Can The Special One Lead Inter to Champions League Glory?

What do two (well, technically three) straight Serie A championships buy you? Not job security, if you’re Roberto Mancini.

For all of the recent success that Inter Milan have had domestically, such success eluded them continentally in the Mancini regime, and in many before him.

Not bringing home the titles on the biggest stage is a good ticket to the ‘little brother’ complex, and for many others, a veritable revolving door of managers, when your biggest rival – who you not only share a city with, but a stadium as well – has two in this decade and five since your last one, before quite a few of SL’s readers (or parents, for some) were born.

Don’t say anything about the UEFA Cup. The three UEFA Cup titles that they won in the 90s are all well and good, but there is no comparison, especially when the UEFA Cup was the baby in the bunch before the Cup Winners’ Cup was discontinued.

Jose Mourinho was not brought in to win the scudetto (a given), the Coppa Italia (an added bonus to the trophy collection), or the UEFA Cup (a sign that things didn’t go according to plan). He was brought in so that Inter fans could party like it’s 1965, which was the last time Inter were the champions of Europe.

The last time Inter got to at least the semifinals of the Champions League was in 2003, when they lost to AC Milan due to an away goals rule that very well shouldn’t have applied for that particular tie.

That’s where Mourinho comes in. Whether or not you hate him for his penchant for making the news too often for his outrageous comments or actions, for arrogance, or for generally doing a fantastic at winding everyone up, from opposing managers to rival fans, the fact is that he’s just good at what he does.

Before you say that I like Mourinho, I don’t. I simply respect him.

Things may have ended poorly for him at Chelsea, but if there’s a man to lead Inter to the promised land, it’s the Special One.

At Porto he scouted wisely, brought the most out of the talent there, and became a European champion. In the process, he helped a few players become stars for Portugal and made quite a few people – and himself – very wealthy.

At Chelsea, he took a team full of stars and made them a force. Sure, the rotation system/large squad size brought some issues, some money was wasted, and Chelsea didn’t make the European final they could/should’ve, but that’s Luis Garcia luck for you.

At Inter, he’s got a mix of both situations. The team has some stars, and there are also a number of promising talents or talents that just need that special touch to unleash their best.

There is one thing that sticks out about the squad, and just how it factors into Inter’s chances of winning the Champions League under Mourinho all depends on how you choose to spin it. There’s not a great deal of youth in their ranks, to be honest, which if you choose to spin it right, means that he’s working with a very experienced squad, but at the same time, the window to go all the way in Europe might be a little small with the current group of players.

Squad full of thirty-somethings notwithstanding, there is plenty of talent to work with. Up front, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Julio Cruz combined for more than 40 goals last season, and there’s also David Suazo, up-and-comer Mario Balotelli, and a (potentially) rejuvenated Adriano, who could be an ace in the hole this season if his head’s in the right place.

The midfield was an area that needed to be strengthened, not only because there’s a lot of age in that area, but also because of injury concerns. The two big summer signings, former Roma star Mancini and Portsmouth’s Sulley Muntari, are well worth the money spent to acquire them.

Defensively, Inter had the top defensive record in Serie A last season, and that was always an area of strength during Mancini’s time. That shouldn’t change, though current injury concerns could plague them in the early going.

The biggest concern with this side is not anything talent-related, or with injuries. It’s about consistency, confidence, and playing smart for 90 minutes, from August to May. Inter nearly fumbled away the scudetto last season after getting off to a roaring start for the better part of the campaign, and as I already stated, their domestic dominance has amounted to little in Europe.

Mourinho is a master motivator, and he can not only get his squad to work as a team, but to get the results they need (not always pretty, but successful), and most importantly, to feel like they are the best in whatever match or competition they’re in. Anything less, and you might as well be on your way out (that’s a warning for you, Adriano!).

Maybe I’m overestimating the impact that his arrival will have, but sometimes one person can bring out things that another one didn’t.

To win the CL does require a certain amount of Luis Garcias, or luck rather, but when it comes down to it, there’s no reason why Inter can’t lift the Champions League title this coming season or sometime in the near future.

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  1. BD Condell 5 August, 2008
  2. Jose 30 August, 2008