Inter Milan in Champions League Triumph, But Is It the End of an Era?
A new era began last night, and it was a resounding triumph.
UEFA's decision to move its showpiece event, the European Cup Final, to Saturday night was a huge success, and the match itself lived up to the hype as two of the world's best coaches went head to head, student becoming master as Jose Mourinho led his team past Louis Van Gaal's Bayern Munchen side.
Accomplishing something they haven't since the '60s were in full swing should be cause for huge celebration, but to those not of a Nerazzurri disposition it could well signal the beginning of the end. If we look at Inter's recent history it can be defined in three clear parts: Pre and Post-Calciopoli, and then the Mourinho era.
In the first, Inter were almost a byword for inconsistency—before the 2006 scandal that tore the heart from Italian football's chest—bad decisions and late season collapses occurred with alarming regularity. Juventus, Milan, the two Capital sides, Roma and Lazio, and even Sampdoria tasted Scudetto triumphs as Inter went through a 15-year barren spell.
Then Calciopoli erupted, leaving Serie A a shadow of its former self, and the Nerazzurri capitalized. Competing in a severely handicapped league, they were handed their first title and then won two more with little opposition. Owner Massimo Moratti, in a rare moment of clarity, realized this was an opportunity he needed to maximize fully and brought in Mourinho.
With the Portuguese coach, Inter marched to last season's title at a canter. This season they focused on the main prize, the European Cup. Serie A was the tightest it has been in a long time, and arguably the ultimate difference between Roma and Inter was Mourinho.
With the coach gone, as he clearly now is, what next for Inter? Will their better players remain in Milan now they have accomplished the treble in Italy? Maicon, in particular, has previously indicated a desire to leave, with Madrid the likely destination. What price the Brazilian to now follow his coach to the Bernabeu?
The hero of the Champions League triumph, Diego Milito, is almost 31, and is another who may look to capitalize on his success and engineer a move elsewhere. Wesley Sneijder has thrived under Mourinho, but would a new coach utilize him in the same way, particularly in the peninsula?
Esteban Cambiasso, Lucio, and Samuel Eto'o are also among an ageing group who could look for one more big-money move. With Mourinho gone, so will Inter's edge on the big occasion, that swagger that the coach instills in all his teams.
Looking at Chelsea post-Mourinho, it has taken almost four years, and as many coach's for them to recover. Given Inter's history, their collapse could be more spectacular, and last much longer.
With Juventus making the drastic and wide-ranging changes they have needed to since returning to Serie A, and a Roma side who pushed Inter all the way this past season, the vultures are already circling. Moratti needs to quickly find a coach capable of filling the hole now being torn into his football club.
If Mourinho truly is a Special "One," it may prove to be an impossible task.
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