Hold the easy jokes about Rafael Benitez’s weight, though it does seem he has lost some since leaving The Wirral and John the Milkman.
It’s the topic of discussion on the Gazetta dello Sport website which essentially means whether Benitez will be spending his Christmas in Milan. (Panatone is a typical Italian Christmas cake, quite expensive nonetheless) Just over half the voters believe he will be but the poll below suggests current Zenit boss Luciano Spalletti would be ideal to take over the reigns. When asked about former AC Milan boss Leonardo being linked, Inter President Massimo Moratti coolly walked off, muttering ‘Arrivederci’
The poll is quite indicative and telling on how the Italians view Benitez’s ability to manage Inter Milan. Benitez hasn’t spent a cent so there hasn’t been change from his predecessors who completed an unprecedented treble. However that exactly is one of the main problems. While fierce rivals AC Milan brought in ‘flop’ Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho to help bolster their attack and Juventus spending big on Milos Krasic, Leonardo Bonucci among others, Moratti and the Inter board felt since achieving their dream of winning the European Cup since 1965 meant it was time to don a pipe and a pair of slippers.
Of course, Benitez is no stranger to a board not investing in a club. In fact, he’s faced that situation twice. Regardless Inter, unlike Valencia and Liverpool, had the money and are now looking at investing in the club in January, when it could perhaps be too little too late. Following Inter’s defeat in the Derby della Madonnina, Inter are six points off the top, which was described by the Neruzzuri manager as ‘a big job’.
The Spaniard has also altered the way which Inter have played, which may explain the team’s never lasting injury list. Thirty times the team has had to visit the medical team to help nurse their wounds which has led to young players like Felipe Coutinho, Jonathan Biabiany and Obi being forced to start. Though their potential can’t be doubted, it still is asking a lot to fill the void of Diego Milito, Dejan Stankovic and Esteban Cambiasso. Currently Inter have Maicon, Walter Samuel, Milito, McDonald Mariga, Thiago Motta, Obi, Cristian Chivu and Sulley Muntari out rotating themselves in the treatment room.
Benitez likes to model his teams similar to that of Arrigo Sacchi where there is constant pressure and high intensity in passing and pressure. On the contrary, José Mourinho banked on the counter and created a structure whereby they would be limited exposure should they get caught high up in numbers. The contrast in styles means training sessions, especially the fitness conditioning, will be different and while Mourinho gained some luck as his team only suffered twelve injuries all season, his teams’ style meant there was a less likelier chance of the players getting injured. For muscle injuries, especially, which Inter have been suffering, the combination of fatigue and age will mean the players will suffer far more, even more so after a long arduous year which was followed by a World Cup campaign.
The goal for Benitez will be to plough through the next couple of weeks with his decrepit squad, with the hope of reducing the gap from the top of Serie A and look at the World Club Championship in Abu Dhabi, where they could face another Inter, as his potential saving grace from the board, fans and media. Maybe then Benitez will be able to enjoy his panatone.