On December 23, Inter decided to let go of Rafael Benitez and fans of the Nerazzuri breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Inter was languishing in seventh place in Serie A and had barely scraped through to the knockout phase of the Champions League. Benitez clearly was not the right man for the job and despite winning the FIFA Club World Championship, he was fired by team President Massimo Moratti.
However, the next man that was appointed to take charge, stunned Inter fans everywhere.
That man was, of course, AC Milan legend, Leonardo.
At the end of the year, some Inter fans called for Moratti to once again part with the team’s manager. These people were disgruntled by the fact that Inter had failed to win the Scudetto for the sixth consecutive season and had embarrassingly been bounced from the Champions League, losing by an aggregate score of 7-3 to Schalke.
However, the decision to retain Leonardo is clearly the right decision for several reasons.
Leonardo’s position was made all the more difficult by the fact that he had to come in halfway through the season.
He had very little time to get to know his players and did not have the luxury of the offseason to bring in the people that he wanted to fit his system of play. In addition to that, he faced a tough task in taking charge of a team that had been underperforming for most of the season.
Despite not being able to overtake AC Milan, Inter was able to rally and get back into the title race. At one stage, they were just two points out of first place. In addition to that, despite being thrashed by Schalke, Inter were able to beat a very good Bayern Munich side in the first knockout round.
Only on one occasion were Inter able to make it to the quarterfinals during Mancini’s reign.
Even under Mourinho, Inter was not able to make it past the first round in his first year. Also, despite the stigma of the Coppa Italia, it is still a trophy and impressive that Leonardo was able to win it in his first attempt with the club.
Along the way, they were able to beat Roma on their home field, which is always a difficult task.
The biggest reason why it was the correct decision to retain Leonardo is that Inter need stability. Moratti was notorious at the beginning of his ownership for being quick to replace players and coaches.
That model proved to be a failure. It was not until Moratti became patient that Inter started winning trophies.
If Inter were to replace Leonardo, they would be on their fourth manager in three seasons and that would ruin the stability that Moratti has been able to establish.