Inter Club Focus: Season Preview 2013/14
They’ve also reinvigorated the squad with youthful signings in a bid to reduce costs amid talks of a possible takeover by the Indonesian billionaire Erik Thohir.
Inter’s financial struggles are well known and with new Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations coming into force, club president Massimo Moratti has looked to raise funds by selling part of the club.
There has been alleged interest from several parties, whether it be Russian oligarchs or a consortium led by former Inter president Ernesto Pellegrini; Thohir appears the preferred choice for Moratti. It is expected that Moratti will sell a 75% stake of the club to Thohir over the coming weeks, bringing in crucial funds to help provide financial stability.
It’s unlikely however, that the sale of the club will enable significant additions to be made before the transfer window closes.
Prior to the summer mercato beginning, Inter had announced the signings of Ruben Botta, Hugo Campagnaro, Diego Laxalt and Marco Andreolli, all for little or no money; a key factor in the club’s new policies. Botta was the pick of the bunch, however, the Argentine playmaker is ruled out until at least October with a knee injury.
Mauro Icardi was the club’s first big summer signing, arriving from Sampdoria for an initial €6 million for 50% of the player’s rights with a further €6 million to be paid at the season’s end.
Icardi exploded onto the Peninsula last season netting 11 goals in 33 league appearances; including four goals against Pescara and a brace against Juventus. He is expected to be mentored by Diego Milito this season.
Next to arrive was Ishak Belfodil from Parma and the Algerian striker took the number seven shirt and has formed a key component of Mazzarri’s attack in preseason.
Inter have moved to strengthen the defence also, with Portuguese centre-back Rolando arriving on loan from Porto to add some defence steel to a back line which at times seemed porous last season.
Wing-back, Wallace also joined on loan from Chelsea to provide Jonathan with competition for a first team place.
The latest addition to the squad saw the arrival of the Algerian midfielder Saphir Taider from Bologna for a reported fee of €6 million. Taider will provide a different option for Mazzarri, with a dynamic approach to the game and the ability to complement Mateo Kovacic, he is bound to shine.
Technical director Marco Branca has overseen a clear out of sorts too, with big names such as Antonio Cassano and Dejan Stankovic departing the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza this summer.
Cassano departed to join up with Roberto Donadoni at Parma, where he effectively replaced Belfodil and it will be interesting to see how Inter cope without the occasional creative spark the fiery Italian provided last season.
Stankovic was released after nine long and loyal years in Milan; his charisma will be sorely missed.
Both Italian defenders starred at this summer’s European Under-21 Championships where the Azzurri reached the final and there was optimism that they could form part of Mazzarri’s new side.
However, Branca has allowed the pair to depart for nominal fees and they will likely go onto shine in the Bundesliga. It could well be yet another error made by Inter in the transfer market.
One final departure which will cause fans to rejoice is the move of Matías Silvestre on loan to city rivals AC Milan. Ever since arriving from Palermo last summer, the Argentine defender has looked out of his depth at Inter and credit must be given to Branca for dumping this problem on his neighbour’s doorstep.
Mazzarri’s arrival posed many questions for Inter’s squad, would he be able to develop the team’s young players? Can Inter play with a back three, which had failed under Gian-Piero Gasperini so spectacularly?
Was Mazzarri right to walk away from Napoli and take a ‘step down’ to Inter who had just finished ninth?
Mazzarri carries a reputation for favouring older players, believing they’re more malleable to his tactical approach; his failure to further develop Lorenzo Insigne at Napoli would be a prime example.
However, during pre-season he has quickly established a firm structure which sees the team built around Mateo Kovacic, with Juan Jesus in defence and Icardi starring upfront.
His team will adopt an entertaining approach, looking to attack the opposition but risk conceding at the back. Speaking after Inter’s recent 4-0 Coppa Italia win over Cittadella, Mazzarri warned Inter are only beginning to learn his style, he said: “Today we saw only 60% of how we can perform in the end we created a lot and focused.”
Ultimately it appears Mazzarri had achieved all he could at Napoli and needed the change to test himself at one of Italy’s ‘big three’ clubs.
Whether he’ll succeed or not will depend upon how quickly he can gel the likes of Icardi, Taider, Kovacic and Jesus together.
Realistically, I expect that Mazzarri will guide Inter to a top five finish and Europa League qualification. Although Inter have made decent additions to the playing staff this summer, they haven’t been able to compete with the likes of AC Milan, Napoli and Juventus, so European qualification is a reasonable ask. Additionally UEFA’s recent announcement that winning the competition brings automatic qualification for the Champion’s League from next season is extra incentive. It’s certainly going to be a fascinating season.