All Inter fans would’ve been glad to see the back of what proved to be one of their most horrid seasons in recent memory. In a season that promised to be one of evolution and progress under Walter Mazzarri according to the Betfair odds, quickly descended into a campaign from hell.
The maligned former Napoli coach was given the sack for the first time in his career in mid-November after a series of disappointing results, winning only four of his 11 league games and leaving his side in ninth-place – far adrift of the title-challenge he promised at the start of the campaign.
Former boss Roberto Mancini arrived immediately after, amid much celebration and fanfare given the success he achieved in his first spell at the club, but despite minor enhancements to the side’s play and a couple of high-profile additions mid-season in Xherdan Shaqiri (Bayern Munich) and Lukas Podolski (Arsenal), they ultimately struggled to fare any better, and could only finish one spot higher than he arrived in a substandard eighth place, and subsequently no European football.
The Nerazzurri fans have let everyone at the club, ranging from the president Erick Thohir, to Mancini and to all the players, understand that they will not accept any form of mediocrity this season.
The club has struggled to arrest the steep downward slide it has trodden on since their glorious treble victory in 2010, and are at risk of falling back into their old habits of incompetent administration of the club and underwhelming performances on the pitch – facets they assumed they put to bed a few years ago during their trophy-laden run.
To the Nerazzurri’s credit, they have sought to quickly rectify a number of areas that so visibly needed addressing from the last campaign. Interisti nonetheless, will be heading into the new season with a cautious sense of optimism, despite director Piero Ausilio’s clever work in the transfer market so far this summer.
Anyone that watched Inter last term would’ve laughed hysterically at the defensive blunders that would plague the side in nearly every match. Nemanja Vidic was heralded as the man to single-handedly transform the Nerazzurri rear-guard into an impenetrable unit, but actually had the contrasting effect and was a calamity more often than not.
Captain Andrea Ranocchia, diminutive full-back Yuto Nagatomo and perplexing new signing Dodo would also all have their fair share of catastrophic moments in each game that would give Inter fans around the world regular heart attacks. The fact that the ever-impressive Samir Handanovic still conceded a whopping 48 goals during the league season tells a story in itself.
Ausilio has duly focused most of his efforts in improving this area of the pitch, and overhauled the backline completely. Highly-rated central defender Jeison Murillo, who enjoyed an outstanding Copa America with Colombia earlier in the summer, finally made the move from Granada for €10 million.
Two further eye-catching deals were completed in Spain, as Inter also drafted in imperious Brazilian international Miranda – a key figure in Atletico Madrid’s success in recent years – and reliable Barcelona fullback Martin Montoya on a two-year loan deal, with an option to buy.
Perhaps Inter’s most important, and certainly biggest, transfer came in the centre of the park. French international Geoffrey Kondogbia was drafted in for a whopping fee of €40 million from Monaco, and has been given the keys to drive Mancini’s new-look Inter around the park. The powerful midfielder comes with a reputation to dominate games defensively and offensively, and is no doubt a huge coup for the Nerazzurri.
Stevan Jovetic has also arrived on a two-year loan spell, with an obligation to buy, from Manchester City – and if the Montenegrin can get past his injury concerns, he has the potential to form one of the most potent partnerships in the league with talisman Mauro Icardi – who rejected interest from Real Madrid this summer and extended his deal by a further four years in a huge boost to the club.
There has also been activity on the exporting front, as the Nerazzurri released veterans Hugo Campagnaro, Felipe and Jonathan at the expiry of their contracts, while fringe midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic was offloaded to Basel.
What is perhaps indicative of the new direction the club is heading in; they have also allowed a number of former Primavera stars to leave this summer. Lorenzo Crisetig (Bologna), Francesco Bardi (Espanyol), Rene Krhin (Granada), Federico Bonazzoli (Sampdoria), Joel Obi and Marco Benassi (both Torino) were all stand-outs for the club’s Primavera team over the past few years and touted as potential first-teamers at the time, but have been cut loose.
Expect some more incoming after the impending sale of Mateo Kovacic to Real Madrid for around €40 million. The two clubs reached an agreement over the Croatian international over the weekend, with the sale infuriating fans, which adds even further pressure on the shoulders on Mancini.
Things have not gone to plan for the scarf-adoring Mancini since returning to the Inter dug-out late last year. Despite being held in deep affection by the Inter fans due to past glories, even Mancini must know he is fast running out of credit points following a rough eight months at the club where results have failed to suitably improve, even the if side’s performances marginally have.
The fans were prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt due to the majority of the team being his predecessors, and not his – but now that excuse has gone out the window with the major face lift his squad has received at his request.
It is unknown whether Mancini will opt for his favoured 4-3-1-2, or adjust to a 4-3-3 in order to incorporate some much needed width to his outfit. The former probably suits his current squad better given the options available at the moment, and the fact that Jonathan Biabany (who is back at the club for a second stint) is the only wide-man that they’ve brought in so far.
A return to the Champions League must be the aim for Mancini and his men following heavy reinforcement, but the task will be far from easy. Cross-town rivals AC Milan have gone on a spending spree of their own, Lazio have been as shrewd as ever, while Napoli have made a number of interesting signings. Juventus, Roma and Fiorentina you could argue have been slightly weakened, but you’d have to be a brave man to bet against the former for more Scudetto glory despite losing Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez.
While talk of a title challenge may be premature, the Nerazzurri unquestionably have the roster to compete for a top three spot. Much of that depends on Mancini organizing his team efficiently and hoping that his new signings gel as quickly as possible, but anything less will not be tolerated by the fans, nor Thohir.
Expected finish: 5th (NB: this is not necessarily Marco Credentino’s opinion but the average of our editors’ predictions.)