Creaking Inter in need of rebuild

MILAN - For all the talk of doing the impossible and reversing a 5-2 deficit, Inter Milan could not even draw at Schalke in their Champions League last-eight second leg and the future of many players now hangs in the balance.

Relinquishing the European Cup with a whimper after a 2-1 defeat in Germany was bad enough but Inter soon face the prospect of giving up the Serie A title for the first time in six years with AC Milan five points clear with six games left.

The end of an era may be also approaching for the likes of Julio Cesar, Cristian Chivu, Dejan Stankovic, Maicon, Esteban Cambiasso and even Diego Milito, their Inter futures coming under the microscope as an ageing side reveals its cracks.

Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto'o, the jewels in the crown, would be prized possessions at almost any big European club and if Inter are to rebuild sacrifices may be possible.

Coach Leonardo, only appointed in December, looks safe though despite the calamity against a supposedly weaker Schalke side and the 3-0 defeat by Milan in the league at the start of the month which looks to have cost Inter the scudetto.

"I'll maintain my enthusiasm," the Brazilian told reporters.

"You know I don't think about the future but I work the same way as I did the first day. Now we have to make sure we overcome this moment with intelligence. We have to battle on in the league and in the Italian Cup. We still have a lot to do."

An Italian Cup semi-final first leg at AS Roma on Tuesday is unlikely to offer much cheer among supporters who enjoyed enormous highs last May when Jose Mourinho's side won an unprecedented Italian treble but have slumped ever since.

One man who will almost certainly avoid any cull is 37-year-old captain Javier Zanetti, an "Interista" through-and-through who continues to defy age with extraordinary performances which only fellow elder statesmen Raul of Schalke and Ryan Giggs of Manchester United can match.

Sadly for the Argentinian, that duo will be contesting a Champions League semi-final while he tries to stop Inter's recent love affair with trophies from disintegrating as single-minded president Massimo Moratti assesses his options.

"We did everything we could in this competition," Zanetti said.

"Now we have to give it everything we've got until the end of the season, in the league and the Italian Cup. We certainly believe we can win them."


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