Things didn’t exactly play out that way in the press, but one did feel that there was a ridiculous false sense of enthusiasm surrounding the Rossoneri. As I wrote in Monday’s Calcio Debate, Milan had struggled to beat a Siena side that had lost four of their five best players from last season in Houssine Kharja, Daniele Portanova, Juan Zuniga and Daniele Galloppa, a Siena side who are many people’s favourites to finish bottom of Serie A this season.
The acid test for Milan was always going to be last night’s clash against their city cousins, and the difference in quantity and quality in every department of the pitch was staggering.
For almost half-an-hour, Milan held their own and were perhaps even the better side – Pato, Ronaldinho and Marco Borriello all threatening to score – but as soon as Inter took the lead, somewhat against the run of play, Leonardo’s men capitulated spectacularly.
For the first time since the days of perhaps Ronaldo and Youri Djorkaeff, Inter actually played some entertaining football. The one-touch interchange that led to Thiago Motta’s opener and Maicon’s third goal was Barcelona-esque.
Which brings us on nicely to Zlatan Ibrahimovic – will the forward’s summer move to the Blaugrana see Inter improve as a pass-and-move team now there is no option of just humping direct balls forward to the Super Swede? On last night’s evidence – with summer signings Lucio, Thiago Motta, Diego Milito (who scored the second from the penalty spot and created two) and Samuel Eto’o all impressing, and newest purchase Wesley Sneijder enduring a sound start – things do look good.
Milito scored one and made two
Captain Javier Zanetti has described his troops as “the most complete Inter squad ever” (better than Giacinto Facchetti’s Grande Inter?) - let’s not get too carried away. Just like Milan should not have been judged after Siena, Inter should not really be judged after Milan. The Rossoneri are a team with real problems – even a struggling Bayern Munich thrashed them 4-1 in pre-season – and they are weak in numerous areas of the pitch.
The midfield is too slow, static and inflexible. Both full-backs, particularly Marek Jankulovski on the left, are vulnerable – the Czech was crucified by the relentless Maicon. Meanwhile, Rino Gattuso and Ronaldinho – who were once arguably the best in the world in their respective roles – no longer seem to have the legs to cope with powerful machines like Inter. Gattuso’s disastrous conceding of a penalty before then receiving a second yellow card on 40 minutes, just seconds before he was due to be substituted, ended any hope Milan had of a comeback.
Gattuso hacks down Sneijder for his red card
What is worse is that, barring the injured Christian Abbiati and new signing Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who strangely made his debut as a substitute with the immobile, irrelevant Borriello preferred, Milan had their strongest XI out. A few injuries in the weaker areas and Leonardo is suddenly facing the prospect of selecting the likes of Massimo Oddo and Giuseppe Favalli. With 15 of the first team over the age of 30, one worries how the Rossoneri will juggle Serie A with Champions League twice a week.
Inter are still the team to beat in the Scudetto race. Only Juventus can stop them, and we will get a better idea of just how strong the Bianconeri are when they travel to Roma this evening. As for Milan, they need signings before the transfer window closes, or else the failure to finish in the top four, as many people predicted before the start of the season, is a real possibility.
What are your views following the Milan derby last night? Goal.com wants to know what YOU think…
Carlo Garganese, Goal.com