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End of Season Report: The First

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The season is over and to paraphrase one of my favorite sayings, it's all over but the crying.

Or in this case, the laughing. Because that's what I did for the majority of the season and what I will do for the entirety of the summer. This season has been too good, especially for a club that has had to endure too much, to let the chance to live in the clouds pass me up.

I am not going to say too much about the ratings that we used other than to say that we generally used different criteria. The fact that Johonna and I write about the game differently is on par with stating the that the sky is blue. But I think that difference is what has made working with her extremely fun for me. Besides, she often says what I am far too embarrassed and shy to write. Johonna's ratings will be in this color . Mine will be in black.

I think that most people will get the ratings. But just to make it clear:

>3ish: What's less than crap?
3ish: Crap. Doo doo. Kaka.
4ish: Not good enough. Eject or sell ASAP, please.
5ish: Average. In this case, average is not acceptable. Average is mid-table.
6ish: Just acceptable
7ish: Good
8ish: Great
9ish: Legend
10ish: Perfect

Writing this, like this season, is bittersweet. The season was glorious – even if it didn’t always feel like it at the time. And this is an acknowledgement of sorts that it’s all over – not that I have stopped feeling good about all the fun yet. But, it’s time to reset the chessboard. Before I can open myself fully to making fun of the silly season, it’s time to bring closure. That means end of season ratings, griping and gushing.

Because of the nature of the season, the joy of how it ended and the connection with the supporters that this team achieved, I think that you will find a lot of disparity with any ratings that Johonna and I put for these players. Which is fine, everyone has an opinion on what is important. There aren’t going to be a lot of low rankings, though. First of all it wouldn’t make sense considering where these players ended the season – if there were a lot of poor performances we wouldn’t have been so good. On the other hand, there is something to be said for where the players stand in our hearts. After all, football is a game and games should be fun. If we didn't like these players and enjoyed following their exploits for some 55ish games a season, then what's the point.

First off, I think you will find I am a little sentimental about my reviews. Inter had a legendary season and I just think that everyone was above average - everyone. I graded all the players for the CL final on line, and I couldn't stop myself from giving them all a 10, how could I not? They achieved what they set out to do. They were 100% successful, top grades all around. I am trying to be a little more discriminating for this year-end review; trying to remember those games back in November and the terrible spring we had (14 dropped points!), but it is hard. I just think back to those celebrations in Madrid and what this season has meant to our squad and I get all misty-eyed. I guess what I am getting at is you will all have to cut me a little slack with this grading thing. I just love them all so much (even that little twerp Arna).

Keepers:

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Vid Belec: Although he is listed as a first-team player, all his field time was with the Primavera squad this year. Well, He did play a couple games in that World Club Cup last summer, but I dont know if that really counts. What I recall from those games (I was at the Chelsea one), is that he was earnest but out of his depth. Give this kid a couple more years to mature and we may have something yet. Plus, he has cheekbones to die for!

Grade: 7 (mostly for being so darned cute)

Vid Belec: I watched this young man during the offseason and the practice I went to at Foxboro stadium. I didn’t think that he was particularly springy off his feet and he’s just a baby in terms of having any awareness in the goal – and it showed. But when he was going through his drills at practice, by the time he was done, his face was beet red and he had trouble catching his breathe to the point that he got an ovation from the crowd for his hard work. If that’s his attitude in the long run, then I would be happy to have him on the squad – although I have the feeling that he’s going to be loaned out soon, if not the 2010 season then the one after that. N/A

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Francesco Toldo: 3 Coppa Italia appearances, 1 Italian Super Cup

Well, aside from that horror against Juventus (luckily, we won in the end despite the error), he has provided good cover for Julio Cesar. He was injured during training late in the season so wasn't available for the later Coppa games (I think Mou would have played him), which is kind of a shame. I have always admired Toldo's professionalism - he could easily start at a provincial club - but he stays. Plus, I always feel better when he is on the bench, just in case. Although there were many rumors about Castellazzi coming to Inter this summer, they have not materialized. I think Toldo will stay for one more season (he still has a contract after all) before finally hanging up his gloves. He has been a phenomenal servant to the club and he seems like a fun person to have around. Besides, he has important post-game Zanetti duties to attend to.

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Grade: 7 (would have been higher but for that Juve howler)

Francesco Toldo: At nearly 40, he’ll be 39 in December, and 16 seasons in Serie A, Toldo has all the experience that you would want in a backup. He played in only 3 games this season, all Coppa Italia but I think that those games gave Cesar the rest he needed at crucial times in the season. He did have a terrible mistake against Juventus but in the end, it proved not to matter. In my mind he’s the perfect backup to a player like Cesar: at 39 he’s had his day so he’s not ambitious enough to make life terrible for Julio and the rest of the team, he can go in at a moments notice with the teams respect and he’s been a professional with the team long enough, 10 years this up-coming season, to know the other teams in Serie A and how to play against them.

Personally, and with huge regret, I thought that Toldo was past it last season when we played against Palermo and after going up 2-0 on them we drew 2-2 through at least one Toldo error. This season, the game against Juve didn’t inspire, especially the howler. Toldo is more of a traditional keeper at almost 6’6” but any athleticism he had is nearly gone. He’s incredibly aware as a player – he always had been – and that may prove useful for one more season. 6.0

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Paolo Orlandoni: He didn't get to play any minutes this season. His contract expires this sumer and I think he will be moving on - or at least off the roster. He has been a loyal member of the team and I thank him for that. He has always been sort of enigmatic for me, I never bothered to look up his stats or history or anything. Turns out he only made five appearances for Inter - ever. Still, it was a leg up from his previous gig at Piacenza in Seria B. Apparently, Inter has always owned his card (he is a club youth product), but he spent 8 years on loan around the peninsula, largely in the lower leagues. Well, thanks for your years of patient service and best of luck with whatever you do next.

Grade: 9 (for loyalty above and beyond the call)

Paolo Orlandoni: The least goalkeeper on the squad, Paolo only has 4 appearances in 5 seasons with the club. He was brought all the way up through the Inter youth system and had spent most of his career on loan before the team brought him into the squad in the 2005 season. Paolo has about a 15 seasons in Serie A or B – mostly A – the last 5 as the third goalkeeper for Inter. 38 in August, I have a very strong suspicion that he’s going to retire before next season starts. I can’t say that I watched him play a lot, although I had seen him extremely sporadically as he played for the likes of Reggina in his career. Anyway, with him leaving and Toldo not long for the Silver Shirt either, it will be the end of an era for the team of a sorts. Paolo, like Julio, is a little short for a goalkeeper at 6’ 1” but never had the athleticism of Julio or the awareness of Toldo. By all accounts he is hard working and professional; a servant to the club. N/A

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Julio Cesar: 38 Serie A appearences, 13 Champions Leage, 1 Super Cup (2 yellows).

Well, I think everyone here already knows how I feel about Julio Cesar (come on, how can you not love someone as goofy as this?). I think he is practically perfect in every way (very much like Mary Poppins). Of course, he is still human so is capable of making mistakes (see Fiorentina v Inter, Juventus v Inter, Inter v Roma), plus the whole crashing the lambo two days before a very important CL game (he still suited up and played, though, so props to him). To go with the bad, though, there have been moments of brilliance - none more so that the saved penalty against Ronaldinho in the derby. I have watched it countless times and it still gives me chills. I know there are those who say he parries when he should catch or sometimes his distribution isn't the best, but I said it last year and I will say it again now, there is no other keeper I would rather have (I mean, watch the video - chills!)

Grade: 9.5 (practically perfect)

Julio Cesar: Here’s the dilemma about deciding about whether or not Cesar had a good season: at times he looked like he lost focus or concentration, like away against Roma when he muffed a save right to De Rossi’s foot costing Inter a game or when he muffed a save that might have been fatal to Juan in the Coppa final. And according to the season stats he had his worst season ever in goals allowed.

On the other hand, in a vast majority of games he was flipping phenomenal. The team opened up offensively this season much more than in recent years. Opening up the game at one end means that the game opens up at the other end. As a result, there was more for Cesar to do. And let’s be realistic, as Cesar’s worst season ever this means that 34 goals hit the back of the net in 38 games… simple math will tell you that he’s still in the rarified air of less than a goal per game. I just don’t think that there was a better goalkeeper over 54 games this season.

However there is a worry. Julio’s not prototypically tall (he’s 6’ 1”) or strong for a goalkeeper. His 3 main assets are that he’s nearly as athletic as a gymnast, he has the footwork of a midfielder, and that he commands the respect of some of the most hard-bitten defenders in the world. Most goalkeepers peak after 30, Julio will be 31 in September, but will added experience and maturity bring a better ability to read the game, or slower reflexes? All that aside, he’s a lovely person. For those who don’t know, the reason that he wears number 12 is that he refused to take Toldo’s number 1 shirt out of respect to the older goalkeeper when Cesar took his position as the starter. 8.5

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