Inter Milan: What the Nerazzurri Must Do to Improve in 2013-14
It has rapidly become a campaign to forget for Inter, with an injury crisis conspiring with a lack of form and questionable decisions from officials to derail a season which had looked at one stage particularly promising.
From being Scudetto contenders in November after capping an impressive run of form with victory in Turin, the Nerazzurri have slumped to eighth place in Serie A with just three games to go.
Having been considered in the Champions League conversation not too long ago, the biggest prize now on offer for Andrea Stramaccioni's men is the Europa League. However, they currently trail fifth-placed Roma by five points, and with Lazio visiting San Siro this weekend, is that still a realistic target?
Attention will now switch to what strategy the club will adopt to bring success in the future, and the Inter hierarchy undoubtedly have some big decisions to make this summer.
The first will arguably surround the future of Stramaccioni, and whether club owner Massimo Moratti still believes he is the right man for the job moving forward. While the coach inevitably receives the brunt of the criticism when things aren't going right, several things outside of the 37-year-old's control have not helped his cause.
As a result, Moratti may well continue to support his beleaguered coach and back him in the transfer market with some heavy investment.
Perhaps more important to their future though, will be how to reduce the number of injuries suffered during this campaign. Both Juventus and Milan have been through similar situations in recent years, where the squad has been decimated by injuries, although setbacks such as that sustained by captain and legend Javier Zanetti were just pure bad luck.
What Inter are likely to benefit from is the potential lack of European participation next season, thus taking some stress away from the fixture list. Having to juggle both a domestic and European challenge would have also taken its toll on the squad, and the Nerazzurri only have to look at Juventus last season to see the wonders of being able to solely focus on the league.
However, most imperative to their future will be the continuation of the squad rebuilding process by both releasing players past their best and investing in the future.
Mateo Kovacic has been a revelation, and is a clear indication of how Inter should approach improving the club. City rivals Milan have overtaken them in this respect, with the sale of Philippe Coutinho an example of how they have arguably reclined in their revolution since the days of Jose Mourinho.
Albeit club legends who have written their names into the history books, the likes of Dejan Stankovic and Cristian Chivu are dispensable. Inter will perhaps be better off investing in young prospects as opposed to stop-gaps such as Tommaso Rocchi and Zdravko Kuzmanovic.
There is much to ponder in the blue and black half of Milan this summer, but the precedent is there and Moratti has always worked in the best interests of the club. Difficult decisions lie ahead, but Inter will surely see an upturn in fortunes next season.
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