Tetchy Moratti gives Benitez his backing - for the time being

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So, after storming away from the San Siro on Sunday, spending Monday in tetchy mood with reporters before falling into sulky silence, Massimo Moratti broke cover to hand Rafa Benitez his full backing.

Usually the vote of confidence is a harbinger of doom for any coach and Moratti has plenty of previous when it comes to telling the public one thing and doing completely the opposite in private. Well, sort of in private, as it is well-known in Milanese circles that sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport will break a story originating from the inner sanctum of Inter headquarters.

Alberto Zaccheroni, Hector Cuper and Roberto Mancini no doubt have the press clippings horded away somewhere foretelling of their demise. Benitez has three games to save his job was the gist of the latest premonition, coming as it did from reliable sources close to the man from the black stuff.

Oil is a pretty slippery liquid, so any blame for the coach’s failure will seep downwards towards Marco Branca, who persuaded his employer that Benitez was the man to continue where Jose Mourinho had left off – without any new signings, of course.

Apparently the technical director brushed away the Spaniard’s concerns that, having landed the Treble, the team were in natural decline and in need of a few fresh faces, claiming that the club had everything in hand but when Benitez put forward a few transfer targets they were ignored.

As long as the current group continued to dominate at home then the hierarchy could get on with bringing the club finances under control, but the last month or so have seen the side sail some choppy waters, spring a leak along the way before running aground in the derby.

It was left to Branca to see what could be salvaged and then get the vessel afloat again, dispatched as he was to the training ground with vice president and heir to the throne Angelo Mario Moratti, for a clear the air meeting with Benitez and his assistant Amedeo Carboni.

Or put it another way, let’s get tough with this Iberian interloper. The meeting came at a time when most of the first-team squad were away on international duty or injured, so no one could hear the pleas from Benitez for more time.

The emissaries apparently returned to the city satisfied that they had made is suitable clear what was expected, but all too aware that once a rift occurs between an underling and the boss then there is little that can be done to heal it.

Mancini sealed his fate with his public resignation at the final whistle after losing to Benitez-managed Liverpool in the Champions League despite going on to win the title.  

Benitez is a veteran of boardroom politics from his time in England and he knows he needs to get results back on track again which means getting tough with his players.

Early momentum has come to a grinding halt over the last month or so with just 10 points from the last eight games while Milan have gathered 21 points. So an 11-point gap has turned into a six-point deficit.

Injuries are one thing but what seems to be at the heart of the problem is that the dressing room is missing belief - something Mourinho excelled at, getting the best out of whatever resources he had at his disposal – Moscow when the side were on the cusp of elimination from the Champions League, Chelsea after the 1-1 draw at home and of course Barcelona when the odds were stacked against them, all come to mind.

Benitez cannot seem to lift his charges in the same way – witness the abject performance at Spurs and the lacklustre response in the derby against 10-man AC Milan which so obviously ticked off Moratti.

If Inter cannot get positive results from Chievo, Parma and FC Twente then any Inter coach would be expecting the dreaded meeting with the main man, but as it stands the World Cup for Clubs will be the moment where Benitez’s fate will be sealed.

He flunked the European Super Cup and failed in the derby so if Inter are not crowned World Champions then it would be adios Benitez.

If reports are to be believed then the candidates are indeed wide ranging – Leonardo obviously just to get up Silvio Berlusconi’s nose, Frank Rijkaard and Luciano Spalletti fresh from being crowned Russian champion with Zenit St Petersburg.  

They have all been strategically placed to up the pressure on Benitez who needs to demonstrate some of that tactical wisdom to negotiate the corridors of power in what has been a five months at Inter that few could have envisaged.