Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Inter President and media tycoon Erick Thohir was awarded the best Asian Investor in Italy by the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (ICCS).
Thohir, who bought 70% of Inter’s shares from Massimo Moratti, reiterated his vision of seeing Inter with the best 10 football clubs in the world.
“It is not just about bringing new players to the team,” Thohir said when interviewed by ICCS President Federico Donato.
“I have a vision that will not only benefit Inter, but also the Italian football which would return as one of the most popular leagues in the world.”
He mentioned that expanding the Inter brand to other countries remained crucial to his plans, in order to exploit higher revenue. He remarked that playing a Milan derby in Singapore would lead to a huge increase in popularity.
Thohir has an uphill struggle in giving back glory days to the nerazzurri. In the standings, Inter are just fifth and to make matters worse, they are closely followed by in-form Parma. Mazzarri’s men remain five points on top of their city arch-rivals AC Milan, but with a derby still to be played the race for an Europa League spot is far from over.
APPIANO GENTILE - After his excellent performance against Sampdoria, Mateo Kovacic spoke to Sky Sport 24 about how he's adapting to life with the Nerazzurri: "I'm happy, I've come to Inter, a big club, I'm young and still have a lot to learn. What am I like in my private life? I like staying in or going out for dinner with friends. I don't like going crazy, I'm a quiet guy, I'm happy staying at home and watching a film with friends. I like it here, Italian football's very difficult, there's not a lot of space like in England or Spain but you learn different things like how to defend and tactics, which are very important. I've not scored yet but I've got time on my side."
And his first goal with Inter could come against Parma: "Let's hope so, I say that in every interview but the goal never comes! What am I missing? I think I just need to be a bit craftier, I see my team-mates but I still don't see enough goalscoring positions, but I talk to the coach and experienced players to improve on that. Do I work on finishing? Yes, I work on everything, including when we're defending and where to be on the pitch when the ball's on the right and left."
He also discussed his relationship with Walter Mazzarri, a rapport which is improving just like Mateo himself: "We've spoken ever since he came in, both when I'm in the team and out of it. He knows I'm good on the ball, but that I need to figure out how to move off it. We talk a lot, about our private lives too. I'm happy he's here and that I can learn more. What does he tell me? To stay calm, especially recently when I've not been playing much, and to train well. I played against Samp, I did alright, and I'll keep going like that."
Kovacic then explained whether he's ever pondered looking to get experience elsewhere: "This is a process, I've spoken to more experienced players and they told me it's normal. It's normal I was angry when I wasn't playing, that's normal for any player who's out of the team but it was positive anger. Was the Juventus game the catalyst for trying to improve? The first goal was my fault, I didn't track Lichtsteiner. I've watched that game back many times and I think I did everything well with the ball, but it didn't go that well defensively." Does he have what it takes to become a leading player at Inter? "Let's hope so. I think Italian football is very difficult because you can't turn, you don't have space. I'm still young, I've got lots to learn but, yes, I want to become a leader for Inter."
He also spoke about how important playing at the World Cup with the national team will be in terms of his personal development: "It's big for us because we're a small country, we've got a lot of talented players, but we have to do well at the World Cup and I can only learn from this experience. How far away are we from seeing Kovacic at 100%? I don't like talking about myself too much, I just want to play, feel good and play well. I'm not even 20 yet, you can be a good player when you're 22.
"In terms of my team-mates I watch and learn from Zanetti, who's very experienced, from Cuchu who's very good defensively, I watch everyone even Diego who always scores goals and Rodrigo. Am I learning Italian with them too? Handanovic helps me a lot, I get on really well with him. It was he who told me the nicest thing since I joined, which is that sometimes there are ups and downs, but that's life and football. Samir is a top professional and you can learn a lot from him. Will I come to the fore at this club over the coming years? I'm not thinking too much about the next few years, I take things one day at a time."
Erick Thohir will reportedly take advantage of a meeting with Florentino Perez to discuss Inter's interest in Real Madrid's Alvaro Morata.
The young striker has impressed in the past year with the Spain Under-21 side and with the first team chances afforded him at the Santiago Bernabeu, but with competition at Los Blancos fierce, speculation continues to link him with a move away.
Whilst Arsenal are rumoured as interested, the Gazzetta dello Sport today insist that Inter remain in the hunt and will look to initiate talks later this month, when the two club Presidents get together on April 24.
The day that the Nerazzurri and Merengues present to the media their June 8 friendly, between club legends, it is speculated that Thohir and Piero Ausilio will look to discuss Morata's potential availability.
The Gazzetta report that both Inter and Juventus were sniffing around the youngster in January and that La Beneamata were more willing than the Bianconeri to accept Madrid's apparent proposal of a buyback clause included in any sale.
Morata's agent Juanma Lopez commented earlier this week that a move to San Siro 'could happen'.
The 19-year-old joined the Nerazzurri from Dinamo Zagreb in January 2013 and his since established a reputation as one of the brightest midfield prospects in Europe, despite the club's inconsistent fortunes on the pitch.
Kovacic has been linked with a possible switch to the Premier League, with Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool among those credited with an interest, but the midfielder is adamant he wants to continue his progress with Inter.
"I'm happy, I've come to Inter, a big club. I'm still young and I've got lots to learn but, I want to become a leader for Inter," Kovacic told Sky Sport 24.
"Italian football's very difficult. There's not a lot of space like in England or Spain, but you learn different things like how to defend and tactics, which are very important.
"I think I just need to be a bit craftier. I see my team-mates but I still don't see enough goalscoring positions, but I talk to the coach and experienced players to improve on that.
"Do I work on finishing? Yes, I work on everything, including when we're defending and where to be on the pitch when the ball's on the right and left."
Kovacic has made 30 appearances in all competitions so far this term for Inter.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
The well-documented off-field antics of Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi manifested themselves on the pitch for the first time last weekend, as the nerazzurri ran out 4-0 winners in a chaotic match against Sampdoria. The 21-year-old was snubbed in the pre-match handshakes by his girlfriend's ex-husband, Maxi López, who seemed unsurprisingly unimpressed by the boastful declarations of love plastered all over Icardi's Twitter page.
His brace against Samp brought up his eighth league goal of the season, making him Inter's second-top scorer behind Rodrigo Palacio. Having only made eight Serie A starts throughout an injury-marred campaign to date, it's not an unimpressive tally. A couple more goals in the final few games would see him equal the ten-goal haul he recorded while wearing the blue of Sampdoria last season, and which ultimately persuaded Inter to part with €6 million to acquire his services in the summer.
Initially it looked like an investment which wouldn't pay off, with the notoriously youth-averse Walter Mazzarri unwilling to put faith in the youngster after a string of injury problems. Instead he preferred playing Palacio in a lone attacking role, supported by either Ricky Álvarez or Fredy Guarín. Icardi looked set for a swift exit, with January moves to both England and Spain rumoured.
That was until run of barren form forced the coach into a tactical rethink; the result of which was a switch from a 3-5-1-1 to a 3-5-2 in February. It may seem a very minor tweak, but it has had significant benefits for both Icardi and Inter. The promising young talent we saw sparks of at Samp blossomed. "If he can keep this up and get some flaws out of his game, he can become a true great," commented his coach after the game in Genoa. "He has all the characteristics of a real striker."
With Inter's only other real prima punta, Diego Milito, now 34 years old and way past his physical peak, Icardi's emergence could scarcely come at a better time. He's a player with the potential to grow into a potent goalscoring force; a ready-made replacement for the fading Principe. Despite his age Icardi is a tall, powerful forward; capable in the air and an excellent finisher. His movement and runs are intelligent, and he's a willing worker without the ball. A modern attacking all-rounder.
All of this serves to make Inter's interest in Chelsea veteran Fernando Torres -- recently confirmed by director Marco Fassone -- all the more nonsensical. The nerazzurri have been in need of serious rebuilding for a while, having never really recovered from the mass exodus in the aftermath of their Champions League win under José Mourinho in 2010. The arrival of young talents like Icardi, defender Juan Jesus and playmaker Mateo Kovačić suggested they were moving in the right direction.
Rather than buying in overly expensive, ageing players, it is in Thohir's interest to have patience with Inter's youngsters. How they handle Icardi and their attacking conundrum this summer will be extremely telling. The young Argentine is essentially a test case for the nerazzurri, who will either go for limited short-term reward -- if any reward at all -- and sign Torres, or take the more sensible option and put their faith in Icardi, perhaps bringing another talented young forward, Ishak Belfodil -- who is currently out on loan -- back into the squad as a backup. Both financially and technically, the latter would almost certainly be more rewarding.
Despite his off-field transgressions, Icardi is looking an excellent young striker. Sure, his arrogance hasn't exactly endeared him to anyone; not least his former club or Maxi López. But arrogance alone has never been a barrier to becoming a great footballer. His outstanding performance in the hostile atmosphere of the Marassi on the weekend demonstrated he has both the talent and the fearlessness to perform and even thrive under the spotlight. With the right guidance and regular football, he could be doing so for years to come.
Inter reports on their official website that they have extended their partnership with Titan Media who is running the Mandarin part of Inter's website:
"FC Internazionale and Titan Media today announce the extension of their strategic partnership until the end of the 2015/16 season.
Under the terms of the agreement, Titan will continue to host, develop and translate the Mandarin Chinese version of Inter's official website inter.it, as well as manage the club's existing and future presence on leading Chinese social networks and mobile messaging services.
Since the launch of the partnership in 2011, Inter and Titan have worked closely on a range of activities aimed at increasing awareness of the FC Internazionale brand in China and developing the club's fan base.
Titan will continue to provide Inter with valuable on-the-ground PR and media assistance during official visits and tours to the People's Republic of China.
"We are delighted to consolidate our relationship with Titan, which ensures that Chinese-speaking fans of Inter in China and all over the world have access to all the latest club news in their language," said FC Internazionale president Erick Thohir.
"Titan have been a trusted partner over the last three years and we look forward to developing and strengthening our partnership in what is a very important country for us.
"We are immensely proud of our fans in China. They are among the most passionate around and have shown time and again that their support for the team is unwavering."
Added Zhang Dunnan, president of Titan Media: "Inter has been a very reliable partner for us. We will continue to bring the club closer to its millions of fans in China.
"We also hope that Inter can come to play more games in China after the tremendous reception the team received during its last visit here in 2011 for the Italian Super Cup."
Inter president Erick Thohir underlined the importance of the win against Sampdoria, but insisted the team focus on their next match against Parma.
He also praised Mauro Icardi and Samir Handanovic, who were the heroes of the 4-0 win over the Blucerchiati.
"These three points are very important, but we have to immediately start thinking to Saturday's game against Parma which will be decisive," Thohir told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"Icardi proved to be a tough guy, there was a difficult environment for him. His connection with [Rodrigo] Palacio is improving and they are showing that they are a great offensive pair.
"A special thanks has to go to Handanovic as he saved us in the first half."
Inter currently sit in fifth position in Serie A, two points above Parma and five points above Torino, AC Milan and Lazio.
Alvaro Morata's agent "won't rule out" a move to Inter. "There's no news on a Real Madrid renewal."
The Spanish striker is one of three forwards on President Erick Thohir's wish-list for the summer, along with Chelsea's Fernando Torres and Manchester City star Edin Dzeko.
"Could Inter step up their interest in him? I won't rule it out, it is a possibility," representative Juanma Lopez told calciomercato.com.
"Will he play for Inter next season? It could be, anything could happen. There's no news on a Real Madrid contract renewal."
Morata's current deal expires in June 2015, so Real Madrid would have to sell over the summer to avoid the risk of losing him on a Bosman.
The 21-year-old had barely featured for the Merengues before Jesé's injury, but has now scored three goals in as many Liga games.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
APPIANO GENTILE - Walter Mazzarri has selected a squad of 22 players for the Nerazzurri's 2013/14 Serie A Week 33 clash with Sampdoria at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris tomorrow, due to kick off at 15:00.
Goalkeepers: 1 Samir Handanovic, 30 Juan Pablo Carrizo, 12 Luca Castellazzi;
Defenders: 4 Javier Zanetti, 6 Marco Andreolli, 14 Hugo Campagnaro, 23 Andrea Ranocchia, 25 Walter Samuel, 33 Danilo D'Ambrosio, 35 Rolando, 55 Yuto Nagatomo;
Midfielders: 10 Mateo Kovacic, 11 Ricky Alvarez, 13 Fredy Guarin, 17 Zdravko Kuzmanovic, 19 Esteban Cambiasso, 21 Saphir Taider, 88 Hernanes;
Forwards: 8 Rodrigo Palacio, 9 Mauro Icardi, 20 Ruben Botta, 22 Diego Milito.