Over the last several weeks, I have been doing a lot of thinking … and I mean, a lot!
Inter Milan has been my team for many years and with that has come the ups of the 2009-10 team and the downs of the entire 90s.
It ended a drought that left a lot of fans – myself included – despondent about Inter and where we were going in the future.
After a lackluster Champions League campaign and a drop to the Europa League that yielded very little, we seem to be right back where we started … fighting for the Champions League … again.
But, in my thinking, I had to ask myself: Does Inter Milan really deserve the Champions League?
Now, before anyone blasts off, let me explain.
Within that question comes several others:
Has Inter played like a Champions League team?
Champions League teams should beat the teams they should and rise to the occasion against teams that are either even or above them.
Here’s a list of matches were Inter fell short:
- A 2-1 loss at Cagliari (March 1). Cagliari are currently 12th in the standings and with a leaky defense, Inter should have beat them twice this season.
- A 1-0 loss to Bologna (Feb. 3). Again, Bologna (13th in the league currently) has a terrible defense, but Inter squandered three points at home.
- A 1-0 win at Empoli (Dec. 29). I know it’s a win, but only one goal against Empoli?? Really?
- A 1-1 draw at Chievo (Dec. 22). Let’s face it … Chievo is bad, really bad. And all we could muster was a draw?
- A 1-0 loss to Parma (Sept. 15). While the loss set the stage for an impressive run for Inter heading into October, it was a home loss to a poor team that should not have happened.
- A 1-0 loss at Sassuolo (Aug. 19). Not the way to start the season. Yes, Sassuolo has proven to be a decent team, but you have to start the season on the right foot, right?
Has Inter performed well in non-league matches?
This is a good gauge of how well a team will do against outside competition. For Inter, we had the Champions League, Europa League and Coppa Italia … none of which we impressed.
Here are some examples:
- A 1-0 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt (March 14). Inter went to Germany and earned a draw in front of a tough crowd. That meant all they had to do was win … nope, not even a goal.
- A 1-1 (4-3 PK) loss to Lazio (Jan. 31). In competitions like the Coppa Italia, Champions League teams should not have to battle this much against teams lower in the table they have already beaten handily (Inter beat Lazio 3-0 just three months prior).
- A 1-1 draw to PSV Eindhoven (Dec. 11). All you needed was a win, and you let that slip away. Now, the team who took your place is playing for the title. Oh, what could have been.
Do you have a TEAM?
Inter, at least for about two months, did not.
Drama with Mauro Icardi and his wife over the captain’s armband, Ivan Perisic requesting a transfer and others. It all leads me to believe there is/was a bigger issue with the squad.
How can you expect to perform against Europe’s best teams when you can’t control the locker room?
I know that locker room drama happens. Many teams suffer it, and the result is usually never good for at least someone. Someone gets fired, transferred, sold or moved around which causes even more flux with a team.
Has the team exceeded expectations?
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not all bad.
Inter has worked its way into third in Serie A, but that is to be expected. Inter is a top-quality club with more international hardware than most European leagues put together.
The key is that you are supposed to beat the expectations. Liverpool, despite missing out on winning the Premier League, had a near-perfect season this year. While Tottenham Hotspur struggled early, they battled to the end, finished fourth in the league and knocked out league champs Manchester City to reach the semifinals of the Champions League.
They beat who they were supposed to, have a team atmosphere and exceeded expectations.
AFC Ajax is another example. They won the Eredivisie title (which is a little to be expected), but what they did in the world’s best competition is nothing short of extraordinary.
Knocking out Juventus and Real Madrid, plus coming within a goal of the Champions League finals is a prime example of exceeding expectations.
Now, again, I said it wasn’t all bad for the Nerazzurri. After all, they did reach the Champions League, and they sit in a prime position to do so again.
But, that should not be the exception, it should be the rule.
To answer the initial question of whether Inter Milan deserve to be in the Champions League, it isn’t simple.
I want them to make it there. I really do.
But, with a year of more downs than ups, I can’t help wonder if they really do deserve it.
What do you think? Post your comments below!