By CESARE POLENGHI
GOAL MANAGING EDITOR - ASIA
Ricky Alvarez's ill-fated penalty kick during the game against Lazio somehow crystalised what Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni had labeled "a cursed season".
The nerazzurri now sit in ninth place and have lost all hopes of securing a European berth for next season - plus the subsequent loss of income that would come with it.
Italian football analysts are throwing out several theories as to the reasons for such failure. Some blame Stramaccioni, but to most he seemed to be a very reasonable choice just a few months ago. The Rome-born coach was already in-house at Inter and willing to settle for a very reasonable salary. At 36 [now 37], he seemed the perfect man to rejuvenate the team and rally the fans.
There are also those pointing out alleged mistakes during the latest Inter transfer campaign. However, while jettisoning Coutinho in January was a bit of a bizarre decision, it is also true that pre-season signings Rodrigo Palacio and Samir Handanovic have been two of the most effective players in Serie A this season; likewise, until his injury, Antonio Cassano proved a regular source of goals and assists.
Injuries to key players in fact is the most obvious factor that has afflicted Inter. Diego Milito's and Palacio's untimely cracks, for example, happened when the two Argentines were at the peak of their form and when Inter still seemed capable of a top-three finish.
Two and three years ago, when Juventus had a similar number of injuries, they finished in seventh place on both occasions. And this season, had Milan had the same tough luck that afflicted Inter, it is very unlikely that the rossoneri would have been likely to secure a Champions League spot.
So, besides current troubles, what lies ahead for Inter? To begin with, club's owner Massimo Moratti is desperately looking for a foreign investor to beef up the budget.
We heard of potential Chinese partners, then Russians [who purchased part of the Moratti-owned oil company, Saras] and lately even some from Indonesia. Most of these investors usually vanish once they gain an in-depth understanding of the financial situation at Inter.
Between 2012 and 2013, Inter have in fact totaled losses for almost €150 million, while the club failed to reinforce a team that after Jose Mourinho's departure in 2010, seemed every year less and less competitive.
With no money to invest, Inter can't hope to reach any of the big names that will switch clubs this off-season. In this regard, it must also be pointed out how the club has failed to integrate their best youth players into the top team; Mario Balotelli, Davide Santon, Robert Acquafresca, Mattia Destro and even Leonardo Bonucci are all products of Inter's academy system and today successful players - but at other clubs.
Italian football economist Marco Bellinazzo, in a recent blog entry, reminded how Massimo Moratti’s passion for Inter may indeed have given the owner such joys as the 2010 'Triplete', but also cost him €1,5 billion. Some speculate the Milanese oil tycoon is ready to step down or perhaps even sell the club, but those who know him well doubt he will leave his beloved Inter in this sorry state.
There is indeed some hope for the future then, though it might test the patience of the demanding supporters.
Inter's new general manager, Marco Fassone, expects to see the new Inter stadium inaugurated by the 2018-19 season. Surely there are reasons to trust him, as he, before joining Inter in 2012, was the man at the center of the successful Juventus Stadium project.
Speaking with Goal USA's Zack Lee Rigg, Fassone commented: "[The stadium is] a crucial project for the future of Inter, we are looking for the right location of the stadium. We have a shortlist of three potential locations in Milan and surrounding Milan. In these months we are looking at the financial aspects of the stadium, so the developer, the constructor, the request of equity that we have to put in. We are trying to close this phase and all this procedure by 2013."
Be that as it may, it is clear that after the glory of 2010, Inter fans will have to settle for a few years of 'grin and bear it'. For those who have been supporting the nerazzurri for at least a decade it will be nothing new: Just another chapter in the tumultuous history of Pazza ('Crazy') Inter.