It is been quite an eventful first 15 months in charge of Inter for the Indonesian tycoon Erick Thohir, who replaced the legendary Massimo Moratti in October 2013 as players have been sold, coaches have been sacked whilst directors have been fired. What kind of conclusions, if any, can we draw from the new Inter President’s time in charge? What makes him tick? One thing is for sure, his actions speak volumes more than his words.
After having tried and failed to bring in Chinese minority shareholders, Massimo Moratti knew in his heart that it was time to pass the torch on to someone who could modernize his beloved Inter, in order for the club to remain competitive on all fronts. Moratti, whose reputation witnessed of a man that was always more of a gentleman and fan than he was a businessman, decided to leave the stage quietly and gracefully, not making a huge fuss as he never was a President of theatrical gestures and crowd-pleasing remarks as is so common on the Italian peninsula. A trait for which he was severely and maybe somewhat unfairly criticized for by the Inter faithful in the aftermath of the 2006 Calciopoli scandal, when Luciano Moggi and his legal team did everything in their power to drag his as well as former Inter President Giacinto Facchetti’s name through the mud. Despite this he remained calm and collected, never stooping to the level of those who talked ill of the deceased and seldom causing controversy.
So many were worried as to how the 44-year old Indonesian President of the South-east Asia Basketball Federation and successful sports-media entrepreneur would carry himself as he was faced with the difficult task of leading one of the biggest institutions in Italian sport into the future. Would he choose to spend money in the flamboyant and lavish styles associated with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain? Or was he merely using Inter as a pawn in order to increase his own wealth? The concerns and worries of Inter fans all over the world were real and many, but 15 months into his Presidency, all those question marks are being erased only to be replaced by exclamation marks.
Erick Thohir inherited what has been described as a “financial disaster” but never once spoke ill publicly of the previous administration, instead his first decision after having acquired 70% of the shares club was to appoint Massimo Moratti honorary President, as a sign of respect and to pay homage to the glorious past of the Nerazzurri. Immediately after that he assured then manager Walter Mazzarri that the contract he had with the club was to be respected and that he first wanted to understand how things worked at the club and then implement changes as opposed to marching in like a bulldozer and uprooting an already uprooting situation. Then perhaps the first sign of trouble emerged when news of a swap between Guarin & Vucinic seeped out in the press causing what can only be described as a revolt by Inter-fans online and outside the clubs offices in central Milano.
However, Erick Thohir rose up to the challenge by calling off the transfer whilst annoying Juventus beyond belief, much to the delight of the Inter faithful, and ended the January transfer window by signing Lazio’s Brazilian international midfielder Hernanes. Shortly after Thohir again acted firmly and quietly by terminating the heavily criticized Marco Branca’s ongoing contract whilst possessing the sharp wit to understand that the most suitable replacement was already present at Inter in Piero Ausilio. The season ended with Inter once again qualifying for Europe and the last of the treble heroes spearheaded by Javier Zanetti were graciously and respectfully given a sending off in the last home game of the season against Lazio.
Erick Thohir continued to demonstrate his unwillingness to uproot Inter by offering Walter Mazzari a 1 year contract extension whilst allowing Piero Ausilio to truly shine in his first transfer window in charge with the acquisitions of for example Daniel Osvaldo for practically no money at all. Only when the situation was completely unsustainable Thohir decided to break the emergency glass and whip out the axe and releave Walter Mazzarri of his duties. However, not without having a backup plan or plan B. That plan B was called Roberto Mancini, a world class manager who had written history at Inter and Manchester City and a big-name coach who Thohir knew would make the club more attractive when trying to sign players as well as raising the clubs profile internationally and thus making work easier for his newly appointed CEO Michael Bolingbroke, who Thohir headhunted from Manchester United, as well as former Apple director Claire Lewis who was appointed Marketing Director. Meanwhile the clubs disastrous economy was being sanitized by Michael Williamson who Thohir brought over from his MLS club DC United.
It all came together in the first weeks of this transfer window when Piero Ausilio waived his magic wand and signed German World Champions Lukas Podolski on loan as well as Swiss magician Xherdan Shaqiri for the total combined fee of € 2.6 million to be paid immediately in January. Meanwhile Erick Thohir was attacked in a vile manner by people in leading positions of Italian football during the crisis which occurred when honorary President Massimo Moratti decided to step down, with Sampdoria President Ferrero racist slurs being a special low point. The absurdity that these attacks were thrown at a man who had done nothing more than having the audacity of dragging Inter and Italian football into the 21st century, as well as investing in a country whose economy was and still is in tatters.
Yet again Thohir rose to the occasion as he reacted in a cool, collected and calm manner and refused to stoop down to the obnoxiously low levels of the ignorant by quietly accepting the half-hearted apologies offered and moving on, thus showing himself worthy of carrying the heavy mantle of being an Inter President whilst continuing as well as modernizing the tradition of class with which Inter President’s have always carried themselves: from Angelo Moratti to his son Massimo Moratti. Whilst also possessing the wisdom to know which criticisms to listen too and which to ignore, all whilst being quiet in the media and letting his work do the talking, or if you will: less talk and more Rock.