When Jose Mourinho decided to expand his horizons by making a move to Spain, he was leaving behind him a legacy. There was arguably no better time for anybody to be a manager of the treble winners Inter Milan at the end of an excessively triumphant season.
The baton was passed to the infamous Merseyside man Rafael Benitez. The Spaniard was believed to be fortunate enough having scalped an opportunity to manage a champion unit even after being sacked from being the head coach of Liverpool.
Benitez’s managerial abilities were always a matter of debate. His track record during the previous stints as manager demonstrated an entirely inconsistent pattern. He had tasted the highest success with both Valencia and Liverpool; at the same time his antics accounted for a distasteful downfall of one of the highest decorated clubs in England.
His appointment as the manager of Inter therefore had raised enough brows all around Europe but Inter president Massimo Moratti time and again asserted he was certain about what he was doing.
Things of course did not go the way Moratti would have imagined them to even during the worst of his nightmares. From being crowned an impenetrable unit, Inter in as less as six month time started becoming increasingly beatable.
The form of the team fell from one point to another and right before the Christmas break, Massimo Moratti has decided to call the shots. In all likelihood, Inter will begin afresh under a new manager, under a lavid set of ideologies, come the second half the season.
What is interesting here to see is, how rightful is it to crown Benitez the scapegoat for the fiasco – if at all this is one. As a matter of fact, Benitez has already won two titles with Inter and has lost only one, with the team still contesting for three. This slideshow intends to present five reasons why it does not completely justify to admonish Benitez for the series of lacklustre performances by the team.
Although Jose Mourinho had found out an invincible unit with no real presence of star quotient, Inter management should have well acknowledged fact that the transition process would never be attained overnight.
Mourinho’s departure did cause a considerable disharmony in the dressing room and it was definitely going to take a while before the dust would settle.
Besides, Benitez is a manager of an altogether different nature and his ideas were not to be immediately woven with the team’s play.
From what was available, he tinkered the formation, the choice of players and team composition the way that suited his managerial gestures the best.
Sanity suggests, the situation would have been no different with any manager under the sun, as it is always difficult to deal with a set of players who had remained obedient disciples for more than two years under a man of Mourinho’s influence and authority.
The 2009-10 season turned out to be a prodigious one in Inter’s history as the team went on to claim an unprecedented treble. The set of players that Rafa inherited at the end of the season had potentially won everything there was to win and it was always a question mark whether Benitez would be able to keep the players motivated to further their winning spree.
The results are much evident in the approach the players have exercised so far during the first half of the current season. Players like Wesley Sneijder and Diego Milito have so far been only a shadow of their true character and caliber.
The indifferent and disjointed tendency on field coupled with lack of cohesion has directly deterred the team’s chances to deliver the highest results.
While Benitez is to assume the blame of players not remaining at the highest motivational level, it would not be entirely right to hold him responsible to deal with this issue.
Inter played a long season last time around – both physically and mentally – under immense pressure and expectations to deliver. This followed by the FIFA World Cup in South Africa that never allowed the continuously touring players a chance to rest.
At the beginning of the new season therefore, many of them were speculated to have been worn out under highly fatigued physical adequacy.
The due credit of Mourinho’s success must be shared with the technical staff who always maintained the availability of the top players to the Special One to help him write a historical chapter in club’s record books.
The story did not turn out to be the same for Rafa’s managerial stint and the prolonged spell of unavailability of some of the key players did not help the Spaniard’s cause to alleviate the team’s success to the next level.
Even though Inter were entering into this season winning everything that could have been won, they were no short of loopholes in their squad. People like Zanetti, Cordoba, Lucio and Milito are not getting any younger and it would be unreasonable to expect from them to replicate last season’s heroics.
The problem with the current composition is Benitez was never in position to rotate the squad effectively and thus he ended up aggravating injuries of already fatigued set of players.
This limited his chances of any creative experimentation as during most of the competitive games during the first third of the season, he needed to field makeshift defenders and midfielders to fill into holes.
Hence, lack of options which proved fatal to stage any fresh moves as the team was already left dangling in both the domestic league as well as in Europe.
The real lacking was the replacements of the injured players who could never rise to occasion, barring Biabiany and Coutinho who too in turn were struck to injuries.
It would not be ideal to pass the blame for this stratagem on Benitez as it involves more than one factors to fall in place for a manager to avail the set of players at will.
Well, from a certain frame of reference, things actually do not appear as distorted as they are projected to be. Inter under Rafa Benitez’s regime have already bagged Supercopa Italiana beating their closest rivals of last season AS Roma. They stumbled against Atletico during the UEFA Super Cup but have again emerged supreme in the recently concluded FIFA Club World Cup.
Statistically speaking, Benitez has already delivered two titles in six month time which is quite decent a pace. Moreover, Inter are not yet thrown out of any of the major competitions as they are still alive in both Champions League and Coppa Italia, as well as they are standing sixth in the Serie A table with a couple of games in hand.
There is every reason to believe Inter can still manage to win any of these titles provided they buy the right set of players during the winter.
Given the reputation of Benitez, it may not sound perfectly befitting to the occasion, but from a neutral point of view, if Massimo Moratti materializes this untimely sacking of Benitez then to say the least it would be called a premature, unfair and unjustifiable one.