26 May 2024
The answer to the blog post's title question.
José Mourinho's two year stay at Inter Milan has to be admired: 67 wins, 26 draws and 15 defeats (all comps), back-to-back Serie A titles and a famous treble, which concluded with the 2009/10 Champions League trophy. This was Inter's third European Cup, meaning they overtook Juventus as Italy's 2nd most successful team in Europe's premier continental competition (behind arch rivals AC Milan of course). Everyone on the black and blue side of Milano wanted him to stay. Sadly José did not, which is partly the reason why Inter now turn to Ángel Bastardo to bring back success.
In fact, in April of the 2023/24 season, Bastardo stood on the brink of surpassing Mourinho's Inter legacy. Five points clear at the summit of Serie A and a 5-0 UCL Quarter Final aggregate win Vs Bayern left fans purring. Powered by Inter's tireless engine room, I Nerazzurri could be forgiven for celebrating a third consecutive Serie A title in advance. They also had a Semi Final against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City to savour. Bastardo could taste the inevitable success.
But 2023/24 was to end trophy-less. Just two wins in the final eight games of the season saw Inter finish Serie A Runners Up and subjected to a humiliating 6-0 aggregate loss in the Champions League. Blogging is easy when things go well, but when it doesn't...it can be a chore. Welcome to my suffering...
The one positive I can take from Season 2023/24 is that Inter were competitive until the latter stages of the season: losing out to Serie A on the final day to Juventus and also reaching the Semi Finals of the Champions League...knocking out the French champion (PSG - who were also the current UCL holders) and German champion (Bayern Munich).
But trophies, and only trophies, count at the end of the day. Especially as Bastardo has set standards so high with the previous two Serie A titles and that run to the Champions League final last season.
Our domestic form since returning from the Winter Break paints a painful picture: 12 wins and 6 losses. If only a few of these loses could have been draws. I painfully look back at the late penalty conceded Vs Cagliari and the terrible Derby loss Vs Milan as the catalyst for our downfall. We never really looked the same after those blows:
We lost discipline and focus in that final month...something I firmly place on having such a young back 4 and GK (Jeison Murillo being the only guy in his 30s!). As we approached the final MUST win game Vs Juventus...most of the squad had an 'Okay' morale..I took it upon myself to remind them that the bad form is likely to undo our good work. The results were pretty conclusive from the Bastardo team meeting:
Yet despite Inter's players now being re-invigorated, they lost at Juventus 1-0. Inter's 37 crosses and 15 corners being food and drink for 37 year old Leonardo Bonucci and his teammate, 29 year old Daniele Rugani. Juventus deserved it, they had a consistent season and finish with a respectable points total of 88.
Champions League 2023/24
After last season's heartbreak, I've never wanted to win the Champions League as badly in FM. 2023/24 showed a lot of promise, we topped a group containing Real Madrid and then we went on to have huge wins against PSG and Bayern in the knockouts. But we had a shit 1st leg Vs Man City, missing a number of good chances before loanee Spanish left back Aarón Martín made a critical error in the 88th minute. Allowing Man City to score with their 1st shot on target (see below). He never played for Bastardo's Inter again:
We capitulated in the 2nd leg, but that's partly down to us chasing the game from the 1st minute. It ended 6-0 on aggregate to City: Bastardo humiliated, which acts as the catalyst for next season's recruitment...
Bastardo buys experience
In the 2009 Summer before the famous treble season, José Mourinho bought in some experienced heads: Lúcio (31) from Bayern, Milito (30) & Motta (26) from Genoa, Eto'o (28) from Barcelona (in that now infamous Ibrahimovic deal) and Sneijder (25) from Real Madrid.
One could argue that all of them had a point to prove at a club with the stature of Inter Milan. Lúcio and Eto'o were approaching the twilight of their careers and Sneijder was largely misunderstood in Spain. Milito & Motta were the domestic deals that made sense, but they were hardly Galácticos signings. Yet each of them had a huge impact: whether it be Eto'o on the wing, sacrificing himself for the team, or Lúcio's expert marking as the defensive rock. Inter were bastardly.
Mourinho's model is one which Bastardo must follow: buy experience for the 'here' and 'now'. I have decided that Bastardo will manage just two more seasons with Inter Milan (ending with the 2025/26 season). So like Mourinho, Bastardo won't forward plan too much. Success is the only motherfucking option.
So the targets, in no particular order:
1. José Giménez of AS Monaco - a complete fibra monster at the back. 29 years of age and has the attributes that attract a man like Bastardo. Potential deal around €50m.
2. Amadou Diawara of PSG - a great ball winner in midfield, 27 years old. Experienced in Serie A with previous team Napoli. Already transfer listed at €56m.
3. Marco Verratti of PSG - who still has 2 years left on his PSG contract. At 31 years of age he is a 'legendary midfielder'. He would be perfect, but would come at a huge cost. €60m+ surely!
4. Fabinho of AS Monaco - Still only 30 years of age and so versatile. Fabinho has a squad status set at 'Rotation' and his deal with Monaco expires in a years time (2025) I reckon he can be acquired for 'as little' as €20m, if I negotiate well.
5. Rúben Semedo of Barcelona - An aggressive & brave 30 year old central defender, like Giménez, he is right up Bastardo's street. Barcelona don't appear to rate him, like Fabinho set as 'Rotation' and only manged 13 league starts last season. €15m potential fee.
It remains to be seen if I can pull any of the above deals off, but I am determined to flex some weight in the transfer market...as I have been pretty prudent until now (Cristian Pavón being my biggest signing so far for €26m). We sit on an overall balance of €220m (it was €28m when Bastardo arrived) and have a transfer budget of around €100m. Keep up-to-date via Twitter of my FM Slack channel (#fmgrasshopper) to see what happens next. Let's get to work...