Atalanta snatched a goalless draw at San Siro, against a side who confirmed to be fully committed, highly professional but with almost nothing to offer anymore. And if the fans are already looking forward to next season, the bad news is that the players' minds are set there too.
Clubs of Inter's size can't be out of every competition in mid March. Simply because it's nearly impossible to motivate players used to challenging for honours for the remaining two months. The chance to wear the black-and-blue shirt, even for a friendly, is more than enough to spur the Obis, the Polis, the Faraonis; but what about the Sneijders, the Maicons, the Pazzinis?
Despite the commitment the unconscious thoughts of the big names are: a) to end this hugely disappointing season as soon as possible; b) to prove their value somewhere else or under a new coach.
To be clear: Inter's players honestly think they are giving everything, and in fact they really do. But, at the moment, they have nearly nothing to give. They are empty buckets. With age the distance from the limit is shorter but it takes more time to reach it, so to go beyond you need an extra-gear - I am not talking about doping, of course, I am talking about super-motivation. Poor performances, poorer results have drained all the mental energy from Ranieri's core players.
Having been a Serie A footballer himself, Claudio Ranieri knows only too well what's going on in his players’ minds [and in Moratti's too]. So it's admirable his determination to keep a high profile: "We have talked too much during this season. Let the pitch do the talking from now on, game by game. I do not want to create any illusion. Our players are not giving an inch, they believe in what we are doing". Less admirable when he says: "This is the squad I got and I am trying to do the best with what I got". Here Ranieri talks like he's not coaching Inter but Lecce, Avellino or Pescara. Zdenek Zeman, a man who coached these teams, never complained about the limited resources or about the (evident) lack of quality of his players. Zeman's belief is that you can teach football to everybody, a gifted player will do the job better but to let him know what to do is the coach's duty.
Many people suggest Zeman would be the ideal coach to start Inter's new deal (with youngsters). I am biased as he's my favourite coach, a true master of attacking football. Unfortunately Inter's most illustrious tradition is not linked to offensive calcio but to contropiede ("counterattack").
To appoint someone like Zeman you must back his work 110%, because your belief and expectations will be severely tested by early setbacks. Does Moratti possess that kind of patience? No. The risk of seeing Zeman end up like Gasperini or Lucescu are almost a certainty. The man, the coach doesn't deserve it. And Inter do not deserve another chaotic season like the current one, in which the number of coaches appointed and contacted are in higher number than the goals scored.
Serie A 2011-12 / Day 28
Inter: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Nagatomo; Zanetti, Poli (77' Castaignos), Cambiasso, Obi (66' Faraoni); Milito (63' Zarate), Pazzini. Coach: Ranieri
Atalanta: Consigli; Raimondi, Ferri, Manfredini, Bellini (85' Stendardo); Schelotto, Cigarini, Carmona, Moralez; Carrozza (77' Ferreira Pinto), Marilungo (54' Gabbiadini). Coach: Colantuono
Yellow cards: Lucio, Samuel; Bellini, Cigarini, Carmona, Moralez