Milan and Inter share a city, a stadium and a common dialect, but the similarities used to end there. Now both clubs are ruled by faceless Chinese corporations who are rarely even in the country, farming off the day-to-day work to relatively interchangeable directors. How interchangeable? Milan CEO Marco Fassone and director of sport Massimiliano Mirabelli used to work for Inter.
Even with the summer memes on Fassone’s “let’s get on to the formal matters” catchphrase in transfer presentations, he and the likes of Piero Ausilio cannot aspire to the kind of iconic status held by Adriano Galliani or Marco Branca. Yonghong Li and Zhang Jindong are no Silvio Berlusconi or Massimo Moratti.
The clubs have lost their identity within the club infrastructure, but that’s not the only situation that has been transformed over the last few months. It used to be Inter who famously spent inordinate amounts of money every summer, bringing in relatively big names without particularly knowing how they would fit into a coherent team unit.
They were the ones who transformed the roster wholesale each campaign, then wondered why it took several months to start gelling and putting together results. It was the black and blue side of the city that couldn’t seem to comprehend why it couldn’t just buy instant success, then ran to find a scapegoat, starting the whole process over again.
The Nerazzurri were well known for keeping their Coaches on the brink from even before a season began, now Milan have Vincenzo Montella dealing with sack rumours from August. Internazionale lived up to their full name by packing the squad with foreigners, but it’s the Diavolo who look more like a patchwork quilt of nationalities now.
Anyone who is on Twitter – and I realise that mercifully few of you are in real terms – will know that something changed this summer in the Derby della Madonnina dynamic. A certain sect of Milan fans have earned themselves the reputation of being the worst kind of troll. Any suggestion that perhaps they should wait before counting their chickens was met with insults, outright abuse and even death threats. I’m not exaggerating, sadly.
My original criticism of the Milanisti on Twitter was that they were behaving like Inter fans of old: talking about their inevitable Scudetto victory or at least Champions League qualification, belittling the opposition, assuming everything would go their way without casting an even slightly objective eye on the situation. You cannot buy success. Even a group of talented players do not make a team, and certainly not within a couple of weeks. Had we Rossoneri supporters not learned the lessons of our cousins by watching them make these same repeated mistakes over the years? Apparently not.
Instead, Inter are learning from Milan. They made relatively minimal changes to the squad, as new Coach Luciano Spalletti tried to focus on getting the best out of his current players and resisting the siren calls for Ivan Perisic, Antonio Candreva and Joao Mario. They spent most of the money on reinforcing the defence with Milan Skriniar, who might not have been the biggest name, but has definitely been their best purchase.
The fans have also watched across the city divide and recognised how not to start a season. Even though the Nerazzurri are still unbeaten and favourites going into the derby, you’ll find very little talk of the Scudetto among their supporters. They acknowledge the team is a long way off Juventus and Napoli, that this is a long-term project and above all their performances have not really been that good. Luck is something every successful side needs and Spalletti has enjoyed a fair share of it so far, though it could of course be argued that results from middling games are thanks to the kind of determination and grit that Inter sorely lacked in the past.
Inter used to be blown up full of hot air like a balloon, then at the first sign of trouble whizz around without direction, turning all the positive momentum to negative in an instant. If any of this sounds familiar to Milanisti, then they’d do well to learn from their cousins.
Whatever happens in the derby on Sunday night, that won’t change the situation I have outlined here. It’d be a mistake to assume it would.