‘Quando finisce la partita, il re ed il pedone finiscono nella stessa scatola.’
Is an Italian proverb that translates in English as, ‘when you finish the game, the king and pawn end up in the same box’ In other words: we all meet the same end. This is Inter right now.
As the Derby D’Italia ended, the Milanese club look like they will qualify for the Champions League finishing third, their star striker looks set to stay and their Coach seemed deliriously happy, assuring he would stay indefinitely. The fact is however, that this swan is kicking harder that it should under the water.
When we assess Inter, we should perhaps first accept the club for what it is. Maybe the word ‘project’ should be banned, as there isn’t one. Perhaps we should talk about coping and improving by experience. The Nerazzurri have everything they need to challenge Juventus, they soon will be free from the shackles of Financial Fair Play, they have good ownership, they have history and they have a brand. They do not however, know how to connect the dots.
After the Derby D’Italia, the charismatic and slightly crazy version of Spalletti was in full voice. “I will stay at Inter for the next 100 years because it’s a beautiful club,” came the cry. The statement itself was fanciful, impossible and emotional, once again representing everything that the Milanese club is. The fact that Spalletti is often driven to hyperbole, or in fact freely offers it up, suits the club known as ‘Pazza’. Is Spalletti simply a crazy man in charge of an asylum? Well if he is, they are deliriously happy to be in the Champions League again.
So how do Inter judge success? They played well against a Juventus team who, although they had started to switch off and haven’t played well in some time, still knew this was The Derby D’Italia. Finishing third whilst having a world class player on strike, his wife creating an award-winning soap opera and players like Ivan Perisic playing a leading role is bizarrely something to be proud of. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot and completing the London Marathon: why would you do it, but if you did, hats off, I guess?
So once again, how did Inter judge success? There is no Ajax-like culture here, there is no Atalanta like unity, instead this is painting that has simply had paint thrown against the canvas. A child could do it, yet somehow it’s seen as Avant Garde. As the season draws to a close there are still so many questions. The fact that the Coach of Inter said “we are not the kind of team that knows how to manage games” is shocking. The fact that Inter will finish third in fact seems to chastise the rest of the division.
To be clear, Inter have a talented squad and the frustration for their fans should be that they are not performing better. There is a unique opportunity for them to make themselves to be the clear third best team in Italy and potentially the second. The irony is that by finishing in this manner, they are almost condoning the fact that the lack of strategy and the inability to plan actually works. It once again seems to justify the folly that has surrounded the season.
Patrick Vieira has experience of both Juventus and Inter and was speaking before the Derby. He spoke about how Italian Football was too focused on short-term thinking and he was right. The only club who has had a long-term strategy is Juventus and no matter how many people can argue that this has stalled this season, they cannot deny the success of the Old Lady. Inter fit into this bracket perfectly and whilst they have all the tools in the tool box, they have no master craftsman to create the art.
Inter have achieved some good things this season, but it does have a bitter taste. The fact that they are the main club (other than Milan, but we won’t go there) that have the ability to topple the Juventus monopoly can’t be ignored. Spalletti may want to be there for another 100 years, but even if this was possible, would the Milanese want another 100 years of crazy?