Friday January 25 2019
Mazzarri was wrong for Inter

As Inter visit Torino, Football Italia’s Chief Correspondent Richard Hall looks back at the Walter Mazzarri years and analyses where it all went wrong.

It’s October 2014 and Inter Coach Walter Mazzarri is talking to the Press before a defeat to Fiorentina. “I’d tell you what is happening within the team right now, but whatever I say will be interpreted as an excuse. I have been through this many times before. Believe me the less I say, the better.”

A month later and he was gone, with few bidding him bon voyage. It was the first dismissal of his career. As he prepares to welcome his former club on the Torino bench, there will be no love lost from either side.

In any relationship that ends in tatters, there are two sides to every tale. From Mazzarri’s perspective, the club was not in a good place when he arrived, the ownership and strategy were changing as Erick Thohir was in discussions with Massimo Moratti about buying a 70% stake in the club and from the off it was clear that the new ownership preferred their own man in charge.

It is also true that the players the now 57-year old Coach had to work with at that time were far from elite. Fans of the Nerazzurri still wake up in cold sweats remembering the likes of Hugo Campagnaro, Rene Krhin, Gaby Mundingayi, Ishak Belfodil, Ruben Botta and the infamous Zdravko Kuzmanovic. One could argue that a hybrid of Helenio Herrera and Pep Guardiola would have struggled to get a tune out of these players.

Every corner of San Siro felt colder and greyer in these times, the frustration was everywhere. The man who had set Napoli on their way to becoming what they are today, playing a brand of cavalier football, was now reduced to answering questions on how the Partenopei (on the fixture horizon) might be the nail in his coffin.

In fairness, the appointment had seemed doomed from day one. La Gazzetta Dello Sport had never helped matters, claiming that Mazzarri, whose brief was simply to bring stability to the club after the Andrea Stramaccioni tenure, was a man who divided opinion. They claimed at the time this success at Napoli had been circumstantial and the assembly of players meant that most credible Coaches could have achieved a great deal with them.

In fairness to Mazzarri, the Tuscan Coach performed reasonably well under the conditions. They qualified for the Europa League, finishing fifth albeit with a 43.8%-win rate and 15 draws to boot. His away form was also terrible and with one win and a defeat in the Derby Della Madonnina, his mediocre image was being formed. Even so Thohir was patient, as the only form of entertainment seemed to be Dani Osvaldo (both on and off the field), but it was becoming painfully clear that it would take more than Mazzarri’s frantic biting of water bottles on the touch line, yes that happened, to restore Inter to the upper echelons of Champions League football.

In 2014 it all spiralled out of control. Despite a seven-goal thrashing of Sassuolo, defeats to Cagliari and Fiorentina plus horrendous mistakes in the Torino and Palermo games proved damaging. The Coach showed stubbornness to stick with a 3-5-2 formation that clearly wasn’t working. For a man who was so dramatic and vocal on the touchline, it was unbelievable how little the players listened. In the end they parted company and it would be fair to say that Coach, club and fans all breathed a huge sigh of relief.

When Inter travel to Torino this weekend to face Mazzarri, it will give them mixed feelings. They will certainly think that their current situation, ownership, playing squad and relationship between board and Coach are much better than the dark days of 2014. Mazzarri will also be thankful that he is now progressing well with Torino in a better environment, as one only needs to look to Gian Piero Gasperini’s progress with Atalanta these days to release Inter wasn’t a good place to be post-2010.

The reunion will be a cold yet polite one, bad memories exist on both sides. Despite frustrations this season, they can look at their projects and be proud of where they are this term. The lesson of the story is that monumentally bad situations in football are always linked to more than one failing element - and nothing good comes from starting Zdravko Kuzmanovic.

Have your say...
Albert Einstein once said that insanity is to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.. That, is Inter.

-An interista
on the 29th January, 2019 at 10:15pm
3) Inter is a club in crisis and how they approach their recovery is by taking two steps forward and one step back. It is remarkable how they do not build off momentum. You do a fantastic job in signing the likes of Spalletti, Walter Sabatini (now Marrotta), bring some experience in Cordoba/Stankovic/Zanetti etc into your technical staff/tribuna.. but then you sell ZANIOLO?!?! For a chain smoking nainggolan?!
on the 29th January, 2019 at 10:14pm
2) The carousel of coaches. How do you except to cycle through 10-11 coaches in 10 years who have different philosophies and motivations? You hire one coach who wants to play 3-5-2 to another coach who plays 4-3-3. With what pieces are they able to fulfill their tactics when the coach prior signed a RWB and you need a simple conservative RB? I cannot believe a 23 year old keyboard critic can see this.. imagine how many others have seen this!! It is infuriating.
on the 29th January, 2019 at 10:10pm
I must say I love all those players I had listed before but we kept them too long!! How can you replace 5-6 players in your starting 11 who had left for either free, retired or 1/8th of what they were bought for? We had no one we could have flipped for profit. If those idiots focused on developing from within, instead of relying on selling players such as duncan, benassi, biraghi, kovacic and above all COUTINHO we would have recovered from our average aged 32 year old squad.
on the 29th January, 2019 at 10:07pm
The real problem with Inter was even before Mazzarri came. He is right, 100%, that when he came to Inter the entire organization not only the team was in shambles. My analysis of this crisis was because of three reasons.

1) Inter relied on their seasoned players for too long. Sure, Mourinho's Inter was world class. With that being said, Inter held onto players for too long. In particular Cambiasso, Maicon, Julio Cesar, Samuel and Milito (Zanetti an exception). Before I continue
on the 29th January, 2019 at 10:05pm
Very stubborn coach, can only play with 352 formation. In that sense he’s a lot worse than conte. Should have been replaced by mancini 1 season earlier. Destined to manage middle class clubs at best. His Napoli was also weaker than Sarri or even Benitez’s napoli.
on the 27th January, 2019 at 4:09am
@ Me - I also thought Campagnaro did I good job and I was disappointed when he left.

Whilst there have been some amazing signings over the last 20 years, there has also been some horrendous ones and it's a wonder the scouts haven't got more bad press. The repeated coaching changes haven't helped Inter to create an identity either, so whilst I don't see Spalletti being around for too much longer, I'm hoping for a more stable future.
on the 27th January, 2019 at 2:24am
It was never Mazzarri's fault at Inter - they fired Marco Branca to replace him with the sporting Clerk Ausilio who has to use his own skill to improve Inter and gets Mazzarri 4 new signings - Dodo, Nvilla, Medel and Osvaldo - the all-time worst Mercato i have ever seen by any team in my lifetime. that's like buying 4 tonnes of manure and expecting it to fertilize the entire pitch! No matter what Interisti say, nobody could have ever made 5th place with Nagatomo and Jonathan as wings in a 3-5-2!
on the 25th January, 2019 at 5:14pm
Random article and not very insightful.

Kuzmanovic was a good player at Fiorentina and young, and he failed at Inter but nothing to be infamous about. Campagnaro was outstanding in his last couple seasons at Inter. In a back 3, he was perfect.

His mismanagement of Zanetti is what hurt him. Guy came off the bench after an injury and on his second touch dribbled half the field and created a goal. That was his failure and where he lost it.
on the 25th January, 2019 at 4:47pm
In the past we've treated quite a few coaches badly... too many cooks as they say with opinions... but now with Steven Zhang well and truly in charge things have changed... the cooks are now in the media rather than at Corso Vittorio Emanuele and we're better for it...

I think Strama was the best since Mourinho, he came with fresh ideas and played good football but wasn't backed up by some chefs aided by the cooks... the others are all decent... I'd like Simeone or Giampaolo in future! :)
on the 25th January, 2019 at 3:07pm
I hope poor Kuzmanovic as well as being a pretty bad player is also illiterate, because reading this article would make him a very sad boy.
on the 25th January, 2019 at 2:24pm
I tend to think of it as Inter is wrong for many coaches. Just look at Gasperini and the great job that he did at Genoa and the fantastic job that he's doing at Atalanta - the best team to watch in Serie A (IMO). I don't know what it is about Inter, but even when they do relatively well, they are still a very boring team to watch irrespective of who is in charge. They are a crazy paradox.
on the 25th January, 2019 at 10:31am

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