Today the rumors were confirmed that former AS Roma sporting director Walter Sabatini has been hired by Suning as a technical coordinator. This is a position he will have both for Inter and for Jiangsu Suning, the two clubs that the Chinese corporation own. Even after the official press conference announcing the hire there are still quite a few questions as to what Sabatini will actually be doing, and how this will change the way Inter is run. Based on what I’ve read and heard from different sources, these are my thoughts on what Sabatini’s arrival means.
Suning are moving away from Kia Joorabchian.
When Suning first took over at Inter, their closest sporting adviser was believed to be Kia Joorabchian, a super-agent known for cozying up to clubs and pushing his clients to said clubs. It didn’t take long to see his influence at Inter, the Italian club soon bought one of his clients in Joao Mario. He also heavily backed bringing in Frank De Boer (and some have suggested that the Dutch tactician is also a client of his). He even attended Inter shareholder meetings and had a say in the selection of De Boer’s replacement, though the man he was backing ultimately was not selected.
Sabatini’s arrival likely means Joorabchian’s influence with Suning will diminish going forward. As technical coordinator he will have a lot of power over transfers, meaning he will probably be the voice that Suning listen to the most when deciding who to buy and who to no longer consider. De Boer’s sacking and Pioli’s arrival were contrary to the wishes of the super-agent, and if he hasn’t been pushed out already by Ausilio and Zanetti then Sabatini’s arrival will likely serve to isolate him further. Even if Joorabchian still has a place at the table, adding another voice into the conversation will weaken his sway over the owners.
Piero Ausilio will have less power...
Joorabchian is not the only person who will see his powers reduced, Inter’s Chief Sporting Director Piero Ausilio will now have somebody to answer to. Since the firing of Marco Branca back in early 2014, Ausilio handled transfers and worked with/somewhat answered to Marco Fassone. Once Fassone departed in 2015, Ausilio more or less had full control over technical and sporting duties-basically negotiating transfers and contracts. That will no longer be the case. At the very least Sabatini will be overseeing negotiations that Ausilio undertake as well as making his own transfer recommendations to Suning, at most he will become the new point person for technical duties and Ausilio will become his #2; though for reasons that will be explained further down most likely it will be the former rather than the latter. A bit of oversight is usually a good thing, and as long as the two don’t butt heads too often I think this could work.
Another person who might be impacted by the changes is Javier Zanetti. The reason I say might is because I’m not entirely sure what his powers are and if he ever really had any to begin with. The former captain and Inter legend is officially the Vice President of the club but he seems to be more of a figurehead than anything else, a face to add legitimacy to Suning’s decisions and to provide advice for the owners to consider. If his role is primarily advisory then he might not be too pleased to have another voice whispering in the ears of the owners. But I don’t want to end this section on a negative note so I’ll just add that as long as everybody is working for the good of the club (I’m looking at you Joorabchian) and is reasonably competent (I’m looking at you Branca) then hopefully there won’t be too many problems.
But don’t expect Sabatini to be holding Ausilio’s hand.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget, but Inter isn’t the only club that Suning owns-and considering the fact that the other club has Suning’s name in it that should be hard to do. Since Sabatini was not hired to work just for Inter, he will be splitting his duties as technical coordinator between Suning’s two clubs. During the press conference today the new hire mainly talked about Jiangsu Suning, which could potentially show that more of his focus will be on the Chinese club; though that could be due to the fact that the press conference was held in China.
Regardless, Sabatini will not constantly be at and working for Inter, he will have other duties to fulfill. That means Ausilio will still have a degree of freedom, and Sabatini will most likely just be providing oversight, approval (or rejection) of plans, and negotiation help when needed. Piero Ausilio is not being stripped of his responsibilities, he is just being provided a new boss. One that won’t spend much time in the office and will likely only show up and get involved when needed.
Suning really care about their clubs and are trying to improve them.
Every shakeup in management causes uncertainty but this should be regarded as a good move. Sabatini is generally regarded as a smart man when it comes to transfers and his oversight will most likely do more good than harm. Granted there are Roma fans who were glad to see him go and felt that he had more misses than hits, but only a very small number of clubs don’t have a portion of fans that disagree with their technical director and want him out at some point or another.
Suning made this change because they want to make their clubs better. They realize that both Inter and Jiangsu Suning have problems and they are trying to fix them. There have been some Inter fans that have complained that the owners don’t understand the structural problems in Serie A and they just think that throwing money at the club’s problems will make everything better. This addition to the Inter staff answers that complaint. Sabatini has worked as a director for 3 different Serie A clubs since 2004, he knows the league and he will be an asset. Suning does care, Suning does have the club’s interests at heart. That alone is one reason Inter fans can smile during this period of uncertainty.
Welcome to the Inter family Walter Sabatini.