5 Reasons Why Erick Thohir Will Help Restore Inter Milan
New Inter Milan owner and president Erick Thohir has just finished his first transfer window as the man calling the shots. The last month has had some tumultuous times and was capped off on a sour note by a 3-1 drubbing by Juventus at the weekend.
Any fans expecting an immediate rise to the top of the table when Thohir arrived were probably dreaming a bit too much, but the Indonesian billionaire was always going to need more than one window to solve Inter's problems. The blue side of Milan should rest easy—their new owner can lead their boys to glory once again.
How can he do it? Let's look deeper to find out.
Given the state of economics in Italy, very few clubs have cash to throw around. Juventus is the high-profile exception to this rule, due mostly to the amount of revenue they get from their palatial club-owned stadium.
This is where a foreign investor like Thohir can be decisive. Having made his fortune in print and television media, Thohir can give the Nerazzurri a substantial transfer war-chest to help rebuild the side. Already, the signs are encouraging—the late-window signing of Hernanes from Lazio could allow him to play the advanced trequartista role that Marek Hamsik so ably filled for Walter Mazzarri at Napoli.
Interisti should be looking forward to the summer window, when a lot of old contracts come off the books, and Thohir will have the financial firepower to go out and replace the likes of Esteban Cambiasso and Diego Milito with younger players.
Access to Foreign Markets
Inter has a large fanbase in Thohir's native Indonesia. Inter Club Indonesia, the official team supporter's club in the country, claims the largest local-registered fanbase for the club in the entire world (a claim made here—be aware, this is in Indonesian).
With an Indonesian owner, Inter can take advantage of such a lucrative fanbase—one that only figures to grow with one of their countrymen in charge of the team.
Inter can take advantage of this to stake out a foothold not only in Indonesia, but the rest of Asia—a financial boon that could give the Nerazzurri a needed shot in the arm.
Expect Inter to eschew the American summer tours that they have recently participated in in favor of potentially more lucrative pre-season trips to Indonesia and the rest of Asia.
A New Stadium
As mentioned before, one of the big reasons Juventus has lorded over Italy the last three years is Juventus Stadium. The palatial 41,000-seat ground stands where the old Stadio Delle Alpi once rose and—crucially—is owned entirely by the club.
The Bianconeri are the only team in the country to own their own stadium, and the financial benefits of that ownership have become enormously clear over the last few years. Those benefits are only set to grow with the redevelopment of the nearby Continassa area. The plan will include a new team headquarters, training center and youth academy, as well as a hotel, cinema and private residences.
Roma has also moved forward with plans to build their own stadium, and Inter fans should be relieved to know that they aren't being left behind, either.
Football-Italia reported in November that Thohir had met with Milan mayor Giuliano Pisapia, and that discussion focused on the club building a new stadium in Milan's Rho district. Pisapia referred to the meeting as "more than cordial, even a friendly one."
Italian politicians have promised to cut down on the red tape between clubs and new stadiums in 2014, and if Thohir has the support of the city, it could only be a matter of time before Inter has a brand new arena to call their own—along with all the financial gains that come with it.
Say what you want about Massimo Moratti's 18 years at the head of the club, but one weakness in his reign was that there was very little stability. With the possible exceptions of club legends Ivan Cordoba and Javier Zanetti, everyone from the players to (especially) the managers were the subject of Moratti's whim.
The manager's office, in particular, is a place where Thohir can really give this team a stable base. Walter Mazzarri was Moratti's sixth gaffer in the four years since Jose Mourinho left for Real Madrid and the 19th since Mazzarri first took over the team in 1995. Only two managers lasted more than two seasons at Moratti's Inter—Mourinho and Roberto Mancini. Not coincidentally, they guided Inter through their torrid run through the late 2000s.
Instability in the manager's office is a kiss of death—just ask Palermo fans. For Inter to rise back to the top, they need a manager who has a strong position and an entrenched system with players who fit it.
The early signs have been good. Thohir has put no pressure on Mazzarri despite the team's recent rough patch. So long as he continues in that vein, the manager's office should be much less of a worry.
An Outside Perspective
Sometimes, doing something the way it's always been done just won't work anymore.
Unfortunately, doing it the way most Italian owners have been doing it for the last 10 years has seen the Serie A nosedive in the UEFA coefficient rankings. It may be time for the perspective of an outsider to give the club—and the league—a shot in the arm.
Foreign ownership has always been controversial, but at the moment, I'm sure that Roma fans don't mind too much that their owners are American. Thomas DiBenedetto and president James Pallotta false started a few times, but their project is finally paying off. The Giallorossi are second in the league, and as mentioned, a new stadium is on the way. The club is definitely headed in the right direction.
Thohir brings insight not only from his own Indonesian sports holdings (where he owns several basketball teams), but also from the U.S. as well. He is a major part of the ownership group that controls MLS's DC United and is also a stakeholder in the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers.
If he can use those models to improve Inter the same way DiBenedetto has done in Rome, the club will once again grace the top of the table.