Atalanta v Inter: Ausilio backs Mancini's long-term plan
It has been a season of struggle for Inter, who face Atalanta in Serie A this weekend, but sporting director Piero Ausilio believes coach Roberto Mancini is laying the groundwork for success in the future.
Languishing in mid-table and knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Napoli last Wednesday, Inter's best shot at redemption is winning the UEFA Europa League, with a last-32 tie against Celtic to come this month.
That said a top-five finish in the league is not yet beyond their reach, with Mancini's side facing a six-point gap to Sampdoria in fifth.
And Ausilio insists some short-term pain could result in long-term gain for the San Siro outfit.
"Mancini didn't want to take the easy option – he wanted to lay the foundations for future success," he told SportItalia.
"You can't expect the team to respond perfectly to new instructions. That's what your summer training camps are for.
"But Mancini has had to do it with matches coming around thick and fast. The positives are the way the team's playing, the development of the squad and our recent results."
Mancini turned to Germany striker Lukas Podolski, a loan signing from Arsenal, in January, but he has failed to score in six matches.
Ausilio remains confident that he will prove his worth, though.
He added: "Podolski? He's training very well. Lukas has played in three World Cups and won one. He'll show us what he can do."
Inter ended a three-match winless run in the league with a 3-0 victory over Palermo last Sunday, but they have not secured back-to-back triumphs since October.
They were victorious in September's home meeting with Atalanta, when Pablo Daniel Osvaldo - who on Thursday agreed a move from Southampton to Boca Juniors - and Hernanes were on target.
That result was part of a four-game losing streak for Stefano Colantuono's side, who won their last home game against fellow strugglers Cagliari to stay out of the relegation zone.
There is little comfort in the league standings, though, with Atalanta only four points above the bottom three.
Colantuono has at least begun to see a marked upturn in fortunes at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia, where Atalanta are unbeaten in five matches in all competitions.