By Mark Doyle
During the final weeks of his reign as Inter coach, Andrea Stramaccioni made several futile attempts to lift the spirits of the club's beleaguered fans by repeatedly stating that Nerazzurri president Massimo Moratti had already begun the process of overhauling the playing staff.
Unfortunately for Stramaccioni, the oil tycoon had also begun the process of replacing him as coach. So, even though we are only in the first week of June, Inter already have a new boss, Walter Mazzarri, and five new players: Mauro Icardi, Hugo Campagnaro, Marco Andreolli, Ruben Botta and Diego Laxalt.
Moratti will not stop there in his desperate attempt to build a new 'Grande Inter'. Indeed, even accounting for the frankly farcical amount of injuries the Nerazzurri sustained over the course of last season, it was painfully obvious from January onwards that Inter, who eventually limped home in ninth place, needed to strengthen this summer in every department.
Consequently, there are likely to be many comings and goings at San Siro this summer, as Goal outlines in detail below...
As already alluded to, Inter have already finalised five deals. Icardi will complete his move from Sampdoria after undergoing a medical on Thursday and the former Barcelona forward will soon be joined by free agents Campagnaro - who decided to leave Napoli for Inter even before learning of Mazzarri's move - and Andreolli. July will also see the arrivals of winger Laxalt, a €2.3 million signing from Defensor Sporting, and Tigre midfielder Botta, though the latter will not be available for the start of the season after suffering ligament damage last month.
Inter are desperate to bring in several other new faces but Moratti's primary focus at the moment is on thrashing out a deal with Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir, who is keen to acquire a significant stake in the club. However, that has not stopped directors Marco Fassone and Marco Branca working away behind the scenes in conjunction with Mazzarri, who is keen to persuade left wing-back Juan Camilo Zuniga to follow him to San Siro from the San Paolo. However, agreeing a deal with Napoli will no doubt prove extremely tricky, given Partenopei president Aurelio De Laurentiis' current animosity towards Inter's new coach.
Consequently, the Nerazzurri have lined up a number of alternatives, including Lazio's Coppa Italia matchwinner Senad Lulic. With club captain Javier Zanetti facing an uncertain future on account of an Achilles problem, Mazzarri also wants to address the right-hand side of the defence, with Udinese's Dusan Basta of particular interest to Inter's new boss.
Further forward, Montpellier have already confirmed that Inter have bid for Younes Belhanda, though they will face stiff competition for the midfielder's signature from city rivals AC Milan, as well as Atletico Madrid, Galatasaray and Aston Villa. Meanwhile, Paulinho remains a long-time target and the Brazilian is pushing for a move to San Siro. The transfer fee continues to be the major sticking point, though, with Corinthians unwilling to let a player who is under contract until 2015 leave for much less than his €20 million release clause.
And that leads us nicely into Fredy Guarin's situation. Inter have little desire to cash in on the Colombian, who only arrived from Porto for €11m last year and was one of their more eye-catching performers during a trying campaign but, if the Nerazzurri receive a massive offer, they would be prepared to sell in order to fund a deal for the much-coveted Paulinho.
Inter are in a similar situation with Andrea Ranocchia. They do not want to lose the Italy international but Ranocchia and Juventus have been flirting with one another for months now and it might be better for all concerned if they make things official. Indeed, the Nerazzurri would be willing to offload the clumsy-prone defender if the Bianconeri made an acceptable bid and would then immediately set about attempting to sign either Basel's Aleksandar Dragovic or Valencia's Adil Rami as a replacement.
Speaking of central defenders, it had seemed as if Walter Samuel was bound for the exit door at Appiano Gentile but the veteran centre-half will sign a contract extension at the start of next month. In addition, Cristian Chivu is also set to stay at San Siro for at least another season.
However, Inter are ready to cut their loses on former Palermo centre-half Matias Silvestre, who has flopped spectacularly at San Siro, while wing-back Alvaro Pereira could also be allowed to leave for the right price, with Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas keen on a reunion with his former Porto charge.
The worst-kept secret in Serie A was finally revealed on May 24 when Inter officially announced that Stamaccioni had been dismissed as coach and replaced at the helm by Mazzarri, who is coming off the back of a very successful four-year stint at Napoli in which he twice qualified the club for the Champions League, as well as lifting the Coppa Italia last year.
As mentioned, the aforementioned Partenopei supremo De Laurentiis was not best pleased by Mazzarri's defection, comparing the 51-year-old San Vincenzo native to a cheating wife! The film producer's frustration is understandable, though, given Mazzarri transformed Napoli into one of the most exciting sides in Europe during his time at the San Paolo, employing a 3-4-3 formation that, while defensively minded, allowed the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marek Hamsik and Edinson Cavani to counterattack to devastating effect over the years.
As things stand, Mazzarri does not have the same quality of attacking talent to work with at Inter but that could change this summer in light of the anticipated injection of funds that Thohir would provide should he buy shares in the Nerazzurri.
There's so much uncertainty surrounding Inter at the moment that it's impossible to know exactly what will happen at Appiano Gentile over the summer. What is hugely encouraging, though, is that Barcelona's widely reported interest in goalkeeper Samir Handanovic is pretty baseless, with the Catalans far more likely to move for Marc-Andre ter Stegen or Pepe Reina should Victor Valdes depart Camp Nou.
However, it is clear that Inter are in dire need of reinforcements. Unfortunately, as Fassone recently admitted, they are not currently in a position to spend "crazy money" - unless Thohir stumps up some serious cash - and the lack of European football on offer is a further hindrance in their attempts to attract world-class talent.
In that context, just holding onto their star men and signing players compatible - or familiar - with Mazzarri's footballing philosophy would represent a solid first step on Inter's long road to recovery.