The 2012-13 season will always be remembered as one of the worst in Inter's 105-year history, but it would be unfair to say there have been no positives at all. In this article, I am going to share my thoughts on the best and worst for Inter this season in several categories.
- Moratti 'reflecting' on Stramaccioni
I know what you're thinking: "Inter have only had one head coach this season!" As much as this is a novelty for Massimo Moratti's Nerazzurri, I feel the difference in performances between the 2012 half of the season and 2013's has been so hugely different that you would be forgiven for thinking there has been two different Andrea Stramaccioni's in charge this campaign. In the first half of his league season, he won 11 matches and lost six, while the second half saw just five wins and ten losses, therefore he gets my vote to win both the best and worst awards.
There are actually a couple of candidates for Inter's best player of the season, however, the hero of the season has to go to the team's number 1 -- Samir Handanovic. The Slovenian goalkeeper may have conceded a huge amount of goals this season, but the blame for most should be on the shoulders of the team's defenders instead of Handanovic. The truth of the matter is that if it wasn't for Handanovic's world-class goalkeeping skills, the goal difference at the end of the season would've been much worse than the minus-two in the league that the club managed. Meaning Inter would've possibly ended the season in a much worse position than they found themselves if not for the Slovenian.
The worst player accolade could realistically have gone to any one of a number of players, but the biggest disappointment was a player that arrived last summer promising to add some solidity to the Nerazzurri defence. Matias Silvestre never seemed to settle into the way Inter works during his loan spell this season, and in his 11 starts he failed to make any real impact, often looking as though he was struggling to gel with his teammates. Unfortunately, it seems Inter are being forced to honour the clause to buy him following the loan, so like many other Interisti, I'm hoping the club can move him on as quickly as possible, even if it is for the same amount they had to pay.
When trying to decide which of Inter's games could be considered the best of the season, there are two candidates that spring to mind. One was the emphatic Europa League return leg against Tottenham Hotspur. The Nerazzurri fought valiantly against the London-based side to claw back from a 3-0 first leg defeat, only to be knocked out on away goals following their 4-1 home victory. However, this wasn't the game of the season for me. That award goes to the 3-1 thrashing Inter gave their bitter rivals Juventus back in November. This victory not only ended the Bianconeri's unbeaten run, but also brought hope at that time to all Interisti that the Nerazzurri could still fight for honours. Unfortunately, that victory also marked the start of a change in fortunes for Inter, so the shine has slightly been dulled since.
The worst game out of the many defeats that the team has endured this season has to be the 4-1 hammering Fiorentina gave Inter back in February. Throughout the entire game the Nerazzurri played like a Sunday league pub team while the hosts ran rings around the whole squad. This game also marked the moment when I realised that my faith in the inexperienced Stramaccioni may have been misguided.
Defining moment of the season
This is something that depends on the context of how you are looking at it, if for example you want the defining moment of how well Inter have played you might choose Diego Milito's 75th minute goal that put Inter ahead of Juventus in that memorable game. On the other hand, for the moment that encompasses how bad they have played you would probably choose Luis Muriel's goal for Udinese in the last game of the season when Handanovic and Yuto Nagatomo had a breakdown in communication to allow him through on goal.
The moment I would choose though would be the 10th minute of Inter's Europa league match against CFR Cluj, when Diego Milito left the game with an injury that has seen him sidelined ever since. This incident sums up Inter's entire season for me and probably had the biggest effect on the remainder of their campaign. After all, losing their most potent striker was a massive blow for the club and it also signalled the start of a tidal wave of injuries that has left the Nerazzurri squad decimated and lost for ideas.
Goal of the season
This may come as a complete shock, but the goal of the season for me isn't credited to Milito or Rodrigo Palacio. Instead it goes to Jonathan of all people! The goal itself against Roma in the Coppa Italia semi-final was a fairly simple shot -- obviously there have been much more spectacular goals scored -- but what makes this one so special was the build-up. The simple one-touch passes made by Jonathan with Ricky Alvarez and Tomasso Rocchi as he ran into the box are a prime example of the style of football Inter should be playing. If the team could've produced this type of style week in and week out, they would never have finished as low as ninth. I suppose the fact that a right wingback who spent most of the season being criticised scored what I consider to be the best goal of the season says it all about this campaign.
Transfer of the season
Any Inter fan will tell you how easy this one is, apart from Handanovic there could only be one other candidate -- Mateo Kovacic. The young Croatian has lit up the Nerazzurri midfield since his arrival in January. With his mature style of play, vision for a pass, and his balance during his sublime dribbling runs, he has quickly proven to be a fan favourite and a player who is exactly what Inter needs to build their team around. All this has happened of course with the 19-year-old playing out of position, so I can't wait until next season to see what he can do in his preferred role.
The other side of the transfer coin, was the inexcusable sale of Phillipe Coutinho to Liverpool FC. I am adamant that this sale will become the biggest regret Inter will ever have. Instead of cashing in on the young and talented Brazilian, the club should have shown faith in his abilities and given him the same opportunities that he has since received in England. To appreciate what a mistake this transfer was, you only have to consider his three goals and seven assists in the 13 appearances he's made and the fact that he has won the Liverpool player of the month award two months running. Just what Marco Branca and Massimo Moratti were thinking is a mystery to me.
Finally I couldn't end this article without giving a special mention to a player who epitomises the very soul of FC Internazionale, a player who this season became the guy with the second most appearances ever in Serie A (currently 603) -- Javier Zanetti. At 39 years old he still shows a drive for success and stamina during matches that quite frankly is missing from some players in the Inter squad that are nearly half his age. The unfortunate injury that ended his season will, in all reality, bring the end of his career much closer, and if I'm honest I'm only expecting a handful of cameo appearances from him next season when he returns. I do, however, believe that whether it's in the changing room or on the pitch, he will be instrumental in helping his team to improve next season, and prove to the doubters that the Nerazzurri are much better than the mid-table position they achieved this year.