ROME - Inter Milan's run of four straight Serie A titles is under serious threat after selling talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Barcelona. Samuel Eto'o may well have arrived in exchange but with Argentine striker Diego Milito also signing from Genoa, Inter coach Jose Mourinho must quickly get his new forward line to gel with the rest of the side. Mourinho has already subtley warned Inter fans that this season, which starts on August 23, will not be as easy as recent years. "It is not the Inter of my dreams," the Portuguese told reporters recently. "I cannot make miracles, I'm not Harry Potter." The outspoken coach had wanted to sign a playmaker, and although winger Aleksandr Hleb is set to arrive from Barca, he missed out on a more traditional creative player when Chelsea asked too much for Deco. However, Mourinho's main wish was to keep the restless Ibrahimovic at the San Siro. All of Inter's attacking play revolved around the tall-yet skilful attacker, who can equally drop off into space or lead the line. OUTRAGEOUS STRIKES He was top scorer in Serie A last term with 25 goals and, unlike previous years, the forward had begun to score the tap-ins as well as the outrageous strikes. Top teams rarely rely on one player but Ibrahimovic was as important to Inter as Thierry Henry was to Arsenal - and the Londoners have not come close to winning the Premier League since the Frenchman left in 2007. Working Milito into his plans was going to be hard enough for Mourinho, but having two new strikers means he may have to change the shape of Inter's attack entirely just a few weeks from the start of the campaign. Eto'o can show flashes of brilliance like the Swede but is known more as a finisher in the box. The problem for Mourinho is that Milito is also a goalpoacher and was bought to accompany Ibrahimovic. Few teams manage to play two out-an-out goalscorers together. All this comes as Juventus are gearing up for an assault on Inter's crown having finished third and then second in their two seasons back in Serie A following a demotion for match-fixing. The Turin club, whose 2006 title was given to Inter in a courtroom following the scandal, have brought in Brazilians Diego and Felipe Melo from Werder Bremen and Fiorentina to complement the likes of Alessandro Del Piero. While stuttering AC Milan have lost Kaka and look poised to invest in youth, pundits believe Juve can push Inter all the way this season. "This is definitely a Juve which is stronger than last year. The distance with Inter could be reduced a lot," Juve president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli told reporters. AGEING SIDE Juve have only lost winger Pavel Nedved to retirement and have promising youngsters such as Sebastian Giovinco champing at the bit to make an impression. Inter in contrast are an increasingly ageing side, with Milito 30 and Eto'o 28. This was meant to be the season where Inter had a proper crack at trying to at least reach the semi-finals of the Champions League after years of underachievement in Europe. Instead their dominance at home is now at stake and Inter fans are having to put on a brave face. Celebrated Italian journalist Beppe Severgnini, a famous Inter supporter, recently listed 17 reasons why it was a good idea for Ibrahimovic to leave. One reason in Corriere della Sera was: "We will give our rivals more opportunities. Winning easily is no longer any fun." He chose 17 because that is the number of Italian titles won by Inter. The chances of an 18th suddenly look less likely.
27 July 2009
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