defence for a long time, so I hope we continue with it.”
The tactician’s early work has impressed the squad. Fredy Guarin, Belfodil and Samir Handanovic offered words of praise. The Colombian believes results will come with Mazzarri at the helm: “We need to make the most of the fact we’re lucky enough to work with him, and if we all do so, results will no doubt follow.”
Mazzarri is not immediately targeting the Scudetto, but hopes for patience. “A fan asked me to win the Scudetto and I said ‘give me time and I’ll get there.’ I want to be a point of reference and do things seriously, not someone who spins a line.”
They may have finished ninth, but there’s talent in the squad. Handanovic was superb last season. Guarin impressed in a variety of midfield positions. Meanwhile, youngster Mateo Kovacic integrated seamlessly into the team. The No 10 is still a teenager but has already displayed his burgeoning ability.
So what can Inter realistically target this term? For President Massimo Moratti and the supporters, European qualification will be a sign of progression. Handanovic stresses that no continental football this season could prove a blessing in disguise as they aim to improve. Reaching the Champions League would confirm that. Inter are not finished on the transfer front, with Hernanes and Mauricio Isla further targets. Fans will be hoping they can add to the squad so as to give Mazzarri the best possible chance of taking Inter back to Europe.