Most of the time, it's better for teams to look forward. Fond memories of yesteryear's glories are always tempting to revisit—especially in more troubled times—but in the cut-throat world of modern football, rose-tinted glasses can be costly and damaging accessories.
All too often a club's manager or owner will re-sign an ageing hero, hoping for one last fling together. Almost always, it ends in heartache.
On the red side of Milan, it's a gamble their taking right now. Adriano Galliani has rolled the dice and brought Riki Kaka back to the San Siro, hoping that the change of scenery and a return to the site of so much former glory will reignite the ageing Brazilian's game.
Kaka is a Milan legend, he arrives on a free from Real Madrid and has accepted a massive reduction in wages for the privilege of once more pulling on the Rossonero shirt.
The former Ballon d'Or winner is not as quick as he once was, and his recent injury problems are a concern, but in terms of the good-will value alone that the move brings, it makes sense. The fans adore him, and even if it doesn't work out, few in Italy would begrudge Galliani a weakness for a little romanticism with a player like that.
Samuel Eto'o is a very different situation, but like his Brazilian counterpart at Milan, the Cameroonian would be a fling with the past few would question.
At 32, he would not have been a long-term investment, but Eto'o's goals would have had an immediate effect on Walter Mazzarri's team. Everywhere he's gone, Eto'o has scored plenty. During his previous spell at the San Siro, he proved he's more than up to the task of splitting Italian defences.
Inter are building for the future, but a club of that size needs to provide today as well. Ishak Belfodil and Mauro Icardi might well be the future of the Nerazzurri, but the present is very much in question and Eto'o would have done much to allay fears.
Rodrigo Palacio is useful, and Diego Milito's return from long-term injury is welcome, but the Argentine pair are now 31 and 34, respectively. Even at the height of their powers, Palacio and Milito were never more than good strikers.
Eto'o is one of the finest of his generation.
Of course, he too is getting on in years. But the evidence suggests he's still very much at the top of his game—something that's reinforced not only by the interest that surrounded his signature but also that it was ultimately Chelsea, one of the richest and most competitive squads in the world, who managed to secure his services. And even if he didn't work out, few fans could be so frivolous as to forget the surge of optimism that his arrival would have generated among their ranks.
Speaking to the Inter Channel (here in English via goal.com), president Massimo Moratti defended the club's failure to land any major stars, pointing out that the focus was now on building for the future. As he put it:
We are looking to the present as well as the future. That was our aim in the transfer market. Players who, though young, are already clearly talented and with the potential to grow even further. And I think we got it right.
But when you decide to adopt a policy like that you also need a coach who agrees with it, and, more importantly, knows how to make the most out of it.
Mazzarri is a man who can get the most out of young, up-and-coming players. His work at Napoli is a testament to that. But you can't help but feel he'd have gotten a lot more out of the situation if he had one, truly world-class player to lean on in the short term. A nostalgic push for the former crowd favourite would have bought him that luxury.