Inter Milan future uncertain amid Roberto Mancini, Mauro Icardi talk
The ESPN FC crew examine Mauro Icardi’s resume and discuss how he could complement Arsenal’s attack.
On Monday, while the rest of Serie A was distracted by a meeting of the league in Milan which brought with it the prospect of Napoli and Juventus discussing Gonzalo Higuain, Inter announced the appointment of Angelo Gregucci, the coach who led third division Alessandria to the Coppa Italia semifinals, as their new assistant manager.
You might think of it as an insignificant piece of news, but for the fact that Gregucci’s arrival signals that his old boss at Manchester City Roberto Mancini isn’t leaving of his own volition — at least until his contract expires at the end of the season.
Mancini’s future has been the subject of much speculation since he returned to work as he has cut a disillusioned figure. When he left Inter’s training camp without warning in Riscone di Brunico 10 days ago, journalists briefly wondered if he had resigned. In the end, it turned out the Italian had left only to get his passport in order before Inter’s tour of the U.S but that reaction revealed much about the tension the team is training under at the moment.
Even Inter’s shirts are causing a stir. The logo of Pirelli was initially taped over as the club’s pursuit of a sponsor for their training apparel continues, which caused a diplomatic incident between the old board and the current one.
Then the wife and agent of Inter’s captain and top scorer Mauro Icardi, Wanda Nara, chose to answer questions from her Twitter followers about his future claiming that, contrary to what Inter have said in public, privately they are prepared to listen to offers for him. A year after signing a new long-term deal, she, quite opportunistically, wants an improved one for her husband to reflect the club’s change in circumstances.
The drama didn’t stop there either. Icardi’s fellow Argentine, back-up goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo tried to scale a fence and confront a fan after Inter’s first friendly of the season against CSKA Sofia ended in defeat. He had to be pulled down and dragged away.
To say the atmosphere around Inter is a little strange right now is an understatement. Il Corriere della Sera remarked that the weather at Inter’s Dolomites retreat captured the mood perfectly: rainy with thick clouds and the odd sunny spell. It should be the opposite. Inter’s future is bright after Suning, owners of Chinese Super League side Jiangsu, the team that paid €50 million for Alex Teixiera and €28m for Ramires in January, took over the club in June.
In addition to acquiring a 68.55 percent stake they have pumped fresh money into the club, recapitalising it by €142m, mainly to restructure debts, and agreeing to loan them a further €100m. Inter’s former owner the oil tycoon Massimo Moratti, who sold his remaining shares but retains an advisory role, is so encouraged by the club’s renewed spending power his first piece of advice was to buy one of the stars of the Euros. “I’d like [Dimitri] Payet,” he said.
So far, however, Inter’s business amounts to about €4.7m, all of which went on Genoa’s guitar playing, barbecue enthusiast Cristian Ansaldi. Another full-back, Turkey international Caner Erkin, joined on a free transfer after an underwhelming Euros. As did Ever Banega, a double Europa League winner with Sevilla and the playmaker Inter so desperately needed, who was an excellent signing.
Although Financial Fair Play laws were modified last year to allow clubs with a change of ownership to enter into a voluntary agreement with UEFA with the objective of breaking even in four years, frustratingly, anachronistically even, it does not apply to one like Inter that has already reached a settlement agreement for three seasons. As such, Inter can’t make a loss of more than €30m this summer and must break-even at the end of next season.
While Suning’s involvement means Inter have greater breathing space, for now they are still limited in what they can do. The Chinese transfer window closed on Friday (which rules out Jiangsu buying the likes of Sporting’s Portugal international midfielder Joao Mario and loaning him to Inter.) Suning’s intention is to bring in money through commercial partnerships and sponsorship deals for the team’s training apparel, its training ground and other things. However, it seems distinctly unrealistic for those to be struck before August 31.
Erick Thohir, who sold his majority stake to Suning but stays on as president for now, revealed at the end of May that Inter’s aim this summer is to end the summer with a €50m profit in the transfer market. One of their big name players will likely have to go for that to happen.
Although Wanda has her suspicions, Inter insist it won’t be Icardi and he once again underlined his intention to stay in Il Corriere dello Sport on Thursday. But it’s still a complicated situation.
Icardi: “Milan is our home. This is the reason why she is talking to the club. The aim is to find a solution.”
– James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) July 21, 2016
Once at the centre of everything, particularly when it came to transfer strategy, Mancini now feels marginalised. Gone are the days when he used to joke that he’d been on the phone so much trying to persuade players to join Inter that he had run out of credit. “We don’t speak the same language…” he sighed when asked about the new owners; a literal and figurative truth.
Suning and Mancini have the same objective — the Scudetto and a return to Champions League football — but differ on how to get it. Suning’s intention seems to be to invest in the next big thing like Domenico Berardi, Palmeiras’ Gabriel Jesus [for January] and Joao Mario who Mancini dismissed as “Marcelo Brozovic’s double.”
Roberto Mancini seems at odds with the new owners.
Mancini, by contrast, wants players who are the finished article like (his favourite) Yaya Toure. “Who judges him on one game — namely the Champions League semifinal at the Bernabeu — doesn’t understand anything about football,” he said. “We’ve never seen a midfielder like him in Italy.” And we won’t. Inter are not prepared to offer a huge multi-year deal to a 33-year-old.
A disappointed Mancini, used to getting his way and unable to act as an English style manager with control of everything, including recruitment, has admitted defeat on Toure.
His opinion on the current state of the squad also differs with the owners as well; Suning appear to believe it is good enough already to compete for a place in the Champions League, particularly after Roma lost Miralem Pjanic and Napoli look likely to lose Gonzalo Higuain. Mancini, however, isn’t so sure.
Then there’s the fact his contract is up at the end of this season and doesn’t look like being extended anytime soon. The deals of Inter’s director of sport Piero Ausilio and the club’s other top brass are also due to expire which makes planning for this season and beyond difficult.
A summit will be held with Suning in New York on July 27. Further clarification will be sought. “I have always said that I love this club too much to betray it,” Mancini told Guerin Sportivo amid reports linking him to the England and Russia jobs. “I will never be a burden. Like I said at the end of the season, if somebody doesn’t want me, I am always ready to step aside.”
It is unlikely to come to that but exactly how Inter go forward remains unclear for now.
James contributes to ESPN FC, Guardian Football Weekly, FourFourTwo and The Blizzard. Follow him on Twitter @JamesHorncastle.
The original version of this story which was published by ESPN can be viewed here.
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