Mourinho: Back and as mean and moody as ever
There was never any doubt that Jose Mourinho would be any less controversial in his second season in Italy than he was in his first Ã¢ÂÂ and for that we must be thankful.
Arriving back in Milan having given the impression that he had let himself go somewhat over the summer holidays and looking as if he had just stepped off a transatlantic flight, which in fact he had, any signs that his mental capacity to get under everyoneÃ¢ÂÂs skin had been dimmed were soon dispelled.
"Did you miss me?"
Jose has never made any secret that he would probably prefer to sit through dinner with Claudio Ranieri than have to attend press conferences, and was his usual querulous self on the first day back.
There was a disparaging dismissal of Carlo Ã¢ÂÂPrince CharlesÃ¢ÂÂ Ancelotti, reference to Harry Potter and Ã¢ÂÂgayÃ¢ÂÂ comments Ã¢ÂÂ and then of course there was football.
Inter are expected to stroll through the league campaign with little difficulty again, so it is the Champions League that is occupying thoughts, even in July.
The Portuguese was not holding out much hope of European domination and it is really eating away at him.
Ã¢ÂÂI am not Merlin or Harry Potter. I canÃ¢ÂÂt produce miracles,Ã¢ÂÂ he sniffed although he no doubt wishes he could conjure up a way to make a few members of his squad disappear.
In fact, four to be precise: Amantino Mancini, Patrick Vieira, Victor Obinna and Nicolas Burdisso... please back your bags.
Unfortunately, they donÃ¢ÂÂt seem inclined to give up their cushy numbers and seek gainful employment somewhere else.
All four have no doubt received the obligatory frosty reception and hopefully will take the hint.
There are areas that need to be strengthened.
First and foremost in central defence, which lacked a commanding presence last season: someone with the ability to carry the ball forward to allow the midfield to launch attacks from further up the pitch instead of hitting long balls towards the Zlatan of Swing.
A firm Mourinho favourite, Ricardo Carvalho, fits the bill perfectly but as yet there has been no progress on the transfer front with Chelsea, and the same goes for another of his Porto darlings... Deco.
"Pleeeeeeease release me... let me go"
What everyone wanted to know was whether Pavel Nedved would prolong his career at Inter Ã¢ÂÂ surely the eccentric hand of Moratti at work there Ã¢ÂÂ but couldnÃ¢ÂÂt bring themselves to ask outright.
Instead, we had the coded: Ã¢ÂÂDo you like blonde players,Ã¢ÂÂ in reference to the CzechÃ¢ÂÂs flowing golden locks, which brought a withering look and a response worthy of Bruno.
Ã¢ÂÂThat sounds a bit gay. I donÃ¢ÂÂt care if he is dark or blonde as long as he can help the team.Ã¢ÂÂ
And there lies the problem: it is not the squad that our man expected to be limbering up for pre-season training.
As it stands, with the arrival of Diego Milito and Thiago Motta Ã¢ÂÂ which not even Mourinho at his most grouchy could argue against Ã¢ÂÂ the line-up going into the new season is: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Samuel, Chivu, Santon; Zanetti, Cambiasso, Thaigo Motta; Stankovic; Milito, Ibrahimovic.
Not that different from last season and a starting XI that most teams in Europe would be more than satisfied with.
But it is still lacking that magical spark of creativity, not to mention youth, that say a Hamsik or Sneijder could produce.
After his dippy spell at Chelsea, the jury is still out on whether Deco can produce those golden flourishes of old.
But Mr. Mourinho is going to have to be patient. Negotiations with the Blues will probably go on deep into August Ã¢ÂÂ and Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks likely to come into the equation.
In the meantime, itÃ¢ÂÂs back to the grind for the boys in black and blue: Ibra has grabbed the 10shirt vacated by Adriano in the hope that he will somehow convince the whole of Europe that he is the perfect 10.
Ricardo Quaresma has been given a second chance and, of course, made the perfect impression on the first morning by turning up two hours late.
"Do you think anyone will notice?"
Moratti was lurking in the shadows and wasnÃ¢ÂÂt looking for miracles: just the league title again, the Italian Cup and, wait a minute, the Champions League... or else!
It has all the makings of a long, craggy old summer for Jose and his merry men before the real action starts, but it is good to have the old Grinch back.
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