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Ranieri pays the price for poor run

Inter boss becomes 19th coaching change under president Moratti

March ended on an all too familiar, all too predictable note; namely with the sacking of Internazionale coach Claudio Ranieri. This has been a season when nothing has seemed to go right for a club which recently dominated Italian football, winning five consecutive titles between 2006 and 2010.

The season began badly with the sacking in September of Gian Piero Gasperlni after just five games in charge. Ranieri was then called in to set things to rights. And at first it appeared that the Ranieri cure was working. Not only did he take Inter into the knockout phase of the Champions League, by the middle of January his side had also picked up seven consecutive Serie A wins, topped off by a 1-0 victory over Milan that represented Inter's first Serie A derby success since January 2010.

From that moment on, however, something seemed to go wrong. In their next 10 Serie A games, Inter clocked up
six defeats, three draws and just one win (at home to Chievo). That was bad enough, but it was made all the more painful by Inter’s elimination from the Champions League by Marseille.

POZA The straw which broke this particular camel’s overburdened back came in late March when Inter lost 2-0 away to Juventus, despite giving one of their best performances of the season for the first 45 minutes. For Inter owner, petrol millionaire Massimo Moratti, this was simply one defeat too far.

Ever since the Calciopoli days, relations with Juventus have been regularly strained. In recent times, Inter have been annoyed by the Juventus request that their Serie A titles of 2005 and 2006, of which they were stripped in the wake of the federation’s Calciopoli investigation, be “returned” to them. In particular, the 2006 title touches on a raw nerve because, in the end, that title was awarded to Inter.

For Moratti and Inter fans, the sporting rivalry with Juventus also touches on another raw nerve that goes back to the 1997-98 season. That was the year when Inter, coached by Gigi Simoni and inspired by Brazilian striker Ronaldo, appeared to be denied a sacrosanct penalty - for a foul by Mark luliano on Ronaldo - in a decisive, top-of-the-table clash against Juve in Turin in the fourth-last game of the season. Juve won that match 1-0 and went on to win the title, but Inter fans have never been convinced that sporting justice was done that April day.

coaching-stabilityRemarkable gamble

So, for all those reasons, if there was one defeat that was going to hurt more than the others, then Juve was the one. For the 19th time since he assumed control of Inter back in 1995, Moratti opted to replace his coach, in the process taking the remarkable gamble of replacing Ranieri with youth-team coach, Andrea Stramaccioni. Ranieri thus joins a growing list of illustrious names - including Ottavio Bianchi, Roy Flodgson, Simoni, Mirceau Lucescu, Marcello Lippi, Hector Cuper, Roberto Mancini and Rafael Benitez - who have been summarily dismissed (or resigned in Lippi’s case) from the Inter job.

Significantly, of course, there is one exception among the 20 men who have coached Inter in the Moratti era. We are speaking of Jose Mourinho. He was by far Moratti’s favourite coach, the only one who left of his own choice and against Moratti’s will. As we all know, Mourinho’s special status with Moratti owed everything to the coaching masterpiece that saw him lead Inter to a Champions League-Serie A-ltalian Cup treble in 2010.

That heroic season seems to have left an indelible, “burnt out” mark on many of the key figures in that Inter team, and that point was one much Battle...Inter’s Walter Samuel (right) competes with Martin Caceres of Juventus highlighted by Italian commentators in their analysis of the Ranieri sacking.

There was also talk of the "post- Mourinho” effect and the fact that his successful spells at Porto, Chelsea and Inter were all followed by periods of relative instability as regards his successors. Gigi Delneri, Victor Fernandez, Jose Couceiro, Co Adriaanse and Jesualdo Ferreira all followed Mourinho at Porto before Andre Villas-Boas came, saw and conquered two seasons ago. Likewise, Chelsea have had a sharp turnover of managers in the post Mourinho era with such as Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti and Villas-Boas all finally failing to match the requirements of club owner Roman Abramovich. So too with Inter, since Stramaccioni is Inter's fifth coach in the last two seasons, following on after Benitez, Leonardo, Gasperini and Ranieri.

Ranieri may have made mistakes in his time at Inter, such as his handling of playmaker Wesley Sneidjer, his reliance on the old guard at the expense of younger players, and surprise selections such as those of Mauro Zarate and Diego Forlan in the 1-0 Champions League defeat away to Marseille. In short, there are those who would On the day of Inter’s defeat by Juve, Moratti opted to watch the youth team argue that Ranleri too often changed both personnel and tactics. Yet the Inter run this spring has been too bad for It all to be blamed on Ranleri. It has been said before, but the suspicion remains that Inter's problems are as much about hunger and motivation as about coaching or personnel shortcomings.

On top of everything else, Dame Fortune also seems to have turned her back on Inter. Ranleri could have saved his job, at least until next June, if Inter had progressed a bit further in the Champions League. However, Marseille eliminated Inter with an injury-time goal In both legs of their tie. In reality, Inter had been good value for a 0-0 draw in the first leg, rather than a 1-0 defeat and likewise, they had totally dominated the return at San Siro but got struck by that late sucker punch in a 2-1 win that saw them go out on away goals.

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Stramaccioni has earned the job to the end of the season thanks to his work with the Inter under-19 side which he led to victory in the first edition of Next Generation Series - the so-called under-19 Champions League. On the day Inter were beaten 2-0 in Turin by Juventus, Moratti had significantly opted for the future, travelling to London to watch the youth team defeat Ajax in a penalty shoot-out In the NextGen Final. He clearly liked what he saw, both on Andrea STRAMACCIONI the pitch and on the coach’s bench. It remains to be seen just how Stramaccioni will handle one of the oldest, most experienced and, until this year, most successful squads in Italy - not to mention a team captained by a player, Argentinian Javier Zanettl, who is two years his elder.

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