MILAN - Last season's AC Milan coach
Leonardo was named manager of city rivals Inter Milan on Friday
in a move which has stunned the football world despite the Italian
game's celebrated eccentricities.
The Brazilian succeeds Rafael Benitez, who left the world,
European and Italian champions on Thursday after just six months
in charge following a poor domestic spell and his public attack
on Inter for not investing in new players.
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"Welcome, Leonardo is the coach of Inter," a statement said
on Inter's website just hours after president
Massimo Moratti had said there would be no announcement until
December 27 at the earliest.
"A few minutes ago an agreement was signed which will tie
him to the club until June 30, 2012."
Leonardo failed to shine in his only season in management
with Milan last term, leading the Rossoneri to third place in
Serie A and the Champions League last 16.
The 41-year-old also played for Milan before becoming
technical director there and has no prior links to Inter, making
the decision to appoint him all the more strange to the hordes
of baffled Tweeters and newspaper columnists.
"Unbelievable", "traitor" and "downright weird" were just
some of the terms used on Twitter to describe the move.
Players and coaches switching allegiances between big rivals
is nothing new in Italy, even if the idea of Arsenal's Arsene
Wenger succeeding Manchester United's Alex Ferguson would bring
howls of derision in England.
Spain is more similar to Italy with former Barcelona
assistant coach Jose Mourinho now the Real Madrid boss while
Portugal's Luis Figo signed for Real from Barca in 2000.
Giovanni Trapattoni famously managed Milan, Inter and the
third Italian giant Juventus while Milan striker Zlatan
Ibrahimovic has played for all three.
Indeed Milan have been the side most guilty of signing
ex-Inter names with Ibrahimovic, Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo
and former forward Ronaldo all having previously turned out for
the Nerazzurri among others.
Moratti, whose side won an unprecedented treble last term
under Jose Mourinho, is still taking a big gamble by naming
Leonardo with fans likely to give him a little lukewarm
reception at first.
Given Leonardo left Milan after a bust-up with owner Silvio
Berlusconi, hands-on Moratti risks similar issues if Inter do
not quickly start rising up from seventh in Serie A and lose to
Bayern Munich in their Champions League first knockout round.
The appointment of Marcello Lippi in 1999 just after he had
left rivals Juve was also disastrous for Inter and will prey on
some fans' minds while Leonardo himself had indicated he wanted
some time away from game to be with his family in Brazil.
On the other hand, pundits such as Gabriele Marcotti have
argued that choosing Leonardo is a masterstroke from Moratti
given he has had a season to hone his management skills, knows
current league leaders Milan inside out and will have good
relations with Inter's large contingent of South Americans.
Benitez's outburst means he will not get the chance but
Leonardo may have some new signings on board for when Inter host
second-placed Napoli on Jan. 6 as Serie A resumes after a
Inter are interested in Genoa centre back Andrea Ranocchia
with Walter Samuel out for the season but few other rumours have
leaked out about Moratti's targets.
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