If there's one thing Erick Thohir has done to win over Inter fans, argues Jeremy Lim, it's getting rid of Marco Branca.
It might have taken Fredy Guarin’s transfer fiasco to spur thorough examination of Inter’s operations as an entity, but Erick Thohir’s regime is finally in full effect. The Indonesian’s arrival at club headquarters in the final week of January led directly to deals for Danilo D’Ambrosio and Hernanes being brokered. Not long after, it emerged the side were the favourites to land Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic in the summer.
Yet nothing has endeared Thohir to the Inter faithful up to this point more than news that Marco Branca was ousted from the management on Saturday. Once a striker for the Nerazzurri and even accorded hero status after netting famous winners in the Derby della Madonnina on a pair of occasions, Branca’s name had become vilified amongst the Ultras after numerous cases of mismanaging the San Siro side’s affairs. The unpopular transfer chief eventually cut ties after being held chiefly culpable for failing to preserve a squad that had won the Treble just over three years ago.
In reality, decline set in the moment Javier Zanetti hoisted the Champions League trophy at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2010. Jose Mourinho soon departed the team, but he was not to be their only casualty. Gabriele Oriali, the loyal club servant who orchestrated Inter’s finest moves from the past decade, revealed his disillusion with the setup two months after Inter’s triumph.
“After winning the Champions League, I thought I could enjoy a bit more success but I totally disagree with the decisions that were taken. Indeed, I’m not sure I will stay at Inter,” the transfer consultant stated. By October the club announced he had gone. “I’m not aware of the real reasons why I was released,” Oriali opened up afterwards. “After 30 years at Inter I thought that I had earned some respect and credibility. However, I was kicked out and I don’t know why. I just know after Mourinho left, President Massimo Moratti was allowed to be convinced by Branca and some other directors of a project that didn’t include me.”
Moratti’s decision to entrust Inter’s dealings to Branca proved in hindsight to be a faux pas of epic proportions. Missing the vital presence taken to operate at an administrative level, the 49-year-old’s tenure quickly exposed his fundamental lack of the necessary intuition and know-how to manage the outfit in evolving market conditions.
But with the baton well and truly passed, Inter were left to wave goodbye to the chances of continuity the treble had presented. Spurred by an ailing dynasty in Serie A and Europe that perpetuated from Rafael Benitez’s reign, Branca performed piecemeal dips in the transfer window without a defined plan to nurture his investments - Giampaolo Pazzini and Andrea Ranocchia arrived at La Pinetina for top dollar in January 2011, yet neither fulfilled their potential in an Inter shirt.
Branca’s haphazard spending continued that summer with the ill-considered signing of a spent Diego Forlan to plug the gaping hole left by Samuel Eto’o’s switch to Anzhi Makhachkala. Thiago Motta followed out of the club five months later. Without any clear technical blueprint to replace the squad’s eroded talent, Gian Piero Gasperini and Claudio Ranieri received no favours as their stints ended prematurely.
Still, the bizarre process of phasing out Inter’s legion of Treble veterans and promising youngsters with signings of insufficient calibre continued into the 2012-13 campaign. Opportunity to sign talented Italian prospect Andrea Poli was spurned; instead, misfit Zdravko Kuzmanovic donned the famed Beneamata jersey later on in abject testimony of how Inter’s worth had fallen. Marko Livaja then made way for Lazio benchwarmer Tommaso Rocchi, the Croatian following former club youth products Mario Balotelli, Davide Santon, Luc Castaignos, Marco Faraoni and Philippe Coutinho out of the exit door. Antonio Cassano proved a colossal waste of wages, while Luca Caldirola and Giulio Donati were shipped off to the Bundesliga just weeks after reaching the European Under-21 Championship Final.
Taking place before Fredy Guarin’s recent transfer conundrum was the ignominy of Wesley Sneijder’s exit last year after being frozen out of the starting XI over contractual disputes. The Dutchman was finally released for a mere €7.5m - poor reflection of his value as a San Siro favourite. This January though, Branca’s stake in the clumsy handling of team assets proved the final straw, and his own silence in the matter served as a tacit admission that his time was up.
Latest incarnations of a once-proud club have fallen short of expectations, and fault has been incontrovertibly traced to Branca’s antics. By belatedly removing a permanent itch from the backs of Inter’s fans, Thohir has left his mark on what could now turn out to be a genuine period of recovery for the fallen Milan giants.
This parody video of Branca's 'Facebook story' circulated days before the contract was terminated. Coincidence or final straw?