Straight from the dark heart of Italy
There was a stark contrast between the unveiling of Rafael Benitez as Inter coach and that of his predecessor Jose Mourinho. While the Portuguese’s arrival had been the event of the summer, Benitez had slipped into town and out again with hardly a passing nod from the locals.
That was last month, and the Spaniard finally got his feet under the table on Monday afternoon when he got down business with his first “tactical and technical” press conference.
While Mourinho controlled every aspect of his “grind” with the media; even down to his presentation – well-gelled hair and the ready-to-roll stubble - Benitez ambled into the conference room showing off a well-fed stomach and possessing the look of a man who understands that a little bit of humility can go a long way.
There was no need to grovel for explanations on how he envisaged the team playing, which annoyed Italian journalists more than anything during the Special One’s reign. In fact, they lapped up anything to do with formations, movement off the ball and suchlike. Only the blistering temperatures precluded the wearing of anoraks.
The former Liverpool manager will be expected to be special but in his own less histrionic way – Massimo Moratti has already admitted that a repeat of last season’s treble would be “difficult” but at least one of the major titles should remain in the club’s hands.
The opening exchanges with Benitez, in full command of his Italian, had the club and hacks beaming as questions on tactics, team selection, and the future surrounding certain players were all dealt with in an open and calm manner.
The press room remained hushed not because the platform in front of them was bristling with hostility, but because the media was finally receiving the type of insight that they expect from coaches – they certainly got their fill of “tactical and technical” chat.
Softly spoken and looking very relaxed, Benitez did not give off the image of a man in awe of what lay ahead – not having to step out of Mourinho’s long shadow, but instead perform a seamless transition and continued dominance on the home front at least, helps.
Benitez arrives in a Serie A probably at an all-time low in terms of genuine title contenders amongst the major clubs. Juventus have all the makings of being solid yet but unspectacular, AC Milan look no closer to kick-starting a rebuilding programme while unless AS Roma find a new owner they could implode rather than explode.
The rest of the league lacks the financial clout to mount a challenge, and the likes of Sampdoria, Palermo and Napoli will have to mix and match as best they can.
Inter are also not immune to the financial constrains that are sweeping through the Italian game – and there will have to be sales before new players can be brought in. Real Madrid seem to have dropped their interest in Douglas Maicon but if €30m or so can be wrung out of either of the Manchester clubs for Mario Balotelli then the club can delve a little deeper into the transfer market.
One element that will change from Benitez’s time in England will concern his involvement in the transfer dealings: he can make suggestions but it will be sporting director Marco Branca making the final decision.
There will be no need for enormous changes within the squad and Mourinho’s philosophy of “team before self” will remain intact. In fact, it has all the makings of a very quiet pre-season for the champions – and if first impressions are anything to go by then that’s just how the new man will like it to remain.
More from Serie Aaaaargh!
Benitez is not the greatest coach around, but is probably the best they could have got after Mourinho vanished. I'm sure Inter fans hearts will be in their mouths every time he makes a transfer request. His record overall in that department is poor. At least Inter can get in about 40m on players they don't really need like Burdisso,Muntari,Suazo,Obinna,Chivu, Mancini and the already departed Quaresma. Maybe loaning Balotelli to Sampdoria for a year would be better than selling him too. That way Inter don't lose him and he gets to play in the CL next yaer. A few good replacements for these would be Vucinic,Kolarov, Miccoli,Marchena and even Mascherano.
Get Steven Gerard to Inter and the titles will continue...
Yep Benitez much publicised mythological poor record in the transfer market.
Xabi Alonso eventually sold for 3 time what he paid. Pepe Reina best keeper in the Premiership for a few seasons now.
Torres need I say more.
Mascherano- on every major European clubs shopping list.
Agger-very good defender slightly beset by injuries
Benayoun- sold at profit to league champions
Bellamy-Sold at profit
Crouch- sucessful signing sold at profit
Kuyt- Well liked by vast majority of supporters, workhorse and recently highly praised world cup finalist
Skrtel-decent solid defender bought for not much
Mark Gonzales-Sold profit
Sissoko- Sold for 2.5 mill profit
Scott Carson-sold for a profit
Fowler, Zenden,Pellegrino- free transfers
Keane- still a good player admittedly bought for a ridiculous and mysterious price but according to most sources cost around 3 mil to do the hokey cokey with him.
Morientez-much heralded player, considered one of the best in Europe before his arrival at Anfield; was just not suited to the English game.
Dossena-Italian international with good reputation.
Babel-expensive 11-12 mil not done a massive amount but not played a massive amount either and has a number of interested parties.
Pennant-gamble that never paid off despite a natural talent and a few decent performances.
Benitez wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination but he certainly did far better than he's ever given credit for. Liverpool suffered greatly with injury to key players and the loss of Alonso. When Benitez initially looked to get rid his form had been poor. Cue a blinding season and a 30 mil move to Madrid. Liverpool don't have the resources of United, Chelsea, Arsenal, City or even Spurs yet the expectation is possibly higher than at most other clubs. Net spends at United and Arsenal have been ofst by massive sales, Henry, Ronaldo, to barely scratch the surface. Benitez inherited a squad riddled with dross and turned it round to an ever present in the CL semis and final and runners up in the league. The man is great but human. Why hasn't Wenger come in for the stick Benitez has with less sucess and a more established settled squad over the same time period?
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