Yep. It is another international weekend. Thirteen of our boys will play a game of injury Russian Roulette as they possibly take the field for their countries while we poor fans sit at home, bereft of our beloved football, and fret. Well, not me because I am going away for the weekend, but I will still be doing the worried part. Aside from the usual run down of who is going where and the inevitable transfer rumors that always pop up when there is no club football for the press to dissect, I thought we could partake in a little navel-gazing. So lets get right at it!
First, the easy stuff
Inter has 13 players called up for national duty (including youth players).
Netherlands: Wesley Sneijder
-- Moldova v Holland, Euro 2012 qualifier on Friday 8 October at 20:30,
-- Holland v Sweden, Euro 2012 qualifier at Amsterdam Arena in Amsterdam on Tuesday 12 October at 20:30
Romania: Cristian Chivu
-- France v Romania, Euro 2012 qualifier at Stade de France in Paris on Saturday 9 October at 21:00
Serbia: Dejan Stankovic
-- Serbia v Estonia, Euro 2012 qualifier at Stadion FK Crvena Zvezda in Belgrade on Friday 8 October at 20:30
-- Italy v Serbia, Euro 2012 qualifier at Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa on Tuesday 12 October at 20:50
-- Iran v Brazil, International Friendly at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Thursday 7 October at 19:00
-- Brazil v Ukraine, International Friendly at Pride Park in Derby on Monday 11 October at 20:45
Argentina: Cambiasso and Milito
-- Japan v Argentina, International Friendly at Saitama Stadium in Saitama on Friday 8 October at 19:50
Cameroon: Samuel Eto'o
-- Cameroon v DR Congo, African Nations Cup qualifier at Stade Omnisport in Garoua on Saturday 9 October at 15:00
Kenya: MacDonald Mariga
-- Kenya v Uganda, African Nations Cup qualifier at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi on Saturday 9 October
Italy U21: Santon and Biraghi
-- Italy v Belarus, Under-21 Euro 2011 qualifying playoff at Stadio Centro d'Italia on Friday 8 October at 18:00
-- Belarus v Italy, Under-21 Euro 2011 qualifying playoff at Stadio Gorodskoy in Borisov on Tuesday 12 October at 16:30
Italy U19: Benedetti, Crisetig and Natalino
-- Latvia v Italy, Under-19 Euro 2011 qualifier in Riga on Thursday 7 October at 18:00
-- Faroe Islands v Italy, Under-19 Euro 2011 qualifier in Jurmala on Saturday 9 October at 13:00
-- Croatia v Italy, Under-19 Euro 2011 qualifier in Jurmala on Tuesday 12 October at 13:00
As you can see, some of the games were today so some of the guys got a bit of a run out. Coutinho played 45 minutes with Brazil (they won, 3-0). Crisetig and Natalino got a few minutes with the Italy U19 squad atainst Latvia - Italy won 2-1. So a good start all around. Santon is predicted to start tomorrow for the U21 squad, as are Destro and Ranocchia. If you watch the match, be sure to keep an eye out for them.
Oh happy day! Look who is back to training with the squad today!
Even though some of the hands were gone, things were still humming along back at the ranch. Our infirmary is slowly emptying out (hooray), and we may actually have close to a full squad. I mean, Thiago Motta is still out for who knows how long, but it sounds like he is working with the ball again and the latest poop is he may be back by the end of the month. Oh, and Cordoba will still be out for a couple more weeks, but besides, that, we may be golden. Provided, that is, we get through this international break injury free, that is (everyone, cross your fingers).
And Now For a Little Introspection
Ok, so here we are, a solid month in to the Rafa experience, and I guess my question is:
What do we think? I mean candidly and truly? Are you happy with the progress or are you steeling yourself for disappointment? Or are we still reserving judgement?
For me, I think that Inter still has the bones to get there, but we, like other top clubs, we are suffering from a bit of a World Cup hang over. This is something I have been thinking about for a while. A quick stroll through the ranking tables of the top leagues will show that clubs who really aught to be doing better sort of aren't. It may be coincidental, but many of those "under-performing" clubs have a high percentage of international players for countries who did reasonably well at the World Cup (players for teams that didn't get out of groups seem to be doing just fine). For us, it means that our Argies, Brazilians, and Dutch (well, the one Dutch) are all not really at 100% and are prone to injury. For Barcelona, it means they find themselves strangely not at the top of the table and also having trouble with injuries. Ditto for Bayern Munich. And that doesn't even take into account how let down are Argies, Brazilians, and Dutch (the one) may feel. Loss of confidence in one's abilities can be devastating for a footballer.
Stupid World Cup!
Rafa seems to agree with my hypothesis. He feels that having less down time in conjunction with starting training late then having two cup games right off the bat has played havoc with the squad's fitness levels. Last season was a grind and then to follow that with the intensity of World Cup semi finals or the final, and you can see how their poor little bodies might be wearing thin. Remember what happened to Marco after the 2006 World Cup? Granted, that was a year later but I have always thought the extra exertion played a part. He has never really been the same since.
Where am I getting with all this, you are probably asking. Well, just this: Inter has had a slow start. We have not been winning games we really aught to be winning. And I will admit, I was blaming Rafa. Well, now I am not so sure. It could be that what we have been seeing is just Benitez making the best of a trying situation. Which would be good news because it would mean that we will only get better. In fact, Rafa thinks Inter is only playing at 60 percent of their capability. I think I agree. Plus, I think that I agree that we can regain that 40%. I dont know how long that will take, but recovering a few players will certainly help. I just wish Sneijder had stayed home to get a little rest instead of flying off to the Netherlands.
So, after a long, hard look in the mirror, I can say that I actually have a positive feeling about the season - even melodramatic me. Sure, we have had some hic-ups, but that is to be expected for a team with so many internationals and a new coach with a new system of play. We are having some difficulties with form, injuries and general malaise and whatnot, but that is all something that we can work on - something that can improve. Now, if we can just hold it together long enough to see that improvement, we may actually have a shot at some silverware come May.
Transfer Rumors and such
The press has been busy this week. Unless Milito has a miraculous recovery (hey, it could happen!), it is pretty clear that Inter will be hitting the market this winter and all sorts of names have been proposed.
First, there is Kaka. Now, I dont believe this rumor for a heartbeat. It makes a great story, though, so until it becomes impossible, the press will keep on about it. I would just disregard it were I you. Rumors (and bookies) say he is off to Chelsea and that seems more likely.
The new names for Inter are now Dzeko, Schweinsteiger, and Benzima (says La Gazzetta). I think the Dzeko thing is largely just the agent trying to dispell any sort of rumors about the striker already having a deal with Juve. Plus, he is crazy expensive (like 40 million euro) and does not have an EU passport. It seems awfully unlikely to me that he would come in June. He couldn't come this winter as Inter has already used up their one non-EU player spot.
As for Benzima, La Gazzetta seems to think Inter is willing to trade Maicon for him. Juve and Manchester United are also interested in Benzima, though, so would likely get sticky (and expensive). Plus, just what exactly would we do for a right back? As for Schweinsteiger, he has not renewed his contract with Bayern (set to expire in 2012) which means he may shortly become a hot commodity. I guess that Branca was working on getting him for Mou, which may suggest that Real Madrid would also be interested. Somehow, I see Madrid winning that fight. Of course, that may mean there will be some tasty Madrid leftovers on the half-price remainders table....
Anyway, we have one less thing to fret about as Sneijder is all sealed up. He says he will sign a new contract when he comes back from international duty that will keep him at Inter until 2015 (hooray) with, it is rumored, an a pay raise to bring his salary to about 4.5 million euro a year. Maicon has also gotten his raise (about 700,000 euro) so will be making an amount similar to Sneijder.
Besides, this, though, market rumblings have been pretty quiet. Rafa was asked about them in an interview today and he said he never likes to talk about the market because it raises the prices. Still, he seemed pretty clear that he would like some reinforcements this winter.
Oh, and I thought this was interesting: We are not the only ones who have noticed this deal with Rafa's ties. The Inter Channel had a special with Benitez where he answered the questions of fans. Alessandra noticed that when Rafa wears a colorful tie, Inter wins, but if he wears a dark one, Inter loses or draws. Rafa answered her by going through the terrible time he has choosing his clothing, saying:
"Alessandra, here we have a problem. The color of Liverpool was red, therefore I always wore a red tie. There, the rivalry was with Everton, who are blue. When I arrived in Milan for the presentation, I was given two jerseys, one nerazzurra and the other white. My daughter Agata, who is 8 years old, I could not get the first jersey because it had the colors of Everton... Therefore I got the white jersey. The other day I went out to get and umbrella. I could choose between a blue one, a red one, and a green one. Agata said that she liked the red, but I cannot buy that because Inter is blue, but I see that blue is also the color of Everton, I bought the green umbrella. For the tie? We will see."
So, I think he will need to switch to something more neutral, like say yellow or something. Or, he could just remind his daughter that daddy doesn't work for Liverpool any more so we dont really give a rip about Everton. But she is only 8 so that may be a hard sell.
Ok, this is just creepy