Friday, 6 February 2009
The best place to start with Ricardo Quaresma is his recent departure from Inter to Chelsea. Many commentators in Italian Football lay the blame for Quaresma’s poor performances at the feet of the player himself, arguing that Inter were left with no option than to allow him to leave for Chelsea. But the reality of Inter’s predicament with Quaresma also lay at the feet of Mourinho, the club and the Nerazzurri faithful are who equally responsible for the player’s failings and subsequent departure.
Mourinho and Moratti: the Quaresma acquisition
From the moment Inter were rumoured to be interested in Quaresma, the writing was on the wall. When one analyses the transfer, it appears that fundamental warning signs were ignored leading to the acquisition of a player who would inevitably fail at Inter and in Serie A.
The gnawing question that has to be asked is whether Europe’s top clubs had somehow managed to overlook Quaresma or whether they had accurately assessed the player’s abilities in light of his previous stay at Barcelona and concluded that for the price Porto were demanding, he was a high risk acquisition.
Given that Europe’s top club’s send scouts to all corners of the world, it is a given that Quaresma did not sneak under their radar. The simple fact of the matter is that Quaresma was still playing in Portugal because no club thought he was up to the task of playing consistent and quality football and no club was willing to pay approximately £25 million for a player that in all likelihood would fail.
In light of the above and before the player had even played a game for his new club, the odds were stacked against him as there were question marks concerning his ability to succeed in Serie A.
When you combine those questions with his large price tag and the accompanying high expectations, as well as the fact that he did not spend pre-season with the Nerazzurri and Serie A being a difficult league for wingmen to ply their trade, then it is obvious that Quaresma undoubtedly had a very difficult task ahead of him.
But perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Quaresma’s arrival at Inter and departure to Chelsea is Mourinho’s role in the transfer and his subsequent actions as coach.
Mourinho specifically requested the player and Moratti was obliged to complete the transfer. Moratti was in no position to oppose the transfer as Mourinho had just arrived and a refusal on Moratti’s behalf would have led to an uneasy relationship between coach and club President at a very early stage in Mourinho’s Inter career.
In terms of the transfer, it is safe to say that Moratti and Inter as a club placed a great deal of faith in Mourinho. The risks in acquiring the player were obvious for all to see but there was a widespread belief that Mourinho’s experience as a coach and guidance of the player would provide an environment where Quaresma would be able to apply himself and prosper into a first team regular.
From the beginning of his tenure as Inter coach, Mourinho stated that he preferred to work with a squad of approximately 22 players and that Inter’s squad of 30 was too large.
The difficulty of reducing squad numbers in accordance with Mourinho’s wishes came from the fact that many of Inter’s players receive large salaries, ensuring they are reluctant to leave and pricing interested clubs out of the market as they cannot afford to pay large amounts on wages.
Despite repeated calls for a smaller squad, Mourinho has been compromised and it is possible that as a result of the large number of players, he has been unable to give time to helping the likes of Quaresma and other underperforming players, a chance to improve their game.
It has to be acknowledged that Mourinho would not have been able to forecast the extent to which Quaresma and Mancini would struggle in terms of form and the difficulties the team would have in adapting to a 4-3-3 formation but another contributing factor was the overall completeness of the squad.
Mourinho’s hopes of playing 4-3-3 essentially disappeared when Frank Lampard agreed a new contract with Chelsea. In the opening weeks of the season he endeavoured to apply and make the 4-3-3 work but Inter struggled as the team did not have a central midfield player that could control the game and be the team’s driving force from midfield.
As Mourinho focused on stabilising the team and securing results, he resorted to fielding a 4-3-1-2 formation which had the effect of marginalised both Quaresma and Mancini and ensuring they would only be used sparingly as substitutes.
The Nerazzurri Faithful
Quaresma is not the first player in Inter’s history to be booed and whistled by the club’s supporters, nor will he be the last, but he is perhaps the most high profile to receive such treatment.
In recent history other players that come to mind are Mikael Silvestre, Stephane Dalmat, Sergio Conciecao, Domenic Morfeo and Andres Guglielminpietro but none of these players had Quarema’s talent and more to the point, Inter did not pay £25 million to acquire their services.
Many commentators have stated that Quaresma’s move to Chelsea will ensure that the Portuguese will get more playing time and that he will be given an opportunity to gain some confidence and prove his worth. It has been suggested that if he performs well, Inter will simply call him back to the club after his loan spell at Chelsea comes to an end. But the more important question that needs to be asked is what will happen if the player fails to perform in England?
The Nerazzurri faithful failed to grasp that Quaresma was an investment and their relentless booing and whistling of the player will have affected his self-confidence and caused him to question his abilities. But who really cares? The £25 million spent to bring Quaresma to the club was a part of Moratti’s personal wealth. It does not matter if Inter are unable to offload a large salary player that no other club wants. He can simply join the likes of Crespo and Vieira as a player that will happily collect his wages without making a telling contribution to the club.
Unfortunately, the damage has already been done and there is no turning back as Quaresma has been forced into corner. When the time comes, he will have second thoughts about returning to Inter where the driving force behind his transfer, Mourinho, simply gave up on him, the club acquiesced in allowing him to leave and the supporters mercilessly turned on him without giving adequate consideration to the circumstances in which he was trying to adjust and make an impact at the club.
Quaresma was meant to be Inter’s most important summer acquisition, a player that was specifically brought to the club to ensure Mourinho had the personnel to play 4-3-3. For many, he also represented a departure from the past and a new beginning in the sense of the team adapting to a new coach and style of play under Mourinho.
Six months later, Mourinho abandoned all attempts to play 4-3-3 and Quaresma was omitted from Inter’s Champions League squad and allowed to leave on loan to Chelsea. Regardless of how he performs in England, the relationship between coach and player, club and player, and Inter’s supporters and Quaresma have all suffered irreparable damage.
To simply state that Quaresma’s failings are down to the player himself would be to ignore the factors discussed in this article. Mourinho, the club and its supporters are equally responsible for the player’s failings and should not be surprised when the player has second thoughts about returning or decides to turn his back on the club.
In the end it may not matter how Quaresma performs at Chelsea, or whether the player wants to return to Italy to play for Inter as there is a possibility that he may be included as part of a deal to bring Chelsea’s Didier Drogba to Inter.
Alternatively, the Portuguese may return to Portugal where commentators will be again be asking “Quaresma who?”
My point exactly. Why did Inter purchase him in the first place?