Inter need period of stability to regain Serie A foothold

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Il biscione e l’fc Internazionale III” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by batrax

Inter Milan have endured a staggering decline over the past six years, which has seen the club drop from conquering the Champions League to suffering embarrassing defeats in the Europa League. During Jose Mourinho’s tenure at the San Siro the Nerazzurri secured their first major European title in 45 years when they won the competition in the 2009/10 campaign, while they also reeled off their four Serie A crowns on the spin to dominate football in Italy.

However, since the Portuguese’s departure the club were brushed aside in the league by the rising talents of Juventus, who have established themselves as the prominent force in Italian football. On the continent, matters have been even worse for Inter, failing to compete in the latter stages of tournaments or otherwise not qualifying for them at all.

The Nerazzurri have been through a host of managers since 2010; eight to be precise. Rafael Benitez, Leonardo, Gian Piero Gasperini, Claudio Ranieri, Andrea Stramaccioni, Walter Mazzarri, Roberto Mancini have all come and gone at the San Siro. Frank de Boer currently sits in the dugout, although with the club’s struggles this season you have to wonder how long he will reside there.

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P1013420” (CC BY 2.0) by Sona Hovasapyan

Inter have endured a stuttering start to the Serie A campaign, taking 11 points from their opening eight matches, while back-to-back defeats to Roma and Cagliari have knocked them out of the top half of the table, leaving them in 11th place.

Their inconsistent form has put them in trouble in the past, and as a result they are backed in the latest Bet365 Serie A betting odds at 3/1 to finish inside the top three, although Roma, Napoli and bitter rivals AC Milan have stronger credentials, while Juventus remain alone at the top.

For all their pitfalls there is a lot of quality in their squad after a surge of signings over the summer, with Joao Mario, Gabriel and Antonio Candreva all joining the club. This boosted the talent already at the San Siro with Mauro Icardi, Ivan Perisic and Geoffrey Kondogbia, giving De Boer plenty of attacking options, although their weakness lies in the defence.

Miranda has struggled to reproduce his form from his days at Atletico for the Nerazzurri, while Jeison Murillo and Andrea Ranocchia have proven to be unreliable, particularly the latter in his dismissal against Sparta Prague in the Europa League. Given that De Boer’s strength as a manager is his defensive tactics, time will tell if the Dutchman can rectify these issues.

On their day Inter are a match for anyone as their victory over Juventus proved at the San Siro. Unfortunately for the club those days have been few and far between, giving their supporters little to shout about. Discontent has been present in their fanbase for a while now, and Icardi’s outburst in his autobiography has not improved matters, with supporters even cheering when he missed a spot-kick against Cagliari and demanding his removal as captain.

Reports suggest that he could leave for Arsenal in January, which would leave the club without their top goalscorer and their captain. That would also put further pressure on their weak defence, deepening their problems as Stevan Jovetic, Eder Martins and Gabriel are not prolific enough to replace the Argentine’s impact.

Inter are a team in need of stability and losing further players, especially one at the core of the team would only put them further behind their rivals at the top. De Boer needs time to implement his style of management on the club, as only then will they be able to move forward and attempt to wrestle away Juventus’ dominance of Italian football.

Could Balotelli be back?

Bramall Lane, November 2007, its cold and the night drew in long ago. Sheffield United have invited Inter to play a friendly to commemorate their 150th anniversary. Despite the Nerazzurri winning 5-2, it was played at a slow tempo and the game dissipated into the memory of the few who attended. Little did they know that they had witnessed the debut of one of football’s most frustrating stars. Mario Balotelli had scored a brace that night and that is where it all began, not just for Inter but in his career. He has risen and fallen a long way since then but now it looks like he may go back to where it all began.

Unexpected news

As the Milanese took in their morning coffee they would have been forgiven for spitting it back out as Tuttosport announced that Mario Balotelli could be joining Roberto Mancini in Milan after his disappointing time at Liverpool. The rumour certainly holds some sense of truth as the Nerazzurri ‘mister’ has previously looked for players he has worked with before. His purchase of Stevan Jovetic and the constant pursuit of Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta are testament to that.

It has been reported in recent weeks that the relationship between the coach and the club has been tense of late as the Chinese Suning Investment group have different ideas about the transfer market. They have been more inclined to lean towards a youthful policy whilst the coach wants players for now who have experience and have trophies under their belt as he battles among the title challengers.

Perfect fit?

This is why Balotelli also fits the bill as at the tender age of 25 he could be seen as a long term prospect. He would also be cheap, Inter sold him back in £22m to none other than Mancini at Manchester City but now he could be available for as little as £6m. There is no questioning his talent either and he would be returning to an environment he knows well. Milan has been his home for many years and he scored 20 goals in 59 appearances the last time he put on a black and blue shirt.

Whether he would be welcomed by the Nerazzurri faithful is another thing however as he played for Milan, (the team he supported since childhood) 63 times scoring 27 goals in two spells. Even so he would not be the first player to swap benches at the San Siro as Ronaldo, Roberto Baggio, Andrea Pirlo, Christian Vieri and Clarence Seedorf are just some in a long list that have worn both shirts in anger.

Balotelli certainly has a lot to prove and yet there is something fascinating about him being back under the bright lights of the Giuseppe Meazza. Mauro Icardi aside, Inter have struggled for goals, Eder could not repeat his Sampdoria form and Rodrigo Palacio’s best days are behind him. Could the wandering Super Mario go back to where it all began and resurrect his career? He will hope so or it well and truly could be game over.

Inter press on for Toure

Reports say Inter want to sign Yaya Toure from Manchester City on a free transfer as they consider spreading his salary. The chances are like winning on hityah.com, you never know.

The Ivory Coast international has been linked with the Nerazzzurri since last summer and Roberto Mancini is believed to want a reunion with his former pupil.

There have been reports this week that the midfielder has received two lucrative offers from China, but Corriere dello Sport writes that Inter are still hoping to secure the 33-year-old.

The imminent arrival of Ilkay Gundogan at Man City will help push Toure out the door, but the problem remains the high costs of the deal.

Inter could try to spread Toure’s current salary of €11m per year over two or three seasons, according to the outlet.

But the Beneamata are also hoping that the midfielder could leave the Etihad Stadium for free, which would offer the only opportunity for Inter to sign him.

Toure has one year remaining on his contract but is believed to be against working under incoming manager Pep Guardiola.

His agent Dimitri Seluk will be in Milan for Saturday’s Champions League final, which could provide an opportunity for a discussion with the club.

Inter Milan: Can they compete with Juventus for the Serie A title?

After an incredibly disappointing 2014-15 Serie A campaign, Inter Milan will look to compete for their first Italian top-flight title since 2010 as they attempt to re-establish themselves as a giant of European football. Since they won the treble under former manager Jose Mourinho in the 2009-10 season, Inter have struggled to dominate Italian football and, after a number of years in decline, finished eighth last term under former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini.

The 50-year-old has insisted that Inter will be much improved this season and they have already moved in the summer transfer window to acquire Monaco midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia for a reported fee of around £25 million. With a few more signings, the 18-time Serie A champions could compete with the likes of Juventus, Napoli and Lazio for silverware.

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It will be difficult to compete with a dominant Juventus side this term but Inter are certainly capable of competing financially in the transfer market with the Old Lady. At the time of writing, Juve – who have lifted the Serie A title for the past four years – have acquired three players already in the summer window and have laid the benchmark for their competitors to follow.

The club have secured the services of Paulo Dybala from fellow Italian side Palermo for around £23m while they have also signed Sami Khedira and Mario Manzukic from Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid respectively. It is vital that Inter are able to follow suit in the transfer market and the acquisition of Kondogbia – who admitted that Mancini was a huge factor in his decision to move – proves that the Italian giants are still capable of competing with Europe’s top clubs. A few more signings like this and Inter, who are priced at 10/1 when this article was produced, will be supported in the football betting markets in Italy.

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Realistically, it may be more sensible for Inter to target a top-three finish this season and secure a return to the Champions League. Europe’s elite club competition is a huge factor for many players nowadays and a club becomes a lot more attractive if they are playing European football on a regular basis.

Mancini’s side are more than capable of climbing up the division to finish as one of the top sides in Serie A this term, especially as they can focus all of their efforts solely on their domestic league games throughout the 2015-16 campaign. With no European distractions, Inter should channel all of their efforts on the Serie A season and bringing Champions League football back to the club for the first time since 2013.

However, that isn’t to say that Inter cannot compete for their 19th Serie A crown this season. They already possess a young, talented squad that are hungry to succeed and, with experienced boss Mancini at the helm, they could spring a shock and push Juventus all the way for the title. Massimiliano Allegri’s side are certainly red-hot favourites for their fifth successive top-flight trophy but Inter shouldn’t be overlooked and, with a bit of luck, will finish back in Italy’s top three and secure Champions League football at the very least.

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What do Inter need to do this summer?

As Inter Milan head into another summer looking back on a dismal season, the question is how the club are going to be able to cut the 30-plus points between themselves and Serie A champions Juventus. While the Inter squad will now be jetting off on their summer holidays, Roberto Mancini and the rest of the club’s management will be busy putting together plans in order to ensure they bounce back next season and start the process of returning Inter to the top of the Italian game. With no European football on the schedule next year, Inter will be able to throw their full focus into the domestic campaign, with the return of Champions League football also a massive priority for a club that had grown accustomed to competing in European football’s premier competition on a regular basis.

After a slow start, Inter were always playing catch-up last season, and fans won’t be looking back on the 2014/15 campaign with fond memories. Having won just four games from the opening 11 of the season, head coach Walter Mazzarri was given his marching orders last November, with Mancini making a shock return to the club he led to three Serie A titles during his first spell as manager. While things picked up a little under the former Manchester City boss, the club still ended the season way down in eighth in the table, their fourth year outside the top-three and further evidence of just how far they are away from challenging the likes of Juventus and Roma for the title. Things weren’t much better in the cup competitions, losing in the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia – a tournament Inter won twice during Mancini’s first spell – and falling at the last-16 stage in the Europa League after losing both legs to Bundesliga side Wolfsburg.

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While this was clearly a season of few highlights for Inter fans, there were some noticeable stand-out performances, not least the form of in-demand striker Mauro Icardi. The forward scored 22 league goals to finish as Serie A’s joint leading scorer alongside Verona’s Luca Toni, and Mancini will know he has a player capable of scoring the goals that Inter will need if they are going to have any chance of challenging next year. Currently set to start next season at around 14/1 with bookmakers such as betfair and 32Red to win the title in 2015-16, it’s clear that Inter have some work to do this summer if people are going to start believing Mancini has turned this ship around.

There might be some comfort for fans knowing despite Inter being at one of the lowest points in their history, they are still ahead of bitter rivals AC Milan, who themselves are going through some significant issues both on and off the field. But Inter fans aren’t happy unless they are winning trophies, and Mancini will be well aware that he set the bar fairly high during his first tenure. So what do Inter need to do this summer if they are going to begin the new season with a chance of doing anything next year other than watching on as their rivals wage battle at the top of the table?

Hang onto Icardi

On the back of such an impressive season, it’s no surprise to see Inter’s star striker being linked with a number of clubs throughout Europe. With Champions League football still looking some way away, Inter know they could face a real battle if Icardi decides he needs to be playing in club football’s premier competition over the next couple of years. As it stands, though, the 22-year-old has shunned the likes of Chelsea after signing a new contract to commit himself to Inter until 2019. Whether the new contract is a sign of the club’s desire to build a side around the Argentinean or if the deal has been put in place to ensure they get top dollar for the striker if he does leave the San Siro over the next 18 months, all remains to be seen. But it’s definitely good news for Inter fans who had been concerned about losing their hero to the Premier League.

Despite breaking into the Argentina squad in 2013, Icardi has so far failed to add to his solitary international cap despite his impressive form over the past couple of years. But his national team’s loss is his club’s gain, and Mancini won’t be overly upset if the striker is overlooked by Gerardo Martino next season if it means Icardi can focus on matching his goalscoring achievements from this season. After a relatively modest first year at the San Siro following his switch from Sampdoria, the youngster’s lethal form in front of goal last year came as something of a surprise to many Italian football fans. It didn’t take long for the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool to begin sniffing around the in-form front-man, and while Icardi did admit to being flattered by the interest shown in him, Inter look to have won the battle to hang onto their man, or at least for the time being.

Give Icardi a helping hand

There is little doubt Inter won’t be able to just rely on Icardi scoring goals next season if they are going to have any hope of challenging for honours. The Argentinean was the only Internazionale player to reach double figures in Serie A last season and Mancini will be well aware that he needs to add more goals to this squad. Lukas Podolski may have proved to be a popular player in the team following his loan move from Arsenal, but his goal return proved he’s probably not the man to solve Inter’s striker issues. Rodrigo Palacio was the next top scorer for the club last season, but the Argentinean’s eight league goals haven’t strengthened his case for a more central role next year. Mancini’s hunt for another goalscorer to play alongside Icardi will continue this summer.

A number of forwards have been linked with Inter since the end of the season and it looks as though Inter will sign at least one new forward. A move for Manchester City striker Stevan Jovetic looks to be on the cards, with Mancini set to raid his former club for a player who has struggled to nail down a regular first-team spot since his move to the Premier League side from Fiorentina two years ago. A string of injuries have plagued the Montenegro international since his arrival at the Etihad, and City’s signing of Wilfried Bony from Swansea all but spelled the end of Jovetic’s City career. Inter may have competition for the 25-year-old’s signature from Liverpool, but a return to Italy appears to be Jovetic’s preference. He may not be the most prolific striker in European football but he would be a perfect fit for what Inter need to add to their front-line.

Convince Handanovic to stay

After yet another impressive season in the Inter goal, Samir Handanovic currently finds himself as one of European football’s most in-demand goalkeepers. Entering the final year of his contract at the San Siro, the Slovenian international has been linked with a number of clubs over the past few months, and Inter face a real battle on their hands to convince the 30-year-old to sign a new deal. Handanovic has made no secret of the fact he needs to be playing in European competitions, especially the Champions League, at this stage of his career. With European football not on the schedule for Inter next season, Mancini will know he doesn’t have a great case to convince Handanovic to commit the best years of his career to the club. Mancini will know replacing Handanovic would be no easy task, and the Inter boss will be desperate for the goalkeeper to agree a new contract.

Having arrived at the San Siro in 2012 from Udinese, Handanovic has been one of Inter’s most consistent players during his time at the club, but last year’s disappointments could spell the end of his time in Italy and with Inter. With Manchester United reportedly set to be in the market for a new shot-stopper should David de Gea make the expected move to Real Madrid, Handanovic is rumoured to be alongside Petr Cech on Louis van Gaal’s wish-list. The fact he is three years younger than the Czech international, not to mention Chelsea’s unwillingness to sell Cech to one of their main rivals, means the Inter star is believed to be leading the race to replace the Spaniard at Old Trafford.

Add some creativity and flair

Among the many things wrong with Inter last season, a lack of flair, creativity and width was definitely one of them. While Fredy Guarin and Mateo Kovacic are both very capable creative players, neither has that explosive turn of pace and special something that can turn a game on its head. And with Kovacic rumoured to be attracting interest from the Premier League with Liverpool and Arsenal reportedly set to make a move, Mancini’s need for some attacking midfielders this summer might not stop with just one or two players. Podolski had been expected to be the man who could add some drive and a goal threat from deeper last year, but the German’s loan deal from Arsenal is unlikely to be turned into a permanent one after scoring just one goal in Serie A all season.

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Manchester United winger Nani appears to be at the top of Mancini’s list of targets this summer, and the Portugal international could be just what Inter have been missing last season. After spending last year on loan with former club Sporting Lisbon, where he scored four times in the Champions League and seven times in the league, Nani is preparing to return to Old Trafford, where he has another three years left on his current contract. While Sporting are keen to sign the 28-year-old on a permanent deal this summer, Nani is expected to have another option in Inter after Mancini reportedly made the winger one of his main transfer targets. Available at around £7.8 million, Nani wouldn’t break the bank but would give Inter a real attacking threat and someone who has all the tools to be a real success in Italy.

Strengthen the midfield

Having made a very public attempt at convincing Yaya Toure to swap Manchester City for Inter Milan over the past few months, it looks as though the Serie A side have given up hope of signing the midfielder. The Ivorian has finally come out to reveal he will stay at the Etihad this summer, meaning Mancini will have to look elsewhere to sign a player capable of adding some leadership and metal to the midfield before next season. The former City boss had been confident of being reunited with Toure this summer, and the midfielder’s agent had even claimed his client was 90% certain to leave the Premier League at the end of the season. The change in stance might be a blow to Inter but Mancini will have a number of other options out there that he will now turn to following Toure’s U-turn.

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Felipe Melo is a player who has been linked with a move to the San Siro over the next few months and would fit the bill for what Inter need to add to their midfield. The Brazilian, who is capable of playing at centre-back as well as in a deep-sitting midfielder, is entering the final year of his contract with Turkish giants Galatasaray and Inter could find the door open to sign the experienced 31-year-old. Another player who has been attracting a lot of interest over the past couple of months is Monaco midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, and Inter are one of a number of clubs fighting it out to sign the combative Frenchman. The youngster was been one of the Ligue 1 club’s best players last season and Monaco could be tempted to cash in on Kondogbia at a time when they need to raise funds.