x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

One year at Inter, mission is not yet over for Milan coach Stramaccioni

Andrea Stramaccioni’s tenure is incomplete at San Siro without a Champions League spot, writes Ian Hawkey.

Andrea Stramaccioni compeleted one year in charge last week at San Siro. Daniel Zennaro / EPA
Andrea Stramaccioni compeleted one year in charge last week at San Siro. Daniel Zennaro / EPA

A year is a long time in management. At Inter Milan, 12 full months in charge of the first team practically qualifies you for a statue in your image in the club's hall of fame.

After being invited last week to talk to the club's TV channel about his first 365 days in charge, Andrea Stramaccioni was hardly minded to sign off with his interviewer with a chirpy "See you this time next year," but he may have felt reassured when the club president, Massimo Moratti, later mused: "I am not thinking of changing the coach for next season."

Moratti's notoriety as a twitchy hirer-and-firer is too deeply established for that tepid endorsement to be considered a promise. But there is belief in the youthful Stramaccioni, 37, evidenced by the fact his 12-month stint already makes his occupancy of the coach's office longer than those of the four men who immediately preceded him - Claudio Ranieri, Gian Piero Gasperini, Leonardo and Rafa Benitez.

The boss before that quartet had been Jose Mourinho, who lasted two full seasons and left for Real Madrid in spite of Moratti's entreaties to him to stay.

Ideally, Moratti would like Mourinho - who spent last week's international break making his customary, cultivated signals to the European media that he is the market for a new job - to return to Inter. But because Inter's president senses the Portuguese, who delivered to Inter a first European Cup since the 1960s, is chasing a return to England, or a challenge in a league he has not worked in before, Moratti is backing Stramaccioni, albeit with certain provisos.

Just as when he was surprisingly promoted from coaching the youth team a year ago, Stramaccioni has been set, over the next two months, a target of Champions League qualification. It is a big request.

Today, as they take on Juventus, Serie A holders and leaders, Inter are sixth and one of a trio of teams (with Roma and Lazio) bunched on 47 points.

Inter do have a game in hand, but still only 10 matches left to climb up to third, the minimum entry point for the 2012/13 Champions League. The gap between them and AC Milan, the current No 3 team, stands at seven points.

When Stramaccioni took over from Ranieri as caretaker, on March 26 of last year, Inter were ninth. A top-three finish, Moratti knew, was a tall order then. They finished sixth. The president has learnt plenty about his coach since, while Stramaccioni talks of "an incredible year, which has changed my life".

The highlight? Possibly the night when Stramaccioni, with a brave, studied tactical plan, took Inter to Juventus and emerged as the first team to win in Serie A at Juventus's new stadium, a fortress for the preceding 15 months.

Another victory, at the San Siro today, would be most welcome. A defeat, though, would remind the young coach uncomfortably of what happened to Ranieri. Losing to Juve, in the so-called Derby d'Italia, meant the end of his reign, 53 weeks ago.


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