AC Milan defeated Inter 2-1 in Beijing in the Supercoppa Italiana this weekend. Bad omen? Yes, according to many Inter fans that are already complaining: "The first trophy of the season's gone. We need new signings otherwise it will be a nightmare". Right or wrong this judgement can't be based on the game played in China. A travesty.
The fact is that the Supercoppa’s worth can be overstated – it’s a friendly match dressed up as an official trophy. It's the same for all these much pumped curtain-raiser-supercups all over Europe - all introduced by a great fanfare but still technically meaningless. With Cambiasso, Milito, Maicon and Lucio still on holiday, Inter's only goal of the game came from a player [Wesley Sneijder] who's likely to leave the club within days ['I am not looking for a move but I know the club needs cash and has already fixed a price...'].
Scheduling these so called 'official' games - when ahead there are still three full weeks to transfer players in and out - shows just the level of permanent congestion in the football calendar. Too many fixtures. Really, too many. Even by a merely financial point of view this abundance will reduce each game's value and interest. Anyway, this went so far that to get more attention, instead of reducing the number of official competitions, the big heads who run the game chose to put the 'official' tag to games that used to be friendlies , and still are, despite the more emphatic label attached. The body language of the players speaks volumes about the difference between these summer trophies and proper cup finals. The real stuff's still to come.
The explosion in Football of these who-couldn't-care-less trophies seems to follow step by step what has already happened to Boxing, when the will to exploit this sport in the most avid way led to the proliferation of both organizations and World Champions. Football seems just glad to follow that suicidal route. I know it's like swimming against the tide but there is no way I can take seriously [by a footballing point of view] a Cup played in Beijing just to sell more shirts and credit cards in Eastern Asia.
This game meant even less to AC Milan. It meant something only to Inter's new coach Giampiero Gasperini, who has been under the pressure to win over sceptics since the day he was chosen to replace Leonardo. The former Genoa's coach is widely rated as one of the best in Italy. While coaching the Grifone he proved to be clever, elegant and brave in choosing the schemes and exploiting his players qualities; he was also very good at reading opponents' tactics and changing pattern during games.
However, to lead teams like Inter you need to be more than an astute tactician. You need charisma. It will help you with the players, with the fans, with the media. What happened to Luigi Delneri at Juventus last season explains very well this kind of situation. To judge Inter and Gasperini we need to know the squad first. If Carlos Tevez joins Inter and Samuel Eto'o stays, Gasperini's trademark 3-4-3 will benefit a lot from the Argentinian's addition, as no other team can field two forwards so keen on chasing fullbacks. And Gasperini's 3-4-3 formation needs forwards willing to press and able to swap positions during the game. The central forward position should go to Diego Milito who was magnificent under Gasperini at Genoa. Is Pandev going to stay? When Cambiasso is back will Stankovic be a substitute or a starter? Same doubts surround Alvarez, who is unlikely to be an automatic choice for midfield. Luc Castaignos, who's apparently far behind in the picking order, could be a revelation and get more games than expected. Still too many ifs, too many question marks. The truth is that this team is still a work in progress, with few certainties. One of them must be Joel Obi - the 20-year old Nigerian midfielder has everything to become a new Edgar Davids. He can be the Pit Bull Inter were looking for to add dynamism to the midfield.
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