Why Inter Need Change Before They Can Challenge

Colin O'BrienContributor IJanuary 13, 2014

MILAN, ITALY - NOVEMBER 15:  FC Internazionale Milano new president Milano Erick Thohir (L) speaks beside honorary president Massimo Moratti duringa press conference after the FC Internazionale Milano shareholders' meeting on November 15, 2013 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

"I'm not Superman." The words of Inter president Erick Thohir, who has warned fans that rebuilding Inter will take time. 

Speaking for the club's TV channel, the Indonesian businessman urged patience, estimating that returning the Nerazzurri to the highest level would take two or even three years. Serie A presidents aren't known for preaching common sense or patience, so Thohir's honest assessment of his investment's current state makes for a welcome change.

It came at a vital moment in the new project at the San Siro. Following the 1-0 loss to Udinese in the Coppa Italia, leaving Walter Mazzarri's side out of competition on all fronts and looking dangerously like a side about to unravel. 

The defeat meant that Inter had won just two of their last eight games. They were wallowing below the European places in the league and out of the cup. Silverware was always going to be unlikely in Mazzarri's first season, but he'd been expected to steady the ship after the disaster of 2012-13. And European qualification is a must at a club of that size. 

In short, it was around about the time when an Italian president would normally pull the plug. They'd back their manager publicly, remind everyone of their long-term plans, and then fire him the second they could convince someone else to take over. Instead, it doesn't look like Mazzarri's going anywhere. 


Long-term Thinking

Thohir's long-term approach was the first key change needed on Inter's road to recovery. Stability at the highest level. The managerial merry-go-round that the Nerazzurri have been stuck on in recent years has done nothing but harm to a team that was already on the wane. 

Thohir's realistic outlook suggests that, unlike Massimo Moratti before him, he won't automatically blame all of Inter's woes on the coach. And that means that Mazzarri will have time to build. 

The Tuscan's record suggests that the president's patience will be rewarded, because he's never left a club in worse shape than he how he found it. His work with smaller teams like Livorno and Reggina was a revelation, and he achieved results that those teams had little right to expect. 

His days at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris will be fondly remembered by Sampdoria fans, who have endured much since he left them for Napoli.

And at the San Paolo, no one would deny Mazzarri's impact. He took a freshly-promoted team and finished sixth in the league. In his debut season, Roma were the only big side to beat them at home. And he moved on from that and turned them into a continental force. He had the generous backing of the president, Aurelio De Laurentiis, all the while, but even so it was no small achievement. 

There's no reason to think that Mazzarri can't succeed at the San Siro, too. The only obstacle in his way is that, for the first time in his career he's at a club where results are genuinely expected rather than simply hoped for. He'll need to work fast. 


New Players

No fan likes to admit that the current squad at the club they follow isn't up to scratch, but at this stage it must be blatantly obvious to everyone that Inter are some way off being a top side.

There is still talent at Inter, but looked at objectively, few of Inter's current starting XI would force their way into their position at another top club—and that's not something that Thohir can change overnight.

Some of the current crop might develop into world-class players—Mauro Icardi and Mateo Kovacic, in particular—while others like Yuto Nagatomo, Samir Handanovic and Ricky Alvarez are young and talented enough to be key figures in the next great Inter side. 

Even with those players, however, eight of Inter's current squad are coming towards the end of their contracts, while several more are just nowhere near good enough for this level. A clear-out is on the way. 

It will take time, but assuming Inter don't throw the baby out with the bath water, their fans can look forward to an exciting time in the near future. Developments at Roma have shown just how positive an effect a modern, considered approach to the market can have, and Nerazzurri fans should be praying that Thohir can have the kind of effect that James Pallotta has had in the capital. 


Patience in the Stands

Like the club's new owner, Inter's supporters must realise that returning to the top will take time. In the interview mentioned earlier (here, in English via football-italia.net), Thohir said as much: 

Fans should not expect bombs, but if we have our chances, we will do something interesting. In any case, we have to sell before making any purchase. 

Our project is clear, there is no doubt about this. We want to build a healthy club, competitive in the industry, so this year we are going through a state of transition.

This is not year zero, this is the last year of a fantastic era. Starting next season we will begin a new era.

He's right. It's not year zero at Inter. They have quality players and coaches who will continue the new project, but it's past time to recognise that Moratti's successful era is over. 

If Inter fans can look at the opposition—Juventus, Roma, Napoli—with some modicum of detachment, they'll see that the Nerazzurri have a way to go. They'll get there a lot quicker with the support of the stands. Good things will come, but only to those willing to wait. 

Colin O'Brien is on twitter. Let him know what you think