If anything, this move came a lot later than people were expecting, because for a long time now it’s been clear: Inter needed to try something else.
Claudio Ranieri replaced Gian Piero Gasperini after three Serie A matches, gave the club a bit of a boost, but never provided the same boost Leonardo instilled when he came in for Rafa Benítez last year. Now, Inter’s promoted Primavera coach Andrea Stramaccioni, their sixth coach in 22 months, as they desperately try to salvage their season.
That salvage operation probably has Europa League in its sights, though some early reports have referenced Champions League. That’s not going to happen. Inter is 10 points behind third-place Lazio (remember, Italy is now a 2+1 league, not a 3+1). In order for Inter to qualify for Champions League, they would have to out-perform Lazio, Napoli, Udinese, Roma, and Catania over the season’s final nine games. How many of those teams have they out-performed to this point this year? You guessed it: Zero.
The last team on that list is really eye-opening. Nothing against Catania, but they’re basically an Argentine enclave in Serie A (they have 10 Argentines on their roster). As those players get used to Italian soccer, they are often snatched up by the league’s big boys, including Inter Milan. To see Catania ahead of Inter after 29 rounds is a real wake up call.
Another eye-opener: Only five clubs in Serie A have lost more matches than Inter’s 12.
It’s an aging team, they’re having a bad season, and perhaps their 2009-10 treble-winning campaign under José Mourinho took something out of them that they can never get back. But this team still has Diego Forlán, Diego Milito, and Giampaolo Pazzini. They still have Wesley Sneijder, Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso. They still have Lucio, Yuto Nagatomo, Walter Samuel, Maicon and Julio Cesar. No, this team should not be in eighth … in any league.
None of that matters, now. All that matters is getting into Europe, which (as of now) means reaching sixth place. That’s currently held by Roma, three points ahead of the Nerazzurri. Depending what happens with the Coppa Italia, Inter may have to climb even higher than that.
It’s an awfully tall order for an awfully new coach.