Ah Inter in the 90s. The decade in which they proved that when it came to spending money without achieving success that they were head and shoulders above anyone else (unless you count their three UEFA cups, which obviously no one does). They were in a bad way before Massimo Moratti took direct control in 1995 (only escaping relegation by one point the season prior). Across the city Arrigo Sacchi had built AC Milan into one of the greatest club sides of all time. Moratti’s plan was to spend money like a teenage Arab and hope for the best.
Turns out that it ended as the only decade when Inter failed to win at least one Scudetto (in fact it took the match fixing claims then titles and points being stripped from Juventus and AC Milan before they’d claim their next one, in 2005-6). Moratti had two moves during this time, spending big and sacking the manager. He used both liberally. Inter broke the world transfer record twice, paying £19.5 for Ronaldo and £31.5 for Christian Vieri. Fair enough I suppose, although neither of them really lived up to their full potential when they were there, and they definitely didn’t as a pair. He also made Alvero Recoba the highest paid player in the world. Now as much of a fan of El Chino as I am there’s not an argument that can be made supporting that. Unless it was a result of his debut as coming on with twenty minutes to go and scoring twice so that your team wins 1-2 is pretty much as good as it gets.
After that though he frustrated more often than he delivered. Later on they signed Hakan Sukur and a teenaged Robbie Keane in the same transfer window for big money then promptly decided they didn’t really want either of them. The piece of business that deserves to haunt Moratti until the day he leaves is swapping Clarence Seedorf for Francesco Coco. The club then had to watch as Seedorf led AC to Serie A’s and European Cups. Coco did not.
And it’s not like spending loads of money to build teams wasn’t working in Italy. Inter had to watch Lazio spend big under Sven Goran Eriksen then break the Juventus-Milan 90s hegemony to win the league in 99-00 (of which more in a later article, I’ve always had a soft spot for that Lazio team). The difference in their spending was it seemed to fit a plan. They had Alessandro Nesta, Marcelo Salas, Roberto Mancini, Juan Sebastian Veron, Pavel Nedved, Diego Simone, Dejan Stankovic, Sinisa Mihajlovic and a pre Middlesboro Alen Boksic. They formed a team where Inter could not. And in the season after, when Inter came into the final day of the season in first position, needing only a win at Lazio to make sure of the title (and even the Lazio fans were supporting them, not wanting the third placed Roma to win at all costs) Inter threw away a 2-1 lead to let Juventus win it once again.
Their record in the Derby della Madonnina was almost uniformly awful, one that culminated in a 6-0 loss in 2001, a performance so bad that after the match Inter fans smashed up restaurants owned by the players. Moratti didn’t help by not realising that sacking managers every season may have a destabilising effect on his team. Even a Marcelo Lippi then still firmly in his imperial phase couldn’t deliver success. And when managers were doing well Moratti sacked them anyway, pulling the trigger on fan favourite Luigi Simoni the day after he won manager of the year. Lippi went after the first game of 2000-01 season. All in all they had fifteen managers in ten years (including Roy Hodgson twice).
It says a lot that their recovery from this time took the hobbling of their two biggest rivals and an uncompetitive league post Calciopoli (although in fairness to Inter they had already begun to become more of a threat under Mancini and won a still record seventeen league games in a row the first season they actually ‘won’ the title). Their current existence post Mourinho as an underperforming, disjointed squad could be as much reverting to type as their title wins were.