Inter Milan: Are Massimo Moratti's Serie A Championship Expectations Too Much?
After finishing ninth last season, everyone connected with Inter Milan will hope this does not herald the beginning of a bleak period outside title or European contention.
The final table was miserable reading for disciples of the Nerazzurri.
Can Inter Milan realistically challenge for the Serie A title?
Inter president Massimo Moratti has been vocal about his desire not to see this repeated. This upcoming season, he wants his team to once again challenge for the title.
If they are, a vast improvement is needed on last season's performance.
They may have ended with a negative goal difference, and they may have lost the same amount of games as they had won, but the biggest point of consternation that will stick in the craw of Inter fans is that they finished a whopping 18 points behind deadly city rivals AC Milan.
This fact was clearly not lost on Moratti and his hierarchy, who have ordered sweeping changes at the San Siro. And with fans still mourning the end of the domestic season, these changes came about quickly.
First came the disposal of likeable yet inexperienced manager Andrea Stramaccioni in May. It was always going to be a baptism of fire for the former youth team coach. After taking the reins in March 2012, he finished that season strongly but could not transfer his promising start over when given a full campaign.
Whilst he did have bad luck with injuries to his players—the cherry on top being when Javier Zanetti, the longtime on-field lieutenant for many Inter managers, was struck down by an Achilles injury in April—but he was oft criticised for not sticking with one set formation.
However, the fact he is only 37, coupled with his final win rate coming out at a promising 44 percent, suggests we will see him and his coiffed hair again in Serie A.
Moratti acted quickly to replace him. And sealing a deal for Walter Mazzarri—fresh from guiding Napoli to second place—was a real coup for the Nerazzurri.
The man from San Vicenzo is well known in Italy for transforming players such as Edinson Cavani, Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi into a triumvirate of highly regarded world-class imports during his four seasons with the Partenopei.
This week he has also come out fighting about Inter's chances next season: "Impossible is not a word that exists for me", he told Tuttosport (via Goal.com). He also intimated he is due to speak with Moratti about "top" signings, suggesting new players are imminent.
And with a squad renowned for being full of vintage yet aging players—step forward 39-year-old Zanetti, 35-year-old Walter Samuel, 32-year-old Esteban Cambiasso and 34-year-old Diego Milito—a few new arrivals are sorely needed.
Having completed the free signing of his former Napoli charge Hugo Campagnaro, Mazzarri has supplemented that with the €6 million signing of 20-year-old Argentinian striker Mauro Icardi from Sampdoria, as well as the €7.5 million purchase of 21-year-old Ishak Belfodil from Parma.
Having spent over €15 million already, Mazzarri still wishes to exercise Moratti's cheque book.
The Sun this week declared that the agent of Southampton's Gaston Ramirez would facilitate a move to the San Siro for his client as "Italy remains in his heart" but did warn Inter the 22-year-old Uruguayan would cost a "significant sum."
Following the departures of Dejan Stankovic and Marco Benassi, new recruits in midfield is clearly high on Moratti and Mazzarri's agenda. After helping his side attain a respectable finish of 11th, Cagliari's Radja Nainggolan is another player on Inter's radar, as confirmed by the 25-year-old Belgian international's sporting director Nicola Salerno last week on Radio Sportiva (via Goal.com).
Inter are also being audacious with their bids, as Sky Sports reported that champions Juventus have rejected an approach for their promising, but injury-stricken, Chilean midfielder Mauricio Isla, 25.
All of this spending infers that this week's much-publicised tax probe by Italy's finance police into a variety of Serie A clubs, of which Inter is one, has not deterred Massimo Moratti from investing in a new squad, a defiance reported by Sky Sports.
It also cements the view that Moratti is not preparing to sell his majority stake in the club, as had been mooted last week.
In regards to his expectations for this coming season, the Inter supremo is right to believe that he is due a return on his outlay. After all, it can't be cheap to acquire one of Italy's best coaches as well as some of the league's most prodigious talents.
But whilst he spoke to La Gazzetto dello Sport this week about his belief that Mazzarri can return Inter to their "rightful status," he must surely a season for the new players to become used to the coach and vice versa.
Let's remember the facts: Inter won the treble a mere three years ago. Their fall from grace will rankle Moratti, who will want an instantaneous return to European competition, on a daily basis.
However, if they are to repeat the glory of that Saturday in May 2010 and regain the Champions League anytime soon, Mazzarri must be given time.
What are your thoughts? Will Inter provide competition for Juve's crown? Can Mazzarri have an instant positive impact? Or does he need a season to "bed in"? And who else will join the Inter revolution?
Let me know either in the comments section below or via Twitter: @LeRowley
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