Benitez not in awe of task ahead

There was a stark contrast between the unveiling of Rafael Benitez as Inter coach and that of his predecessor Jose Mourinho. While the Portuguese’s arrival had been the event of the summer, Benitez had slipped into town and out again with hardly a passing nod from the locals.

That was last month, and the Spaniard finally got his feet under the table on Monday afternoon when he got down business with his first “tactical and technical” press conference.

While Mourinho controlled every aspect of his “grind” with the media; even down to his presentation – well-gelled hair and the ready-to-roll stubble - Benitez ambled into the conference room showing off a well-fed stomach and possessing the look of a man who understands that a little bit of humility can go a long way.

There was no need to grovel for explanations on how he envisaged the team playing, which annoyed Italian journalists more than anything during the Special One’s reign. In fact, they lapped up anything to do with formations, movement off the ball and suchlike. Only the blistering temperatures precluded the wearing of anoraks.

The former Liverpool manager will be expected to be special but in his own less histrionic way – Massimo Moratti has already admitted that a repeat of last season’s treble would be “difficult” but at least one of the major titles should remain in the club’s hands.

Spot the difference...

The opening exchanges with Benitez, in full command of his Italian, had the club and hacks beaming as questions on tactics, team selection, and the future surrounding certain players were all dealt with in an open and calm manner.

The press room remained hushed not because the platform in front of them was bristling with hostility, but because the media was finally receiving the type of insight that they expect from coaches – they certainly got their fill of “tactical and technical” chat.

Softly spoken and looking very relaxed, Benitez did not give off the image of a man in awe of what lay ahead – not having to step out of Mourinho’s long shadow, but instead perform a seamless transition and continued dominance on the home front at least, helps.

Benitez arrives in a Serie A probably at an all-time low in terms of genuine title contenders amongst the major clubs. Juventus have all the makings of being solid yet but unspectacular, AC Milan look no closer to kick-starting a rebuilding programme while unless AS Roma find a new owner they could implode rather than explode.

The rest of the league lacks the financial clout to mount a challenge, and the likes of Sampdoria, Palermo and Napoli will have to mix and match as best they can.

Inter are also not immune to the financial constrains that are sweeping through the Italian game – and there will have to be sales before new players can be brought in. Real Madrid seem to have dropped their interest in Douglas Maicon but if €30m or so can be wrung out of either of the Manchester clubs for Mario Balotelli then the club can delve a little deeper into the transfer market.

One element that will change from Benitez’s time in England will concern his involvement in the transfer dealings: he can make suggestions but it will be sporting director Marco Branca making the final decision.

There will be no need for enormous changes within the squad and Mourinho’s philosophy of “team before self” will remain intact. In fact, it has all the makings of a very quiet pre-season for the champions – and if first impressions are anything to go by then that’s just how the new man will like it to remain.

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