How Leonardo revived Inter Milan: Jose Mourinho’s lingering influence

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  • How Leonardo revived Inter Milan: Jose Mourinho’s lingering influence

How Leonardo revived Inter Milan: Jose Mourinho’s lingering influence

With Rafa Benitez leading the charge, Inter Milan had a disastrous first half of the campaign. It’s hard pointing out a single thing that the Spaniard did right. Let it be squad selections, training methods or tactical set-ups, Benitez had it all wrong. The plot was skewed for former Liverpool tactician.

Under the newly appointed Leonardo, Inter Milan continue to rack in points. With a tightly fought 3 – 2 victory over AC Cesena, Nerazzurri had returned to Serie A top four only to be humbled by a dangerous Udinese outfit. Critics would refer to the defeat as evidence that Inter are still far from being a rejuvenated side. However, keeping in mind the fact that the same Udinese scored four past league leaders at San Siro, the defeat is not half as bad as it sounds. Should Leonardo’s men manage to win the game that they have in hand, they would be six points behind leaders AC Milan. With Rossoneri ravaged by injuries to key players, Allegri’s men are expected to drop points. There is room for all the optimism.

When Rafa Benitez took over the charge at Centro Sportivo Angelo Moratti, he had some big shoes to fill. Replacing the treble winning Jose Mourinho was never going to be easy, as the next six months demonstrated.

Even after Mourinho’s departure to Santiago Bernabeu, the club, the fans and the entire squad still had the Portuguese firmly placed in their hearts. The training grounds still emanated his aura. Instead of using that to his advantage, Benitez tried to wipe out the remnants of the previous regime. While Benitez did not treat Mourinho as a threat, he certainly didn’t make allies with him. Rafa adopted the ‘forget Mourinho, I’m in charge now’ tone. Clearly, that did not win over the squad.

Leonardo used the opposite approach. The Brazilian immediately befriended the Portuguese, asking for his support and praising Mourinho’s work whenever he could. Mourinho for his part duly returned the favour.

“I just want Inter to win, for the players, my president Massimo Moratti and the fans to win and be happy. I am out of the club now and can no longer contribute. I am just one more supporter following their progress and hoping all goes well. I already had a good rapport with Leonardo when he was in charge of Milan and we were adversaries, so imagine how we get along now that he is in charge of one of my favourite clubs. I talk to Leonardo often and he knows I am in the back seat, sending positive thoughts. He is there, with the capacity and experience necessary to do well. I am calm and hope he and Inter can have another positive season like the one I had last term.”

Mourinho, as we have come to expect of him, chose his words wisely. While he is far from Milan, basking the Madrid glory, he still runs to show to some extent. His comments make that perfectly clear. Leonardo’s smart approach, in spite of him being an AC Milan favourite, won him instant support both in the dressing room and San Siro stands.

It’s no secret that Marco Materazzi, Dejan Stankovic and Javier Zanetti are fatherly figures in the dressing room, icons towards whom all the youngsters look up to for inspiration and words of wisdom. Mourinho’s public backing on numerous occasions have won Leonardo the support of these club legends. Nerazzurri might have been handed a bitter pill by Antonio Di Natale’s Udinese, but they are pretty much in the race for Scudetto. All thanks to Leonardo.

 

 

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