Serie A Tips: Hectic summer for Inter
It will be this summer's appointment that decides if the rot stops
Michael Lintorn sees a rebuild, both on and off-the-field,as mandatory for Inter if they are to regain their winning ways.
In late January, Claudio Ranieri was a hero and a scudetto push was expected. Five weeks on, they are seventh, nine points off the Champions League places, staring at a first silverware-free season since 2003-04 and talk has turned to who will be their fifth coach since Jose Mourinho left in 2010.
It is tough to gauge how much blame should be handed to Ranieri, far from the first to struggle with this squad and the mastermind of their finest winning streak since Mourinho's exit.
However, seven losses in eight is difficult to survive at any level, let alone in Italy with Massimo Moratti as your boss.
His failure to find a solution to the problem posed by Wesley Sneijder's return has proven disastrous, and has led to the staggering statistic that Inter have taken only 12 points from 13 games with the playmaker, compared to 24 in the 12 that he missed.
This writer would have been tempted to keep him on the bench, letting Ranieri maintain the 4-4-2 that was working well, then switch to either 4-4-1-1 or 4-3-1-2 mid-match depending on if they were chasing or seeing things out.
Perhaps this idea is unrealistic, as a coach will get far more stick losing while ignoring his star man, but the alternative strategy, constantly altering formations and personnel in search of a winning formula, has gone just as badly. In Sunday's 1-0 defeat to Napoli, they even ended up with the three at the back that saw Gian Piero Gasperini hounded out in September.
Ranieri won't resign and it is unclear whether he will be axed now or given a chance to overturn the 1-0 first-leg deficit in their Champions League round-of-16 tie with Marseille. That's a [3.0] prospect and quite the challenge for a team who have fired seven blanks in their last eight fixtures.
Any change this term will likely be temporary, with a figurehead like Giuseppe Baresi, Luis Figo or Roberto Baggio stepping in. It will be this summer's appointment that decides if the rot stops, and only if whoever is hired is allowed a greater input in transfer policy, which has been a shambles post-Mourinho.
Assuming the endless Pep Guardiola gossip is as fanciful as it appears, Zenit St Petersburg's Luciano Spalletti looks the best candidate. He might not even want it, though it will be the end of the Russian season then too and - if he finishes first again [[1.46]] - it may feel like the right time to head home.