An off season that started with the possibility of Massimo Moratti of selling the club after 18 years in the presidency was always going to be an exciting one for Inter Milan.
As it was, Moratti accepted investment from Germany’s Deutsche Bank, a major worldwide financial corporation, and did what he seems to do best, replaced his manager. Andrea Stramaccioni giving way to Walter Mazzarri in the twentieth managerial change since Moratti assumed the club presidency in 1995.
Mazzarri was hired on the back of his innovative success with Napoli, taking the club from mid-table in Serie A to the Champions League via some exhilarating counter-attacking play. Whilst he turned Napoli into genuine Scudetto challengers in his four years at the San Paolo, his remit as Inter boss will be to restore them to a similar status after Stramaccioni parted with a lowly 9th place finish. A season devoid of European competition, just three years after Jose Mourinho’s treble at the San Siro, not good enough for Moratti and Mazzarri is the man charged with returning Inter to the top table.
To do that, Mazzarri must set about renovating a psychologically damaged, disorganised squad that appears not have a clear direction. Stramaccioni, successful with Inter’s youngsters in the Next Gen series, was employed to oversee the integration of the likes of Mateo Kovacic and Joel Obi, yet that was contradicted as the club desperately clings on to the older statesmen in Javier Zanetti and Walter Samuel.
Stramaccioni just couldn’t get the balance right. Mazzarri must do so as well as sorting out a defence that shipped 57 goals in Serie A last term, the joint-worst total along with Siena and bettered only by bottom club Pescara’s 84.
The 54-year old coach has set about achieving the latter by signing four centre-halves: Matias Silvestre from Palermo, Luca Caldirola from Cesena, Marco Andreoli from Chievo and Hugo Campagnaro from Napoli. That quartet will provide competition to the ageing Christian Chivu and Samuel as well as the 25-year old Andrea Rannochia, whose progress last season was one of the very few bright sparks in Inter’s year. A move for Basel’s highly-rated stopper Aleksandar Dragovic was also mooted, but talks were broken off as Inter felt Mazzarri had amassed enough cover in that position.
In Campagnaro, Mazzarri is bringing in a player he knows well having signed the 33-year old in his first summer as Napoli coach and managing him for the subsequent four seasons, turning him into the rock of last season as the Partenopei’s back three formed solid foundation to their second place finish.
Mazzarri was rumoured to return to Napoli for a deal for wing-back Juan Zuniga as one of his first deals at Inter, suggesting his favoured 3-4-2-1 would continue in Milan. Javier Zanetti, with his evergreen energy and immaculate positional sense, would have been useful on the right, but Mazzarri must find a solution to the problem the captain poses in the lack of a long-term successor, especially pertinent as the 39-year old is sidelined until later in the year with a torn Achilles tendon.
Inter are currently in talks with Gregory Van Der Weil, the roaming right-back of PSG, according to club director Piero Ausilio. If Inter fail on their targets, Mazzarri may be tempted to trust Jonathon Moriera in that position, despite just a handful of appearances since joining Inter in 2011.
Apart from his defence, Mazzarri seems relatively happy with his current squad, only delving into the transfer market to obtain defensive midfield cover in the form of Bologna’s Gabi Mudingayi. Also, Juan Carrizo arrives from Lazio to provide an alternative, and possibly a long-term heir, to the supremely gifted and much-coveted goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
The rest of Mazzarri’s first set of signings have been made with the future in mind, two twenty year olds in the form of left-winger Diego Laxalt and Mauro Icardi, whereas Ishak Belfodil tops the financial figures, the 21-year old Parma striker arriving for the fee of £6.6 million. The promising Icardi hit eleven goals in his breakthrough year for Sampdoria last season while Belfodil hit eight at Parma. They will be competing for places in the Inter front-line that struggled last term, Rodrigo Palacio top-scoring with just 12.
Of the other strikers available to Mazzarri, Antonio Cassano has departed to Parma but the new coach is left with the experience of Diego Milito and the quality of Palacio as well as the creative talents of Ricky Alvarez and Fredy Guarin, who will be tasked of filling the attacking midfielder role Marek Hamsik filled so brilliantly for Mazzarri at Napoli.
“The squad is pretty well equipped in terms of players per position”, said Mazzarri in clear indication he his content with his squad as he embarks on the task of rejuvenating Inter following their worst domestic campaign since 1994.
“I want a team that people enjoy watching, with a soul, that never gives up, I can promise you that”, said Mazzarri, probably aware that his tactical knowledge partnered with shrewd activity in the transfer market, he can make that promise come true.
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