Could Inter bounce back and make a serious title challenge this season? David Swan sees the parallels between them and Juventus 2010-11.
They both endured below-par seasons that were far from the expectations usually placed upon the two clubs. They both finished on 58 points, missing out on the Champions League having employed highly-rated Italian Coaches that had performed well at smaller clubs. Juventus set the template in 2010-11, and Inter followed it last season.
Fortunately for the Nerazzurri, while they were imitating Juventus from the previous campaign, the Bianconeri were setting a new example – how to make the most of a bad year and ensure one poor season does not become two or three on the bounce.
Juventus were brave last summer – although with a new stadium and new revenues forthcoming they could afford to be – and were ruthless with the changes they made to the playing staff. The loaning of Felipe Melo, a very limited player, but an individual who was one of the best midfielders in Serie A during his last term at the club, symbolised the attitude and single-minded nature required to turn things around so drastically.
Fellow midfielders Alberto Aquilani and Momo Sissoko were also let go, meaning a complete renewal was required in that department. Others who had played a large part in the season, like Vincenzo Iaquinta and full-backs Marco Motta and Fabio Grosso, were essentially excluded from the squad very early on, and later transferred in the case of Iaquinta and Motta.
The lesson is simple – do not fear becoming ruthless and do not be afraid of making changes, however widespread. Now, just a year later, Inter are in that same spot, having to make modifications after a poor season.
Julio Cesar and Maicon have been two of their best players during the years of winning trophies and there were times last season where the right-back looked to be returning to his best form. That the club are so willing to see both follow Lucio out the door suggests they have developed the cutthroat mentality that rebuilding requires.
It is not just the older players – Andrea Poli’s loan has not been made permanent, similar to that of Aquilani at Juventus a year ago, although this is a little more surprising given the age and relatively low transfer fee involved. Angelo Palombo too, who some feel had something to offer the squad, has also been sent packing.
There is clearly no lack of courage at Inter. They know alterations are necessary, and just like Juve were, they are happy to back a young, relatively inexperienced Coach with his squad requirements and line-up renovations. The problems they will encounter that their Turin rivals did not will be financial – having spent just over €20m acquiring Rodrigo Palacio and Samir Handanovic, plus cash confirming Fredy Guarin’s transfer, there is a feeling the money has run out.
Gaby Mudingayi smacks of a transfer on the cheap and mimics the mercato strategy of their city cousins than summer 2011 Juventus. Matias Silvestre appears for all the world to be a player they want, but the reluctance to pay a fee has seen them loan the 27-year-old for the season.
That said, Juventus also purchased some squad fillers on the cheap, but got away with it due to a fantastic injury record that meant those players were not needed often. That record was aided by the lack of European football, leading to less games and longer rest periods.
Inter do not quite have Europe off their schedule – everyone’s favourite Europa League looms large on the calendar, but it is a fair bet that Inter will not be taking this completely seriously, if at all, until the latter stages. The travel is an inconvenience, but the use of mental energy – something highlighted by Gennaro Gattuso as one of the reasons why midweek Champions League games take their toll – will be minimal.
Until then, they can pull a Juventus and pour all of their resources into Serie A. And we know how that has the potential to end.