During his first spell at Inter, Roberto Mancini coached a team full of stars. Luis Figo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Javier Zanetti were only a few of the men at his disposal during that time.
When the Italian returned to Appiano Gentile in November – more than six years after his sacking from the Inter post in March 2008 – he found a remarkably different situation.
The end of the Massimo Moratti era saw fortunes quickly decline, with the former Nerazzurri patron steadily investing less and less after Jose Mourinho’s treble-winning season.
Mancini thus chose to be a part of a rebuilding project of sorts with Indonesian tycoon Erik Thohir now in charge of the club, a far more modest squad at his disposal.
To date, things haven’t gone exceedingly well. Inter have won only twice under Mancini inn Serie A thus far losing four and drawing the same number in that stretch.
January held the promise of reinforcements, however, with four new faces arriving at San Siro to help turn around a disappointing run of form.
What’s more, Inter had the chance to book a spot in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia on Wednesday, potentially providing a much-needed lift for the side.
It didn’t happen. Instead, Inter put in a lacklustre display against Napoli. A terrible error from Andrea Ranocchia late on allowed Gonzalo Higuain to bag the winner.
Mancini responded by referring to his players as ‘weak’ and ‘chickens’, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. But there were two men in Nerazzurri who did give decent accounts of themselves – a pair of new signings.
The Croatian registered an 87% pass accuracy, two dribbles and four tackles while the Italian completed 98% of his passes, won all of his aerial duels and made three tackles.
La Gazzetta dello Sport was highly critical of Inter’s showing but highlighted Brozovic and Santon as the two positive notes from the defeat to Napoli.
Brozovic won praise for his ability to dictate play in the centre of the park and construct attacking moves, something Inter have been sorely lacking this term.
Meanwhile, Inter academy product Santon was applauded by the pink paper for proving his fitness in 86 minutes and showing he can become a key player for the club of his youth.
Inter need signs such as these if they are to turn around a dismal campaign, certainly needing Brozovic and Santon more than Arsenal and Newcastle did.
The Gunners have plenty of ball playing midfielders and had needs elsewhere, particularly at the back, while Newcastle have Paul Dummett and Massadio Haidara at left-back.
Mancini should feel blessed to have the duo in his camp instead of the Premier League, as he’ll need all the help he can get to ensure Inter close out the season strong.