Sunday, 13 July 2008
Is it at all possible that between winning their 16th Scudetto and appointing Jose Mourinho as new Inter coach, that the club failed to say a proper thank you and pay a fitting tribute to Roberto Mancini?
Every tactician has strengths and weaknesses. One criticism of Mancini was that he wore his heart on his sleeve. This was best displayed in his frequent clashes with the media and his refusal to pull his punches when it came to giving his opinion’s or answering questions or buckle under the pressure from their continuous criticism. In one sense Mancini wearing his heart on his sleeve was a special quality that is missing from modern football. In a time when clubs, coaches and players frequently interact with the media providing sterile interviews with lifeless answers that are so familiar they seem rehearsed, Mancini was a breathe of fresh air. The more he was openly hostile towards the media, the more relentless and vicious their attacks became. One may ask how such an uncompromising attitude could be described as a special quality but you would be hard pressed to find an Interista whose chest would not swell in pride when Mancini defended the club and his players from criticism’s relating to Calciopoli and poor performances. At such times, despite making the environment outside of the club more hostile and despite putting greater pressure on his players as a result of his conduct, Mancini showed an undoubted love for the club.
Another frequent criticism was that Mancini was incapable of being objective when it came to player selection and making substitutions. It would be naïve to believe that tacticians do not have favourite players and that for every match, players are chosen based on their form and fitness. The ongoing transfer saga of Frank Lampard to Inter is an example of Mourinho trying to acquire a player for whom he has great respect but it is highly questionable whether Lampard would be viewed by Mourinho as being equal to the other midfield players that are presently on Inter’s books. This is especially the case when one takes into consideration the efforts the club is going to secure the services of the Chelsea player.
Getting back to Mancini, his lack of objectivity became especially apparent when regardless of form, the likes of Stankovic and Cesar were selected in the starting eleven. In the case of the latter player, it appears Mancini felt the player had something to offer the team even when he was struggling with injuries and fitness. Stankovic struggled for a great deal of the season but if the team played poorly when he was in the starting eleven, his absence led to even greater difficulties as there were occasions when Cesar was called upon and his performances were even more questionable. In a season when Inter’s midfield struggled for consistency as a result of injuries, the criticism levelled at Mancini in relation to Stankovic was possibly harsh given the fact that the there were very few alternatives and players were required to make sacrifices, for the good of the team. With regards to Cesar, his continued selection when fit was even more curious than Mancini’s decision to continuously select an underperforming Stankovic and to this day, many of the Nerazzurri faithful would not be able to provide an adequate explanation for the respect Mancini had for Cesar. But perhaps, rather than solely blaming Mancini, supporters should look to the club and the fact that there was no adequate replacement to play in Stankovic’s position when he was struggling with injury.
Just as Mancini favoured some players, there were others for whom it appeared he had little or no time. The players that fall into this category are Adriano, Recoba and Luis Figo in season 2008-2008. For many Inter supporters these players are special in that when they were on the field in past years, they provided Inter with power, strength, fantasy, skill and invaluable experience. The difficulty was that for reasons well documented in relation to the first two players, Mancini was willing to send them to the stands and in the case of Figo, the players reluctance to sit on the bench led to inevitable tensions between coach and player.
The fact of the matter is each player appeared to have a separate set of issues that precluded Mancini from selecting him. In Adriano’s case, it was his professionalism and desire to apply himself at training, play football and make a telling contribution to the team on a consistent basis. In Adriano’s defence, making a telling contribution on a consistent basis would have been difficult if the player was struggling with alcoholism and depression as has been reported. In Recoba’s case, it appears the player’s continuous struggles with injury and resulting inconsistency led to him being given very little opportunity to play football and he was loaned to Torino. And in the case of Figo, it appears his dissatisfaction at not being selected after returning to fitness and being given limited playing time caused a rift between player and coach that Mancini was unwilling to repair. In this respect, Mancini was seen as being unreasonable and temperamental in that he failed to take into account and make exceptions for these players and their respective circumstances. But in all fairness to Mancini, he was hired by the club to get results and it is a well known fact that as Inter coach, there is very little room for error and sentimentality.
Mancini’s fate was sealed following Inter’s elimination from the Champions League when he stated that he had made the decision to resign from the Inter bench come the end of the season. The timing of his announcement could not have been more inappropriate given the fact that the Scudetto was still at stake. By tending his resignation, Mancini left Moratti with little other alternative than to start looking for a new coach for the end of the season. Many Inter supporters may put Mancini’s attempted resignation down to sheer stupidity but such an analysis would be an oversimplification.
Undoubtedly, Mancini made a mistake and the decision to tender his resignation provides a deep insight in relation his love for the club, the expectations he had of himself, the expectations of his team in the club’s Centenary Year, and the hopes he had of winning the trophy. To make such a hasty decision without consulting or speaking to anyone, Mancini must have been overwhelmed with disappointment. Although his aspirations of winning the trophy with the squad at his disposal and his evident lack of tactical awareness were an issue, his decision to “resign” indicated that he lived, breathed and suffered as an Interista.
What lies ahead for Mancini’s future as a coach remains to be seen. Despite winning two Scudetti, two Coppa Italia, and two Italian Super Cups, Mancini’s no nonsense straight talking approach managed to get many people in Italian football offside. In addition, he displayed weaknesses, such as his outburst following Inter’s Champions League elimination that may make him an unattractive option to future employers. As a result, Mancini may have unintentionally forced himself out of the Italian football market with potential club owners thinking twice before they look at acquiring his services.
Perhaps it is all of the above that makes Mancini such a fascinating character in Italian football. As a player and coach, Mancini courted controversy with his petulant behaviour and he will be remembered as a man of contrasts. Namely, a passionate tactician with an insatiable appetite for perfection and victory but with obvious weaknesses that undermine his overall efforts. Just as he was strong and took a stance against the media and certain players, Mancini was equally as vulnerable, as displayed by his love for Inter and the devastated manner in which he reacted to his dismissal, taking close to two months before resurfacing to thank the Nerazzurri faithful for their support over the years.
Unfortunately, the club did you a huge disservice by not thanking you in an appropriate manner and the truth of the matter is that we should be thanking you Roberto. Thank you for transforming an underachieving team with psychological hang ups into a stable and cynical winning machine that is able to grind out results even when playing poorly. Thank you for the many fond memories, record breaking statistics and restoring pride and happiness to long suffering fans. And most importantly, thank you for taking us to a level where under the tutelage of a new coach, we may now be ready to take new steps in terms of competing in Europe. We owe you a great deal and you will go down in the club’s history as the tactician who revived and restored the club’s ailing fortunes.
We will never forget you.
Grazie Roberto Mancini and best of luck in the future.