Inter Milan crashed out of the Champions League run overnight with a disappointing 1-1 draw with PSV. ‘Crashed’ seems appropriate, as the team had qualification in their hands but could not overcome a side who had failed to gain a point on the road this season. This was a hugely disappointing result, but a strong learning experience for the club and fans.
For the fourth match running, Inter were brutally punished by a brief lapse in concentration. Asamoah’s mistake may not have cost a goal in Serie A, but (as the same player learned against Juventus on the weekend) a Champions League quality side is going to jump at every opportunity you give them. A moment may not necessarily cost you a game (Inter had ample opportunity to make up for it), but it certainly makes it harder. Inter started like men possessed, but the goal deflated the side and they never really recovered. PSV, on the other hand, took a huge boost from the goal and looked much better from that point on. If Inter want to take a step to the next level, where participation is no longer sufficient, then these mistakes need to be eradicated from their game.
Inter Must Lock Down Mauro Icardi To A New Deal
Once again, the shining light for the Nerazzurri side was their captain Mauro Icardi. The striker had spoken for years about wanting to return his club to the Champions League. In his debut in the competition, he has proven his worth with four goals in six games. This morning he came up with another critical goal and an excellent all-round performance.
That said, he could be forgiven for being disheartened at the performances of those around him. He followed through on his word (returning the club to the CL) and has now gotten a taste for Europe’s premier competition. It may not be enough just to take part anymore, he may now be looking for a club who’s aim it is lift the trophy. Before another European heavyweight comes in to turn his head, Inter need to tie him down to a new deal
And one for Skrinar too, while we’re at it.
We Still Lack An Effective Plan B
Seven new players arrived in the summer and yet, in our most important match of the season, we still saw the saw cross-heavy approach which plagued the club until Rafinha showed up at in February last season. Inter played through the middle on, from memory, four occasions and each time they caused PSV problems.
In fact, Icardi was a last-ditch tackle away from a 1 v 1 opportunity in the final minutes which could have put the team in front. Compare that with the seemingly countless times we attacked via the wings, and it doesn’t take opposition coaches long to work out how to stifle the team. The obvious solution to the problem is to get Radja Nainggolan fit so that we can have a goalscoring threat from the middle - this needs to be the priority for Spalletti and the medical team. It may be crucial to stop this barren spell from deteriorating into a full-blown crisis. If there are question marks on the continued fitness of Radja, then perhaps an alternative #10 needs to be seriously considered for January.
Inter Must Rid Themselves Of FFP Restrictions
Similarly to the Juventus game, I can’t help but think what could’ve been had the club not been limited by FFP sanctions. Not only is the club forced to maintain a balanced budget each season, but the overall value of the squad registered for this competition also had to be balanced. The result? Inter did not have enough eligible midfielders to fill their team sheet, despite there being two perfectly fit players (Joao Mario and Roberto Gagliardini) on their books. Instead, we played forgotten man Antonio Candreva at #10.
Regular CL football is the key to being a financially stable club, yet the rules enforced by UEFA make it harder for Inter to reach this goal. This, in turn, means that UEFA have the option to enforce more sanctions. It’s a laughable process. The point of all this complaining is to prepare fans for what may well be an underwhelming January transfer window. The club is currently on track to be rid of FFP at the end of the current financial year. We’ve just played our way out of (approximately) €20 million, so unless there is significant income through player sales, the club cannot spend. This is the correct decision, however, as the club is never going to take the next step whilst they’re being shackled by UEFA.
The Europa League Has Its Benefits
Let’s not kid ourselves, the Champions League is where we want to be. Many people would probably rather that we finished fourth, rather than third, and that’s understandable. However, now that Inter is there, they should have a real crack at winning. There was no chance the club was going to win the CL this season, but the Europa League?
That’s not impossible. Winning begets winning, and (like the Coppa Italia under Mancini in 2004/05) this could be how Inter begin a new cycle. Experience wise, the players could gain a lot from (a) playing in two-legged knockout matches and (b) facing international opposition. We showed ourselves to be naive against PSV, both in the way we chased the game after conceding, and then by backing off once we had equalised. The Europa League will still provide us with quality opposition which could hold us in good stead should we return to the CL next season.
Financially, once again it doesn’t even come close to matching the CL, but for a club in our financial position, it can’t be ignored. For example, a run to the semi-final would net the club an extra €5m - plus gate receipts etc. That could help pay for an expensive loan - Inter’s best chance of bringing in any quality come January.
What do you think? Post your comments below!