Now that Frank de Boer has been fired, Inter Milan fans are debating who was more responsible for the squad’s poor start to the season: the Dutch manager or the new Chinese owners.
While De Boer never really showed a complete understanding of Italian football tactics in his 84 days in charge, more blame is being heaped on the retail giant Suning, which took control of 70 percent of Inter in June.
“Even an extraordinary coach can’t do great things without the club. You can’t control a football squad from Jakarta, Beijing or Nanjing,” said Marco Tronchetti Provera, the CEO of Inter’s chief sponsor Pirelli. “There’s been a long line of mistakes. … This is a problem that should have been resolved a while ago.”
De Boer was fired on Tuesday after producing only five wins, seven losses and two draws in 14 matches in all competitions – leaving the club in 12th place in Serie A and also struggling in the Europa League.
De Boer was hired less than two weeks before the season began following the unexpected resignation of Roberto Mancini, who reportedly wanted more control over the transfer market and clashed with Suning.
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Players who thrived under Mancini struggled under De Boer.
Felipe Melo has appeared in just two of 11 Serie A matches. Fellow midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia lost his place in the starting lineup after getting substituted 28 minutes into a 1-1 draw with Bologna because he “wasn’t listening” to De Boer’s instructions.
Gabriel Barbosa, the promising Brazilian forward known as “Gabigol” who Inter signed in late August amid great fanfare – even though it was unclear if De Boer wanted him – appeared for just 21 minutes against Bologna and hasn’t played since.
Mauro Icardi, the high-scoring Inter captain, was widely ridiculed by the club’s hardcore “ultra” fans after recounting a clash with the supporters in his recently published autobiography.
The lone highlight of De Boer’s campaign was a 2-1 win over Juventus in September _ sandwiched in between embarrassing Europa League losses to Hapoel Beer-Sheva and Sparta Prague, matches in which Inter was outscored 5-1.
“It’s too bad it ended like this,” De Boer said on Twitter. “This task required more time to move forward.”
Inter’s youth squad coach, Stefano Vecchi, was given temporary control of the senior team for Thursday’s Europa League match at Southampton.
Former Chievo Verona, Bologna and Lazio coach Stefano Pioli is the leading candidate to take over permanently for De Boer.
“I’m sorry for De Boer. I’m sorry for Pioli. It’s the management that should be fired,” Tweeted entertainer, comedian and Inter supporter Rosario Fiorello.
Inter’s next coach will become the team’s ninth since Jose Mourinho led the club to a treble in 2010. The others were: Rafa Benitez, Leonardo, Gian Piero Gasperini, Claudio Ranieri, Andrea Stramaccioni, Walter Mazzarri, Mancini and De Boer.
Of the bunch, De Boer’s term was the shortest, beating the 90 days that Gasperini – who is now finding success at Atalanta – was in charge in 2011. Ranieri, who led Leicester to the English Premier League title last season, also didn’t last a full term as Gasperini’s replacement.
An 18-time Serie A champion, Inter is 13 points behind Italian league leader Juventus and has 10 fewer points than at this stage last season, when it stood second and appeared to be a genuine challenger to Juventus.
As a player, De Boer won the Champions League with Ajax. He also coached the Dutch club to four Eredivisie titles before resigning at the end of last season.
De Boer had never played or coached in Italy before taking the Inter job. Yet that didn’t seem to be a problem for the club’s new owners, who finally made the decision to fire him after Inter appeared thoroughly confused in a 1-0 loss at Sampdoria on Sunday.
“Generally, the only winning formula in football is a passionate owner who is close to the squad, exactly like (Silvio) Berlusconi with AC Milan or (Andrea) Agnelli at Juventus,” Tronchetti Provera said.
“The Chinese owners moved well in the transfer market, but they’ve got to rely on someone who knows Italian football well and give them full powers to control the squad,” Tronchetti Provera said. “Somebody you can really trust.”