MILAN - For all the talk of doing the
impossible and reversing a 5-2 deficit, Inter Milan could not
even draw at Schalke in their Champions League last-eight second
leg and the future of many players now hangs in the balance.
Relinquishing the European Cup with a whimper after a 2-1
defeat in Germany was bad enough but Inter soon face the
prospect of giving up the Serie A title for the first time in
six years with AC Milan five points clear with six games left.
The end of an era may be also approaching for the likes of
Julio Cesar, Cristian Chivu, Dejan Stankovic, Maicon, Esteban
Cambiasso and even Diego Milito, their Inter futures coming
under the microscope as an ageing side reveals its cracks.
Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto'o, the jewels in the crown,
would be prized possessions at almost any big European club and
if Inter are to rebuild sacrifices may be possible.
Coach Leonardo, only appointed in December, looks safe
though despite the calamity against a supposedly weaker Schalke
side and the 3-0 defeat by Milan in the league at the start of
the month which looks to have cost Inter the scudetto.
"I'll maintain my enthusiasm," the Brazilian told reporters.
"You know I don't think about the future but I work the same
way as I did the first day. Now we have to make sure we overcome
this moment with intelligence. We have to battle on in the
league and in the Italian Cup. We still have a lot to do."
An Italian Cup semi-final first leg at AS Roma on Tuesday is
unlikely to offer much cheer among supporters who enjoyed
enormous highs last May when Jose Mourinho's side won an
unprecedented Italian treble but have slumped ever since.
One man who will almost certainly avoid any cull is
37-year-old captain Javier Zanetti, an "Interista"
through-and-through who continues to defy age with extraordinary
performances which only fellow elder statesmen Raul of Schalke
and Ryan Giggs of Manchester United can match.
Sadly for the Argentinian, that duo will be contesting a
Champions League semi-final while he tries to stop Inter's
recent love affair with trophies from disintegrating as
single-minded president Massimo Moratti assesses his options.
"We did everything we could in this competition," Zanetti
"Now we have to give it everything we've got until the end
of the season, in the league and the Italian Cup. We certainly
believe we can win them."
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