Icardi strikes to ignite Inter’s season


He has done it again. Six goals in seven games against Juventus is now seven from eight. It’s a phenomenal record Mauro Icardi has acquired against the Bianconeri, stemming from his Sampdoria days. And in the context on Inter’s season, his goal on Sunday was perhaps the most important.

There was already talk of the sack hanging over Frank de Boer’s head. The Dutchman only entered the piece late in pre-season, as a replacement for Roberto Mancini. When the Italian left, the former Ajax man said he would need time to work with the squad. But results weren’t good and media reports were merciless.

A solitary – last-gasp – victory over Pescara, after a loss at Chievo and draw with Palermo, was not considered a good enough start. Worse was to come last Thursday, as Inter embarrassingly collapsed at home to Israeli side Hapoel Be’er Sheeva in the Europa League. A loss to Juventus would potentially spell the end of de Boer’s short reign.

With new Brazilian signing Gabigol watching on from the stands, it was a better Inter from the outset against their old foe. Other summer additions Joao Mario and Ever Banega looked comfortable in midfield, while the defence restricted the champions. The closest either side came in the first half was an Icardi curler which nicked the outside the post.

When Stephan Lichtsteiner popped up at the back post to deliver a sucker-punch just past the hour mark it looked like another long evening at the office for de Boer and co. But Inter, to their credit, have showed fighting spirit during this inconsistent start. Their three prior goals – all scored by Icardi – arrived after they fell behind, and none earlier than the 72nd minute.

Icardi climbed highest to head in the equaliser and break that mark by four minutes, a reward for a strong performance. The Argentine turned provider with 11 minutes to go, with Inter capitalising on a rare Juve defensive error as Ivan Perisic came off the bench to head past Gianluigi Buffon.

The captain hopes the 2-1 win can spark the Nerazzurri campaign. “Juventus are one of my favourite teams to score goals against. However, we can’t just play one good game. We must continue like this.”

De Boer’s side face winnable matches against Empoli in midweek and then Bologna, before a trip to Roma. Icardi said on Monday consistency is the key to Inter enjoying a fruitful season. Ensuring the Juventus performance is not a one-off is imperative.

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Internazionale’s Europa League loss opens a new chapter in Milanese duo’s recent struggles

Euro 2016

Previously giants of the European game, both AC and Inter Milan have relinquished that revered status over recent seasons, with the Milanese duo struggling to compete to win honours either in Italy or on the continent.

Not since AC beat their fierce city rivals Inter 2-1 in the 2011 Supercoppa Italiana final has either side won a trophy, which represents a remarkable drought for two of the most successful clubs in European football.

Specifically whilst AC has won 48 titles worldwide, after winning the 2010-2011 Coppa Italia, Inter’s trophy haul has stagnated at 39.

Absence from recent editions of Champions League

Furthermore despite featuring regularly in the Europa League, Inter have not qualified for the Champions League since the 2011-2012 edition of European football’s elite club competition, which they won in 2010, as I Nerrazzuri’s have not finished better than 4th in any of the last five Serie A seasons.

Similarly after ending the 2012-2013 Serie A campaign in 3rd place to qualify for the following season’s Champions League, AC have failed to qualify to play in European competition for three successive years.

Montella’s managerial reign of AC starts disappointingly

Although last season Sinisa Mihajlovic led AC to the final of the Coppa Italia, I Rossoneri lost that game 1-0 to Juventus not under the Yugoslavian’s guidance but that of Christian Brocchi, who replaced the current Torino manager in April.

Subsequently Brocchi was replaced by Vicenzo Montella for the start of this season, with the 42-year-old’s managerial reign of Milan having commenced disappointingly.

After being unable to significantly strengthen their squad during the summer, with the club’s only signings being the quartet of Gustavo Gomez, Gianluca Lapadula, Jose Sosa and Leonel Vangioni, despite opening their Serie A campaign with a 3-2 home win over Torino, under Montella’s guidance Milan suffered defeat in their next two matches, away to Napoli – 4-2 – and at the San Siro against Udinese – 1-0.

Whilst producing a valiant performance against Napoli, Milan’s display against Udinese was extremely lacklustre, as Stipe Perica scored a late winning goal for Giuseppe Iachini’s side.

As a result of that, Milan currently occupy 15th place in Serie A, with their next league game being an extremely difficult away fixture against Sampdoria, whom Montella managed last season and left to join Milan.  Furthermore the 20-times capped Italian internationalist also served the Genoese club as a player.

De Boer’s endure difficult start to life as manager of Inter

At present just as Montella is endeavouring to inspire an upturn in Milan’s recent declining fortunes, Frank De Boer has begun a similar assignment at Inter, after replacing Roberto Mancini as I Nerazzuri’s head coach just a fortnight prior to their first Serie A game of the Serie A season against Chievo Verona.

As such the 46-year old former Ajax manager had little time to introduce his ideas and tactics to Inter’s players.  That was abundantly evident as they were comprehensively beaten 2-0 by Chievo, whereby Rolando Maran’s team were vastly superior to Inter, particularly in terms of fitness, which many members of De Boer’s team were distinctly lacking.

Despite delivering a marginally improved display in their next game, Inter were held to a 1-1 draw at the San Siro by Palermo, as captain Mauro Icardi scored a second half equaliser.

Subsequently the 23-year-old Argentinean striker played an influential role to help De Boer secure a maiden win as manager, since he scored two late goals as Inter recovered from a goal down to beat Pescara 2-1 on their last Serie A outing.

After joining I Nerazzuri for €45m from Sporting Lisbon, the Portuguese Euro 2016 winner Joao Mario made his debut against Pescara and an extremely positive impression upon Inter’s performance when doing so.

However De Boer made the decision to omit both the 23-year-old and fellow new signing Gabriel Barbosa from his Europa League squad, as a consequence of Inter currently experiencing difficulties in complying with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play guidelines.

Specifically they were fined by UEFA in May for breaking FFP rules and agreed to select a squad of only 21 rather than the normal 25, for the Europa League, with Gabriel and Mario two players who will not feature in Inter’s continental campaign, which started with disastrous 2-0 home defeat to Hapoel Be’er Sheva.

Despite naming a markedly different starting XI from the one which was successful against Pescara, whereby he made seven changes to his line-up, De Boer still fielded a relatively strong side to play the Israeli league champions.  However with Icardi, who has scored all of Inter’s three goals so far this season, only appearing as a late second half substitute, Inter were largely devoid of an attacking threat throughout the game.

Therefore Inter, whose next Serie A game is against Juventus, forfeited an excellent opportunity to build upon beating Pescara by feebly succumbing to an aggressive and determined Hapoel Be’er Sheva side.

Milanese duo remain fallen giants

Furthermore that humbling Europa League loss at the San Siro marked the opening of a new chapter in the recent struggles of the formerly great Milanese duo, as both AC and Inter continue to toil in their efforts to detach themselves from the tag of ‘Fallen Giants’, with which they’ve been labelled due to their poor performances over recent seasons.

Montella and De Boer share a similar aspiration

As such at present the shared aspiration of Vincenzo Montella and Frank De Boer must be to spark a revival in the current fortunes of AC and Inter respectively, as the two managers aim to help their respective clubs return to former greatness.

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De Boer out to claim maiden Serie A triumph


It was the sort of situation harking back to the days of mid-1990s madness. Roberto Mancini had led Inter back to European competition – and had the Nerazzurri top of Serie A for a number of weeks – but instead of continuing the charge this term he abruptly left weeks before the start of the new campaign.

Enter Dutchman Frank de Boer. But with so few days to prepare in a new league it’s little wonder Inter went into the international break with a solitary point to their name. A loss away to Chievo was followed by a come-from-behind draw against Palermo.

Inter were aggressive on the transfer market last season in their bid to return to prominence. That strategy was amplified this term thanks to investment from the new owners, the Chinese-led Suning Group. Ever Banega was signed on a free transfer from Sevilla, but they spent big on Antonio Candreva, Gabigol and Joao Mario. The summer signings add to a squad which, on paper at least, should be challenging strongly for a Champions League position.

They are already five points behind Juventus and three adrift of both Roma and Napoli. But what de Boer needs, according to former President Massimo Moratti, is time. “He must be given at least another month before we can pass judgment on his work.”

That judgment will swing in his favour if Inter are to get off and running. They peppered Palermo and then went behind to a sucker-punch. It’s the sort of error which must be cut out.

Up next is Pescara. The newly promoted club in theory should not pose much of a problem. But the Abruzzese outfit has already welcomed Napoli to the Stadio Adriatico and claimed a point. The opening round match ended 2-2, only after Napoli fought back from two down. Pescara sit fourth on four points, although their position is somewhat deceptive. Sassuolo defeated the Delfini in Round 2, but fielded an ineligible player which meant the result was reversed. Still, Massimo Oddo’s team showed against Napoli they are not afraid of big names.

But a win is important for de Boer. It will help get an early monkey off his back, even if he knows the situation he walked into was not easy. It was always going to take time. De Boer has had the opportunity to work with the squad this week and may introduce some new signings into the team as early as this weekend. One where Inter hope to kick-start their season.

Late summer spending spree creates renewed hope for Inter

Euro 2016

With just two games played in the 2016-2017 Serie A campaign Inter Milan are languishing in 17th place and already five points behind leaders Genoa, who top the table on goal difference ahead of Juventus and Sampdoria.

Inter’s unconvincing start to the Serie A season

After a hugely disappointing 2-0 opening day defeat away to Chievo, I Nerazzuri produced an improved performance to recover from a goal down to draw 1-1 at home with Palermo, although wasteful finishing prevented Inter from winning Frank De Boer’s first game at the San Siro as the club’s manager.

Just as Inter conceded a goal shortly after half time in their game with Chievo, they did so again against Palermo, although the response of De Boer’s side to that was excellent, with their captain Mauro Icardi scoring a deserved equaliser.

Despite intensely searching for a winning goal, Inter were frustrated in their efforts to find that, as Palermo valiantly withstood significant pressure to deny De Boer’s team their first win of the season.

De Boer beginning to make a positive impact at Inter

Nevertheless there were many positive aspects to Inter’s performance, including some excellent link – up play between the midfielders and strikers, who answered De Boer’s request for them to execute a high – pressing game extremely well.

That provided a clear indication that the ideas and philosophies which De Boer is endeavouring to communicate to Inter’s players are being well received, as the 46-year-old Dutchman aspires to engineer a team which is capable of improving upon the club’s fourth place finish in Serie A last season.

Subsequently De Boer’s ability to achieve that has been greatly enhanced following the signings of Gabriel Barbosa and Joao Mario, who are Brazilian and Portuguese internationalist respectively.  As such Inter’s engagement in a late summer spending spree to strengthen their squad and their encouraging performance against Palermo, represent reasons for De Boer to be optimistic about his team’s prospects for the current season.  Despite that having not started promisingly in terms of results, De Boer is undoubtedly nurturing the shoots of recovery at Inter, which both Gabriel Barbosa and Joao Mario are capable of supporting.

Duo of important acquisitions for Inter

In terms of Joao Mario the 23-year-old, who played in each game of Portugal’s Euro 2016 success, possesses the ability to not only instil a wealth of composure, elegance and guile to Inter’s midfield, but also to orchestrate play for his new team, just as he has consistently done over the past two years for his country and Sporting Lisbon.  It was from Leoes that Inter signed Joao Mario for €45m, which makes him the most expensive Portuguese player ever sold by a Portuguese club.  That title was previously held by Nani, who joined Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon for €25.5m in August 2007.

Whilst Joao Mario represents an excellent acquisition for Inter, so too does Gabriel Barbosa, with I Nerazzuri signing the 20-year-old striker on a five-year contract from Santos.

After helping Alvinegro Praiano to win their second successive Campeonato Paulista in May, Santos, who scored 56 goals during a four year spell with Santos, was a key member of the Brazilian team which won the Olympics football gold medal in Rio.  During the tournament Santos scored twice, with the player now set to continue his development under the tutelage of De Boer and the Dutchman’s extensive technical team at Inter.

Therefore the arrivals of Gabriel Barbosa and Joao Mario have considerably strengthened Inter’s already competitive squad but greatly improved their outlook for the 2016-2017 season, which everyone associated with the club now has plenty of reasons to be optimistic about.

Pescara represent Inter’s next opposition

Inter’s next game arrives against Pescara after the current international break on 11 September, when De Boer, who is now enjoying a period of uninterrupted training with some of his players, will try to mastermind his first win as Inter manager at the Stadio Adriatico.

Opening day defeat signifies scale of challenge facing De Boer at Inter

Euro 2016

It is now five seasons since Inter Milan last won a trophy, whilst the challenge lying ahead of the club’s new manager Ronald de Boer in terms of building a team capable of ending that drought is of monumental proportions.

De Boer’s reign begins with a disappointing defeat

A clear indication of that was provided as Inter were comprehensively defeated by Chievo Verona in de Boer’s first competitive game in charge of the club on the opening weekend of the 2016-2017 season.

Not only did Inter players produce a thoroughly disappointing performance but they were devoid of confidence as Chievo’s former AC Milan winger Valter Birsa took advantage of the I Nerazzuri’s defensive indecisiveness to score two superbly taken second half goals.

Ultimately Chievo Verona were thoroughly deserved of their victory, as they played with great discipline and organisation, to prevent Inter from playing with any creative verve, whilst Birsa provided Rolando Maran’s side with a razor sharp cutting edge in attack.

Specifically the 30-year-old Slovenian internationalist ruthlessly exploited Inter’s defensive frailties, as de Boer boldly opted to deploy a 3-5-2 formation, which his players looked entirely with, as they were unable to play with either any fluency or purposefulness.

Fundamentally flawed first performance under De Boer

Of potentially greater concern to de Boer is the poor fitness levels and physical conditioning of his players, which was a major contributing factor in their tepid display against Chievo Verona, who played with far more energy and enthusiasm than a decidedly lethargic and lacklustre Inter side.

As such de Boer faces an extremely difficult task in developing a competitive team for this season as he must endeavour to inspire a vast improvement in both the fitness and form of Inter’s players, whilst simultaneously working to ensure that they are comfortable with both his tactics and football philosophies, which are focused upon defensive organisation, intense pressing, ball retention and dynamic build – up play.

Each of those fundamental attributes were glaringly absent from Inter’s opening day performance against Chievo Verona, which represented a disastrous start to de Boer’s managerial reign of the club.

Since that began just 12 days prior to Inter’s trip to the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi, the former Ajax youth and first team coach received little time to work with his players, whom de Boer must galvanise before the team’s next game against at home to Palermo.

Inter lacking key nutrients for success

As such despite the Serie A campaign being just one week old, Inter are already significantly behind the other top Italian club’s in terms of their fitness, form and readiness to meet the demands of the forthcoming season, as the Nerazzuri aspire to a win a first trophy since they lifted the 2011 Coppa Italia under the guidance of Leonardo.

Just two members of that successful team remain in Inter’s current squad with those being Andrea Ranocchia and Yuto Nagatomo, both of whom played against Chievo Verona, but failed to positively impact upon the game. So too did the overwhelming majority of de Boer’s players, although goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, along with Geoffrey Kondogbia in midfield and the attacking duo of Eder and Mauro Icardi performed reasonably well, whilst Ivan Perisic injected a degree of pace and urgency into Inter’s otherwise largely lifeless display after the 27-year-old Croatian internationalist was introduced as a second half substitute.

Despite Perisic’s positive introduction, Inter continued to lack both attacking intent and menace, whilst they remained fragile defensively throughout the game, as the centre back trio of Ranocchia, Danilo D’Ambrosio and Joao Miranda were tormented by Chievo Verona’s offensive players and left exposed by the pressing play of their midfield colleagues.

Wealth of work to improve Inter awaits De Boer

Therefore so as to iron out the array of inadequacies, which characterised Inter’s disappointing display against Chievo Verona, de Boer has a great deal of work to do, which represents a monumental challenge to the former Ajax, Barcelona , Rangers and Galastasary defender, who ended his playing career in the Qatari league with Al-Shamal.

Nevertheless that challenge is one which de Boer is well prepared to embrace given that his approach to preparing a team is based upon the wonderful philosophies of Johan Cruyff’s indvidualism and Louis Van Gaal’s universalism, which when combined correctly create a brand of brilliant football.

Whether Inter’s current playing personnel are capable of producing that is as yet uncertain but de Boer will undoubtedly endeavour to ensure that they do.

‘Crazy Inter’ throws campaign in doubt weeks out from Serie A start


The seeds of discontent had been brewing for some time. Whispers regarding how to take Inter forward. That boiled over on Monday when it was announced Roberto Mancini had left the Nerazzurri “by mutual agreement.”

A big sign came earlier in the day as the team trained without the boss, a sure-fire sign amid the chatter that an exit was near. Mancini had only returned to the club in November 2014 and last season had the Nerazzurri at the top of Serie A before Christmas. They would fall away to miss the Champions League.

Inter, hungry to return to that competition, has been busy on the transfer front. Ever Banega, Cristian Ansaldi and most recently, Antonio Candreva, headline the summer additions. They have kept the majority of their usual team from last season, but there still appeared a separation of ideas between coach and club as to how to further progress.

Taken over by new Chinese owners from the Suning Group, their plan is for a long-term Inter. Signing promising players and seeing them develop. Mancini was also thinking shorter term and was interested in the likes of Yaya Toure. Players he feel could help Inter here and now as they look to throw Juventus from their throne.

Less than two weeks from the start of the season, it is hardly an ideal move. But after only one win in seven pre-season matches – including a 6-1 drubbing against Tottenham – there were some concerns. The whole scenario is a throwback to the days of ‘Pazza Inter’ – Crazy Inter – in the 1990s.

Now, the question is who comes in and what he can be expected to do at this point. Dutchman Frank de Boer is the clear favourite and could be announced as early as Tuesday. President Erick Thohir hopes to do so as soon as possible. The Ajax boss has not coached outside his home nation and with such little time to work with the team before the opening round trip to Chievo, it is a huge gamble for the new owners to take. It puts the onus on experienced players, like Samir Handanovic, Joao Miranda and Gary Medel, as well as captain Mauro Icardi, to lead by example.

Mancini took time to thank the club and fans for support, wishing Inter “a future full of achievements and important sports results.” But this move serves to put their campaign in some jeopardy before it has commenced. How will Inter respond to this ill-timed change?

Ajax fail to capitalise on PSV Eindhoven’s slip-up in the title race

Ajax coach Frank de Boer  event:428

Ajax missed a golden opportunity to go top of the Dutch Eredivisie this weekend after being held to a draw by NEC Nijmegen. Twice the title-chasers went ahead at the Amsterdam Arena and twice NEC responded. With PSV Eindhoven having drawn their clash against Heerenveen a day earlier, Ajax knew they just needed to deliver on home soil to finish the weekend at the summit. However, they drop points for the first time in six games, and are now chasing PSV with seven games remaining.

Manager Frank de Boer will have been furious at his side to have twice conceded after taking the lead, and he won’t be pleased that a team out-of-form have picked up a result at a ground Ajax have normally been consistent at. NEC Nijmegen have one of the worst away records in the division, and their point did little to change their outcome in the table, but it could be costly for Ajax.

“We have made every effort to turn the match in our hands, and we succeeded 80 percent. NEC has defended well. Everyone gave their all, but NEC were very effective – three chances they score two,” said De Boer. The Ajax boss was critical of his side’s failure to double their lead when they went ahead, adding: “You must ensure that you quickly get to 2-0. We must ensure that we do not make too much of this kind of mistakes.”

Neither they or PSV have been dropping many points in the league of late, but that is sure to change with the top-two locking horns at PSV’s Philips Stadion next Sunday. Ajax are second in the table with 65 points from 27 games. They have lost only two games all season, and have the standalone best defensive record to boot too (18 conceded). Just a point separates them and PSV in the table, but there are still 21 more to fight for.

As a result, there’s enough time for Ajax to topple their rivals, and facing them at the Philips Stadion next Sunday is a perfect chance to make up for this weekend’s failure. Ajax lost the title to PSV last season, and won’t want to miss out again. They lost to their Eindhoven counterparts when the two sides met at the Amsterdam Arena earlier in the season so revenge will be on the cards.

Ajax have a good record at the Philips Stadion ahead of their weekend meeting with the Rood-witten, having won two and drawn two of their previous five head-to-heads in the league.

Frank de Boer in the final year of his Ajax tenure?

Ajax suffered a shock exit in the third qualifying round of the Champions League this week, that could well be the final straw for manager Ronald De Boer. The successful coach has long been considering moving to greener pastures, and has grown discontented with his side being ravaged by clubs with more financial muscle every summer.

The Dutch Eredivisie giants came unstuck in the Champions League qualifiers to Rapid Vienna, and haven’t done too well in the prestigious competition in recent years. Ajax were knocked out of the group stages last season with only one win to their name in Europe. It‘s perhaps worth noting the former domestic champions haven‘t made it past the group stages of the Champions League since 2005/06, but losing in the qualifiers is a new low.

Ajax drew the first leg away in Austria 2-2, but were beaten 3-2 in their own backyard on Tuesday night to suffer eliminated. For a side of their standing, boasting success in the competition in the past, it’s a humiliating way to be knocked out of the Champions League, and could be the final nail in the coffin for the manager. De Boer has spent five years with Ajax, but finally relinquished the title to rivals PSV Eindhoven, and has lost key players from the squad once more.

It’s becoming harder and harder for the Dutch side to endure such losses, and given the previous interest in De Boer, it’s hard to see him staying past the coming season. The 45-year-old came close to an exit last summer, admitting that Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool both approached his services. He opted to remain with Ajax to push for the 2014/15 title, but saw his men fall short due to the high-profile exits of key players.

The likes of Daley Blind (£12M to Manchester United) and Siem de Jong (£6M to Newcastle United) followed the 2013/14 departures of Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur) and Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid), which sees Ajax struggling to keep up in the Eredivisie now. They finished 17 points behind PSV Eindhoven last season, so they have a mountain to climb to get their title back.

Another season of struggles for Ajax will surely see De Boer parting company, just as Jurgen Klopp did with Borussia Dortmund this summer. And like his German counterpart, he’s expected to be inundated with interest from a host of sides around the world. Will this be Frank De Boer’s last season at Ajax?