Sam Olsen – The End Of An Era
In his regular weekly column Inter fanatic Sam Olsen dives deep into the stories that matter to Inter’s fans looking to keep the spirit of discussion and dispute alive and well on the pages of Sempreinter.com.
On the 23rd of October the era finally ended. In the end it was all over with a mere whimper, no great scene was made and it was the conclusion of what had been a somewhat uneasy drawn out process. The club’s number one supporter had remained, in name anyway, at the helm, but was no longer able to act as the puppet master. He watched on as his beloved Inter stumbled from one poor result to another but was helpless to decisively influence proceedings as he had so often done in the past. All he could do now was emphatically voice his opinion the new master Erik Thohir. Perhaps it was this realisation that he no longer had the power to directly influence what his team were doing that led him to take the decision to sever ties with what must have felt like his own child. Joining him in departing the hallowed halls of the San Siro was his son, Angelomario, and the two men appointed as directors by Moratti, Rinaldo Ghelfi and Alberto Manzonetto.
The story of Moratti and his family is a well known one among all supporters of Inter. Son of the great Angelo Moratti, owner of Inter from 1955 to 1968, the man who took Inter through the period known as ‘Grande Inter’ with victories in back to back Champions Cups and three Scudetto. The period launched Inter as a titan in the global game, a club where the world’s elite footballers went to ply their trade, and enthral their faithful fans. One of those watching those joy filled days from the very middle of it all was a teenage Massimo Moratti. It was impossible for the young man not to get caught up in the drama and excitement of the time, particularly when surrounded by names that have still carry an esteemed reverence when spoken by Nerazzurri faithful; Jair, Suarez, Facchetti, Picchi, Corso and the legendary Mazzola.
Angelo Moratti sold the club in 1968, and young Massimo was no longer part of the core that ran the club, but his passion never left him. The Blue and Black of Inter ran deep in his veins and the moments that he had experienced during the days of Grande Inter would be carried forward over the coming decades as some of the best days of his life.
In 1995, with Inter lying deep in the doldrums having not won a Scudetto since 1988/89 and a squad that lacked the depth and quality to challenge the best (although no one could argue it did not have enough Italians in the squad with 20 out of 25 coming from the peninsula), Moratti decided it was time to make his move. He made an offer to owner Ernesto Pellegrini for the club he had supported since birth. Pellegrini accepted and the second Moratti era was underway.
The club finished 6th in his first half season in charge but Moratti’s influence would really be felt once the players had left for their summer breaks. The President wanted to return the club to the days of Grande Inter, a club filled with big personalities and big stars. Two of his first signings portrayed both of these characteristics in Englishman Paul Ince and Brazilian Roberto Carlos, but it was a player who was almost a complete polar opposite of these two who would become the talisman under the Moratti reign, Javier Zanetti. A young, rather unheralded Argentine right back who seemingly by destiny was the first man bought in by the new President. From that day the two men’s lives would be as closely linked as any at the club.
Over the coming seasons Moratti’s policy of recruiting big names would continue; Youri Djorkaeff, Ivan Zamorano, Diego Simeone, Paulo Sousa, Alvaro Recoba, Ronaldo, Roberto Baggio, Gilberto, Cristian Vieri, Clarence Seedorf; top international names, top international players. The club had gone from one dominated by Italians to being truly Internazionale. By the 2001/02 season the balance of Italian to foreign players at Inter was 14 to 20 respectively. Despite the thrill for the fans of seeing these great names gracing the San Siro however, the club still failed to win the titles Moratti had invested so heavily for. A sole UEFA Cup victory in 1997/98 was all he had to show for the massive financial outlay.
In the stands the demanding fans had started to get restless. Moratti was renowned for his lack of patience with his coaches, regularly sacking them, regardless of their pedigree. He was also notorious for his close relationships with his players, favouring some such as Alvaro Recoba, and putting them into an almost untouchable position regardless of form. Moratti watched the game as a fan and when things did not go the teams way it was generally the manager who was to blame. His transfer policy also left a lot to be desired. Inter would invest heavily in players who they didn’t really need, particularly flair players and attacking players, leaving his squad often lopsided and unbalanced. The fans, like Moratti himself, yearned for titles but it appeared that no matter what he did and who he invested in the success would not come.
It was not until two weeks after the conclusion of the 2006 season that the truth behind the years of failure and stagnation would emerge and Moratti would find the vindication he deserved for his belief in his club and fair play. Inter had finished third behind Juventus and Milan in the Scudetto race, winning the Coppa Italia for the second season running under Roberto Mancini. As the soul searching began as to how they could overcome their rivals, who for years had seemed to have received the gifts of the gods on the pitch the answer came in the revelation of a scandal that would shake Italian football to its core. Juventus, Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina, who between them accounted for 14 of the last 15 Serie A titles, had been found to be involved with behind the scene dealings with referees in order to receive favourable decisions. For Moratti, like all Inter supporters, the decade of strange rulings, invisible penalties and maddening decisions against Inter, suddenly made sense. Inter were given the 2005/06 title on the grounds of being the highest placed finisher who did not cheat, and, with the playing field now level, they would go on to win the next four in a cycle of unprecedented success.
For Moratti, the revelations of what became know as Calciopoli offered a lasting defence against his critics, stating that ‘the fact that Inter have won after Calciopoli shows how this is has been a real scam for Italian football, one more proof of what was happening. It was frustrating when they said that I spent and did not win. Calciopoli was something really vulgar as well as a rip-off economic activity.’
The high point of the Moratti reign was undoubtedly the final game of the 2010 season, victory in the Champions League final and the coming together of his Inter and ‘Grande Inter’ in European success. Moratti was finally able to recreate those joyous scenes of his youth, standing among a new breed of Nerazzurri legends, including his first signing Zanetti. The game would prove to be the peak of a steep mountain and over the following seasons the decline would be as dramatic as it was unexpected.
During this time Moratti would face renewed scrutiny over his roll as President and his affection for his players. As the clubs number one fan he had been unable to recognise that the squad was in desperate need of renewal and make the tough decisions to make sure this happened. Instead he let his tired team of champions limp on, their value depreciating with each new injury. New financial regulations also meant that he was unable to simply buy himself a new team, leaving the club, saddled with debt, aging resources and an inability to compete at the highest level.
By November 2013 Moratti had realised he was no longer the man to take the club forward, so he sold a majority stake in the club to Indonesian businessman Erik Thorir for 250 million Euros. He was invited to remain on as honorary President, a roll which he took, but the shoe never felt like a good fit. For a man who for so long had called the shots, sacking managers, buying and selling players and running his own version of football manager, it would always be a tough adjustment into a simple advisory roll. Splits in opinion between the old and new powers were soon being whispered about in newspapers and online, the uneasy alliance was falling apart. It was therefore almost inevitable when the announcement was made that Moratti was removing himself from his roll, and his passion, reportedly over a difference of opinion over the status of coach Walter Mazzarri. Moratti, the team’s biggest fan, has now realised firsthand the frustration of everyday fans across the world that hold big opinions but lack the power to make them happen.
On a personal level Moratti is nearly universally held in high regard by current and former players, other owners and many managers. This was perhaps summed up best by Jose Mourinho who said that ‘Moratti is unique. Moratti is a real dad for his players and a friend for his coaches. For him, I will always have friendship, admiration and respect. It took only five minutes to understand that football and Inter are his life. He has breathed Inter since childhood and has a remarkable memory. He never speaks of ‘his’ Inter team, for him it is the fans’…..(he comes from) ‘a family that loves football and Inter Milan. It works because he only works for the good of the club and the team. The greatest joy I got from football was giving him the (Champions League) cup.’
Moratti is Inter and Inter is Moratti. The journey will continue under Thohir, but with the departure of Moratti, Inter has lost a man who was one of us. A fan. A fan that will now have to face the season with the same trepidation, nervousness and excitement as the rest of us who are unable to directly influence events. Long may he enjoy the ride.
Inter under Moratti:
Serie A Titles: 5 (2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/10).
Champions League Titles: 1 (2009/10).
UEFA Cup Titles: 1 (1997/98).
Coppa Italia Titles: 4 (2004/05, 2005/06, 2009/10, 2010/11).
Supercoppa Italia Titles: 4 (2005, 2006, 2008, 2010).
Club World Cup Titles: 1 (2010).
Major Signings: Javier Zanetti, Paul Ince, Roberto Carlos, Ivan Zamorano, Youri Djorkaeff, Ronaldo, Diego Simeone, Alvaro Recoba, Poulo Sousa, Roberto Baggio, Gilberto, Ivan Cordoba, Christian Vieri, Clarence Seedorf, Dario Simic, Laurent Blanc, Francesco Toldo, Marco Materazzi, Hernan Crespo, Fabio Cannavaro, Kily Gonzalez, Dejan Stankovic, Adriano, Esteban Cambiasso, Juan Veron, Julio Cesar, Sinisa Mihajlovic, Walter Samuel, Luis Figo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Maicon, Cristian Chivu, Diego Milito, Thiago Motta, Samuel Eto’o, Wesley Sneijder, Samir Handanovic, Antonio Cassano, Rodrigo Palacio,
Managers under Moratti: Ottavio Bianchi (1994/95), Luis Suarez (1995), Roy Hodgson (1995/97), Luciano Castellini (1997), Luigi Simoni (1997/98), Mircea Lucescu (1998/99), Luciano Castellini (1999), Roy Hodgson (1999), Marcello Lippi (1999/2000), Marco Tardelli (2000/01), Hector Cuper (2001/03), Corrado Verdelli (2003), Alberto Zaccheroni (2003/04), Roberto Mancini (2004/08), Jose Mourinho (2008/10), Rafael Benitez (2010), Leonardo (2010/11), Gian Piero Gasperini (2011), Claudio Ranieri (2011/12), Andrea Stramaccioni (2012/13), Walter Mazzarri (2013-)
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