Frank de Boer has fallen the latest victim of what has become one of football’s most untenable jobs – coaching Inter.
Having begun the role just 13 days prior to the season’s commencement, the Dutchman’s tenure seemed doomed from the start after being set with the task of manufacturing success from a Roberto Mancini-built squad and with no prior experience in Serie A.
The former Ajax man’s managerial career will be left with a permanent Nerazzurri scar, despite not ever being given the chance to truly prove himself in Italy; and it appears to be the club’s hierarchy that has inflicted the deepest of wounds on De Boer, as they have with many who have joined the now broken family.
After Jose Mourinho’s exit in 2010, losing the experience of Javier Zanetti, Esteban Cambassio, Lucio, Walter Samuel, Samuel Eto’o, and others, was always going to require a rebuilding phase for the team.
It was decided early on that Rafa Benitez was not the manager to lead the team through such a period and he was swiftly removed after steering Inter to triumph in the World Club Championship.
Fast forward six years and the Nerazzurri have now gone through eight coaches since ‘The Special One’s’ departure.
On average, each coach has had just over nine months in the role. Nine months to build a squad that suits their managerial style. Nine months to teach players their philosophies while trying to earn their respect. Nine months to build a team culture, to achieve consistent performances on the field and to convince the Inter hierarchy not to make them the next addition to an ever-increasing rejection pile.
Even worse, not all of them even had the luxury of nine months, with Gian Piero Gasperini shown the exit door after just five matches in charge.
It’s true that each incoming coach has had their flaws, however, it is becoming increasingly evident that the biggest obstruction to Inter returning to former glory lies above the realms of the manager and with the club’s hierarchy.
As a result, Inter’s culture has become toxic.
The environment would change forever when, in 2013, Massimo Moratti sold the club to Erick Thohir’s International Sports Capital group.
Having acquired a 70 per cent share of Inter, the Indonesian tycoon set about changing the structure of the club with the clear objective of building on the brand’s commercial viability.
Despite foreign ownership unsettling some fans, his intent for the club looked promising and, given FIFA’s financial fair play rules, were crucial to remaining a power in Europe.
However, the commercial results failed to materialise in any meaningful way and less than three years later Thohir sold the club to the Chinese consortium, the Suning Group.
Somewhere along the way, the team taking the field lost their focus, their confidence and any sort of winning mentality.
Players were courted with the enticement of industry-high wages and were expected to deliver instant world-class performances.
More of the squad looked to be playing for their weekly pay-packet and not for the club emblem emblazoned on their shirts.
Gone were the selfless days of Zanetti and Cambiasso giving every ounce of energy they had for the club while demanding nothing less from those around them.
At some point, the players forgot the honour that had previously come with wearing the Nerazzurri shirt.
“The beginning of a new project”.
Something Interisti have heard far too often over the past six years as managers (and owners) have come and gone.
While it’s a handy one-liner that can buy some patience with club stakeholders, when used too often it loses all meaning.
Successful projects require planning and foresight; looking ahead and considering how it can be developed and built upon over a set period of time. Then, importantly, having the patience to let your project take shape.
In contrast, Inter’s pursuit of success has been quite the opposite; resorting to impulse transfers and irrational management decisions, yet still demanding immediate results.
From the extravagant €31 million purchase of a somewhat unproven Geoffrey Kondogbia, the largely unnecessary addition of Eder, to the on-going ignorance of the team’s need for reliable wing-backs; there’s been minimal foresight used in building the current squad.
One of the most disappointing aspects has been the lack of patience club management have shown in their up-and-coming talent; the prime example being Philippe Coutinho who, after five years of development, was sold to Liverpool for just €10 million. The Reds have since reaped the benefits of Inter’s groundwork.
Mateo Kovacic was the latest in this category, and while not every young talent will amount to the heights of the Brazilian magician, they need to be given a chance.
Then we come back to the coaches. And while each respective manager shares responsibility for some of the individual transfers and team decisions, the club’s apparent lacking of an overriding plan for the team remains the most critical aspect of Inter’s failures.
In fact, since the Suning Group’s takeover, major question marks have emerged as to who is actually making the decisions. The Chinese consortium looks content to remain in the shadows, leaving the presidency to the, now, former owner Erick Thohir.
The lack of leadership now apparent was perfectly illustrated in the recent events surrounding Mauro Icardi.
The club showed poor player management in allowing the striker to publish such content with not so much as a skim-read of the publication. Then, after events escalated, the Inter hierarchy appeared to take a back seat as the Icardi-Curva Nord feud played out in front of an international audience. The only interventions made were done so hiding behind the words of fan favourite, Zanetti, and via a delayed club statement, which would outline the club captain’s punishment.
Now, only a matter of weeks later and Inter fans are staring down what appears to be yet another wasted season.
When De Boer took charge, he demanded four months to show what his Inter would look like. He was never given that chance.
And, as the new coach takes the helm, they’ll ask for patience in allowing themselves time to adjust to the new role; a perfectly reasonable request, one would think.
However, after hearing such statements for the ninth time since Mourinho’s exit, it’s the fans’ patience with the club management that has now been completely exhausted.
Photo credit: forzaitalianfootball.com