With the talk of a boardroom takeover at arguably one of Italy’s biggest clubs having been constant since the beginning of the summer it now appears as if we are ever closer to reaching a conclusion to the saga surrounding Internazionale of Milan. The current owner, the enigmatic Massimo Moratti confirmed in the last few days that the sale of a majority 75% stake in the club to Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir could take place within the week.
The Moratti family have held significant invested interest in the Milanese club dating back to 1955 when Massimo’s father, Angelo, would become club president. This partnership would be a rather fruitful one which over the course of the thirteen years Angelo spent at the helm of the club saw Internazionale win their first ever European Cup in 1964 The trophy was retained just a year later when Moratti’s Internazionale side defeated Benfica in the final.
The baton was eventually passed down from father to son when Massimo took control of the club in 1995 with the sole goal of at the very least matching his father’s haul of two European Cups. However Moratti in this instance would only hold the presidency for nine years before taking over once again in 2006 after a two year hiatus. Massimo Moratti to this day has managed to win one European Cup after a Jose Mourinho inspired Internazionale side conquered the continent in 2010 with what can now be considered an ‘old team’. The legacy of this team did not last long with the figurehead Mourinho leaving to join Real Madrid that very summer. The club never really recovered and with Moratti unable to pump in the finances required to succeed at the very very top level in modern football, Internazionale have slipped down the pecking order within their own country and it appears as though Moratti has decided his time with the Nerazzurri is coming to an end.
Erick Thohir at just forty three years of age is a sizeably successful businessman with the main body of his fortune coming through the inherited family business and ownership of several Indonesian media outlets including the television station ‘tvOne’ and the Newspaper ‘Republika’. This fortune has allowed Thohir the freedom to expand his empire into the world of sport and Internazionale supporters may be able to take some solace in the fact their club wouldn’t be Thohir’s first venture of its type.
In 2011 Thohir was part of a consortium which led a takeover of NBA Basketball team, the Philadelphia 76ers, this coupled with his ownership of a number of Indonesian basketball franchises provided a solid base for Thohir to begin to understand how sports franchises worked and how to use his money to improve their success both on and off the field/court. It is interesting to note that in the takeover of the 76ers, Erick Thohir was closely aided by a former basketball agent, Jason Levien who has stuck with Thohir ever since.
Levien and Thohir then set their sights on a football franchise, this time targeting the MLS’ own D.C. United. Their takeover bid was successful in July 2012 with Thohir and Levien forming a three way ownership agreement alongside fellow investor Will Chang with the aim of propelling D.C. United to a successful period on the field as well as finally securing the funds for a new stadium which had been the source of frustration for D.C. United for a number of years.
The partnership between Thohir and Levien is an intriguing dynamic. Levien has a background within the sporting world having made his name, and money, as a basketball agent. This experience within the sporting arena is something which I believe Thohir is trying to tap into when purchasing ownership of numerous sports franchises. There has been no official word as yet whether Levien would be part of Thohir’s consortium if and when the takeover of Internazionale is completed however it would be a pretty safe bet to assume Levien will be involved in one way or another. The way I can characterise the relationship between the pair and the job Levien does to an English audience specifically would be to recall the role undertaken for many years by David Dein at Arsenal.
David Dein had a fantastic working knowledge of not only the business side of football but also the sporting side and as a result of this was always able to assist Arsene Wenger in transfer matters in a manner which greatly benefitted Arsenal. Dein knew how football worked, he knew how agents worked and how players in the midst of negotiations worked, he used all this knowledge to his advantage to persuade players to join Arsenal when in truth they had better financial offers on the table from other clubs. James Levien has been part of Thohir’s sports ownerships to offer the very same role, Levien as I have previously mentioned is a sports orientated man and knows how the business within sports works having been an agent himself. Thohir is willing to place his trust in Levien’s knowledge of the sports world and back him financially in order to achieve results.
Whilst there is currently what feels like a semi-permanent dark cloud surrounding the Milanese giant, things in truth can conceivable improve quickly. Internazionale are very fortunate in the sense they have managed to secure Walter Mazzarri as their manager this past summer. This may very well be the Moratti family’s final gift to the club. Mazzarri is an exceptional man manager, as well as a tactician as we saw during his years at Napoli, despite never making that final step and winning the Scudetto. Internazionale’s current high league position in Serie A is testament to Mazzarri however the 3-0 drubbing at home to high flying Roma really highlighted just how poor the Internazionale squad currently is.
There are players within that squad who have been brought in simply as a cost-saving measure due to the lack of funds available at the club. The recent sales of big name players such as Wesley Sneijder, Samuel Eto’o and Julio Cesar were yet again financially motivated measures. The club not only needed the money from the sales but also could no longer afford to offer those players the astronomical wages that they were promised during the club’s recent on field boom period. As a result we have seen the more talented players leave and less talented players come into the squad on sizeably lower wages. This was a measure that has seen Internazionale fall out of the cash cow that is the UEFA Champions League after finishing 9th last season in what was the club’s worst final standing since finishing 13th in 1994.
Internazionale knowing full well the finances were on the decline took a gamble bringing in Andrea Stramaccioni as manager following his successes as the coach of the Internazionale Primavera side which won the 2012 edition of the NextGen series. It was hoped that Stramaccioni being the impressive tactician he was could nurture through the crop of up and coming young players from the Primavera and keep Internazionale competitive whilst the money was not available for the big purchases which have characterised the Massimo Moratti era. This project unfortunately was probably started too soon for everyone and eventually ended in disappointment with players not making the grade quickly enough and Stramaccioni, albeit not free from blame, having to persevere with a lack of quality within the first team.
D.C. United, following the takeover of Thohir and Levien, saw their fortunes turn in a positive manner. They finished an impressive 2012 MLS campaign in second place in the Eastern Conference and third overall in the MLS. This was a huge improvement from the 2011 campaign which saw D.C. United finish a lowly thirteenth in the MLS. Thohir’s impact albeit coming half way through the campaign was significant and there is forward progress currently being made on the construction of a new stadium with planning permission having been submitted to the required authorities for a site near ‘Nationals Park’ baseball stadium.
Thohir is a billionaire and will be able to pump considerable finance into Internazionale, Thohir seems a very astute man as we have seen not only in his previous business ventures but also his alliance with sports mogul Levien. Thohir is rumoured to yet again be looking to surround himself with ‘football people’ by asking Massimo Moratti to stay on as part of the board for at least six months after he completes his proposed takeover. With the experience of Moratti and the sports brain of Levien, provided he joins up with Thohir in this particular venture coupled with the mammoth financing Thohir can provide this may well be the deal that rescues Internazionale. Money will be able to be spent in the transfer market and a lot of players considered ‘deadwood’ will be able to leave the club. With all this financing being trusted to a proven coach in Mazzarri the future may well be bright for Internazionale and it is a whole lot closer than people thought possible.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4
It seems not too long ago that we were all discussing the prospect of a three pronged race to sign Montenegro’s most valued asset, Stevan Jovetic, with Arsenal, Juventus and Manchester City all being linked with the attacking midfielder come striker. However in the month that has followed this intense speculation it appears that none of the three aforementioned clubs are still interested in the forward with Fiorentina’s asking price of thirty million Euros having priced the player out of move away from the club. Juventus opted to spend significantly less money on Carlos Tevez whilst Arsenal look to have secured a slightly cheaper deal for Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain which leaves just Manchester City who appear close to securing the signature of Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo from Sevilla.
It was said that the animosity between Fiorentina and Juventus was one of the reasons that the transfer failed to materialise and Juventus director Giuseppe Marotta this morning all but confirmed these reports when speaking at a press conference, “Jovetic? He was an option we went after during the summer, but due to difficult relations with Fiorentina I think at this point we are fine as we are.” It is believed that the Turin club were unwilling to try and negotiate a cheaper deal with relations as they are with the Florence club.
Whilst the three teams mentioned above having all moved on to alternative targets this does not mean that at least one of them won’t come back in for Stevan Jovetic however it will only come once Fiorentina reduce their asking price of thirty million Euros, and that looks highly unlikely at this stage. Fiorentina have as daft as it sounds put themselves into a bit of trouble by price Stevan Jovetic out of the market as the Florence club is now very close to securing an eighteen million Euros transfer for Bayern Munich hitman Mario Gomez with the funding for that transfer having been expected to come out of the profit made of Jovetic. Whilst Fiorentina are still in a position to pay for Gomez it was not at all in their plans to still have Jovetic as a player when they secure the signature of Gomez, this has been a sizeable miscalculation of the club’s part.
On the flip-side however it is relatively easy to illustrate how Mario Gomez and Stevan Jovetic could play together under Vincenzo Montella with the German being utilised as almost a target man who is given the task of holding up the ball, bringing the wider players into the attacking move before making a late run into the box himself. Jovetic would be deposited just behind Gomez in the ‘false nine’ role which has become oh so popular in recent years although it is yet to catch on as widely in Italy’s Serie A, Jovetic would use his quick, neat footwork to create space for himself and then look to play Mario Gomez into a scoring position with a clever reverse pass much like David Silva attempts to do with Edin Dzeko at Manchester City when the Bosnian is given game time.
This does not take into account one Giuseppe Rossi who is rapidly approaching full fitness after recovering from a longstanding anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained during his time with Villarreal. The Italian signed on with Fiorentina last January for around ten million Euros with the club even then preparing for the summer departure of Jovetic and it was hoped within the club that Rossi and Gomez would go onto forge a partnership where Rossi dropped ever so slightly behind Gomez not quite as an attacking midfield but a second striker feeding off the knockdowns provided by Gomez, Stevan Jovetic was not considered as part of Fiorentina when this plan was conjured up.
According to goal.com, football agent Eugenio Ascari has urged Stevan Jovetic to try and make peace with his current employers as quickly as possible, as it seems as if the Montenegrin forward will be spending another year in Serie A with the Viola, ” I see too many obstacles at this time to see Jovetic join Juve, so now if I were him I would try to fix the relationship with Fiorentina.” This is something that I feel may unattainable with the supporters of Fiorentina having already turned against Jovetic with the majority of their anger being vented towards Jovetic’s desire to leave a club he deems beneath him. Fiorentina supporters responded to this by producing a banner which stated that no single player was bigger than the club and any who thinks so should leave. This difficult situation created both by Jovetic’s open desire to leave the club and Fiorentina’s miscalculation on the Montenegrins’ price has led to a situation where the club needs to sell Jovetic and Jovetic needs to leave the club yet they are struggling to find a buyer.
Fiorentina amidst the controversy surrounding Stevan Jovetic’s protracted move away from Stadio Artemio Franchi have in the past forty eight hours stated that there had been an increased interest in Jovetic from a number of other clubs across Europe however I expect some embellishing of the facts has gone on in this statement with the likelihood being that if a club was seriously interested in Jovetic and was willing to pay a reasonable fee, they would be able to secure a deal for Jovetic quite quickly with all parties looking for the same outcome now.
We may well see Juventus or even Manchester City come back in for Jovetic with a mammoth offer we just can’t rule that out however, it is more than likely that we may not. Fiorentina wanted to assert themselves as the controllers of negotiations by putting such a high asking price upon the shoulders of Stevan Jovetic and it has now backfired on them with the club needing the get the player off the books in order to make room for new signings. Fiorentina’s stubbornness has put the club into a difficult position and it could well lead to them losing Jovetic for far less than what Arsenal, Juventus and Manchester City were original prepared to pay in the first instance.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4
How does it come to pass that a footballer who just over two seasons ago was lifting Europe’s premier club prize finds himself frozen out of his current club and unable to find a new team with which to go and ply his trade? This scenario, it seems somewhat ludicrous yet it is the scenario that is facing Internazionale Milan’s Wesley Sneijder. After his significantly protracted move to Manchester United in the summer of 2011 never came to pass the Dutchman has struggled to find the levels of performance that saw him guide his nation to a World Cup final, the departure of Jose Mourinho signalled the beginning of the end for Internazionale’s great European Cup winning side and Wesley Sneijder a favourite of Mourinho has found himself on the scrapheap as a direct result of the changes in management since that faithful night in Madrid in May 2011.
It is said that the deal between Manchester United and Internazionale for the sale of Wesley Sneijder had long been agreed in the summer of 2011 and it was simply the players astronomical wage demands that were the stumbling block, in one of the most arduous and long winded transfer sagas in recent times fans of both United and Internazionale were left wondering right up until the final moments of the 2011 summer transfer window just where Wesley Sneijder would be spending his footballing future.
Wesley Sneijder’s public gratitude of the support Manchester United fans gave him during that summer transfer window via twitter all but confirms to us that there was indeed negotiations held that summer but exactly why the transfer didn’t go ahead we perhaps until the former Madrid playmaker writes an autobiography will never know. Now however two years down the line we are looking at a situation where Wesley Sneijder has been prohibited from playing for Internazionale until he signs a new contract on significantly lower wages yet with the Dutchman unwilling to do this there is also no club willing to take him on.
Internazionale Milan would not change their 2010 European Cup win for anything and rightly so, but the legacy that squad has left behind has had a hugely detrimental impact on the finances of the Milanese giants. Mourinho’s squad was built on ridiculously high salaries and bonuses and the players that earned these wages were in the latter stages of their career. Internazionale since then with the introduction of UEFA’S Financial Fair Play regulations have had to completely restructure their team finances with several of the highly paid, older superstars of that Mourinho side leaving the club for example Samuel Eto’o, Douglas Maicon, Lucio, Thiago Motta and Julio Cesar. These players have been replaced by younger players on significantly lower wages for example Alfred Duncan, Joel Obi and Coutinho with the talented young tactician Andrea Stramaccioni being given the responsibility of building a squad around these young players.
Wesley Sneijder’s struggles began last season, in a campaign that was hampered by injuries Sneijder was never able to put together a consistent run of performances in the first team with his contribution to the teams play becoming less and significant in comparison to what it was only the season before and as a result Internazionale were unable to reclaim their title from fierce rivals AC Milan with the Scudetto returning to Turin with Juventus.
This season Sneijder has once again suffered with injury yet it is instructions from above that are stopping him playing for the first team. It has long been public knowledge that Wesley Sneijder is on wages that are not conducive to fitting into UEFA’S Financial Fair Play regulations and as a result Massimo Moratti has tried to encourage Sneijder to sign a new deal with a significantly lower salary and this offer has been ignored by Wesley Sneijder who is unwilling to lower his salary. Some will argue that he has no right to do this and he should accept less money with a club that rescued him from his peril at Real Madrid way back in 2009 however why should he? If he is as he believes Internazionale’s most important asset why shouldn’t he be rewarded accordingly and surely being offered a deal with a significantly lower salary is an insult to a player of his individual talents.
It is this blank refusal to sign up to a new deal that has led to this stalemate with both sides being less than blameless for the current state of affairs. Wesley Sneijder is not permitted to play for Internazionale Milan’s first team and he is free to find a new club this January window. Sneijder himself has come out and admitted it will be better for all parties if he finds a new club this month however it is proving considerably more difficult than both he and his agent Soren Lerby had imagined. First it was Anzhi Makhachkala then PSG and finally and most inevitably Manchester United that were reportedly on alert when the situation between Internazionale and Wesley Sneijder had reached stalemate yet all three of those clubs have yet to make any contact with Sir Alex Ferguson informing fans not to “hold their breath” in any expectation of a new signing this January.
Sneijder, following such low levels of early interest has moved to state he would be in favour of a move to England and this sparked all sorts of twitter hysteria with Queens Park Rangers being mentioned as a potential destination for the Dutchman however it is more than likely that these rumours are somewhat false. With Wesley Sneijder being interested in a move to England there would be a number of clubs who would benefit from having this world class playmaker at their disposal.
Tottenham Hotspur after having finally lost their battle to keep Luka Modric at White Hart Lane when the Croatian midfielder moved to Real Madrid last summer have still yet to replace him. The signing of Porto’s Joao Moutinho never went through on deadline day and there has been a lack of creativity in the Spurs midfield ever since, Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey have since provided fleeting sparks of ingenuity on the ball it is however not enough to fill the chasm of creativity left behind by Modric. Wesley Sneijder would fill this hole, the Dutchman having the ability to drop into the deep lying playmaker role in the centre of the midfield and dictate the tempo of the match would allow for Spurs’ more inventive midfielders such as Dembele and Dempsey to sit in their favoured positions further up the pitch just behind the forwards.
Having Sneijder in the centre of the midfield at Spurs would make the team that much more balanced and his wide range of cross field passing would mean countless opportunities for Gareth Bale to use his pace to get on the end of one of these long passes in much the same manner that Ryan Giggs has done in relation to a Paul Scholes pass over the past decade. The main sticking point with this deal would be Sneijder’s wages, Daniel Levy has long been known to be a tough negotiator not to be bullied by any player or agent and this as Spurs fans will testify is quite frustrating at times and it is unlikely Daniel Levy will offer the wages Sneijder is looking for.
Liverpool are a team that under Brendan Rodgers have shown glimpses in quality with a lack of consistency being an overriding theme of their season. The midfield and wide players have created numerous chances for Liverpool this season and it is their frailness in the striking department that has let the Merseysiders down thus far this year. With loanee Nuri Sahin apparently unsettled into life at Anfield Wesley Sneijder could well settle into Brendan Rodgers’ midfield alongside Lucas Leiva and or Steven Gerrard or Joe Allen with relative ease, The Dutchman’s European experience would help the younger members of Liverpool’s squad such as Suso and Raheem Sterling and the levels of creativity Sneijder brings to the table would create even more chances for Liverpool’s forward line now bolstered by the signing of Daniel Sturridge.
Liverpool unlike Spurs I feel would be in a position to offer Sneijder something close to the wages he wants especially with Joe Cole now off the Anfield wage bill and with the transfer fee being as low as £6.5 Million pounds it is definitely something Ian Ayre would be taking a closer look at however the level of necessity this transfer would be to Liverpool is relatively low with the defence and forward line needing looking at in the short term as well as the fact Brendan Rodgers needs to find a long term replacement for Pepe Reina so again it appears unlikely Liverpool will make a move for Sneijder, however the conspiracy theorists among us will be the first to point out that signing for Liverpool would anger Sir Alex Ferguson in a way that signing for another team for example Manchester City would not and depending on what occurred in the summer of 2011 signing for Liverpool on slightly lower wages could be the perfect parting shot at Sir Alex from Wesley Sneijder’s perspective.
Arsenal and Chelsea are both believed to have rebuffed Wesley Sneijder and Soren Lerby’s advances in the past fortnight and with good reason, there is no way Wesley Sneijder would fit into Arsene Wenger’s carefully constructed wage structure at the Emirates Stadium and with all Arsenal’s negotiating efforts being preoccupied with persuading Theo Walcott to sign a new deal with the club it is unlikely Wenger will look to Wesley Sneijder despite needing to strengthen a midfield that is missing Abou Diaby through long term injury as well as over relying on Jack Wilshere after a long injury lay off himself.
Chelsea despite having the means to offer Wesley Sneijder the wages he demands, have more than enough in the current midfield and the signing of a player approaching twenty nine years old would unlikely fit in with Roman Abramovich’s current reshuffling of his squad with the Russian owner looking to rid Chelsea of the common belief that they are an old team by filling his team with bright young footballers in preparation for the future.
Manchester City seems the most likely English destination for Wesley Sneijder with the English Champions having registered their interest in Sneijder also in 2011. Manchester City have been crying out for midfield reinforcements this year with Javi Garcia not having adapted to English football as quickly as everyone at Eastlands had hoped and with Jack Rodwell seemingly not ready to be a key member of the first team just yet Wesley Sneijder could be exactly what Manchester City need.
He would add depth and quality to a midfield that will be without the talismanic Yaya Toure for a month due to the African Cup of Nations, Sneijder will add a spark of creativity from deeper in the midfield which is something that Roberto Mancini does not get from Gareth Barry and James Milner, just like I have previously mentioned should in relation to Sneijder signing for Spurs, the Dutchman’s deep lying playmaker characteristics could supplement the more nimble footed creative play of Samir Nasri and David Silva perfectly. It would also take City away from the “defensive” stereotype that surrounds them with two holding midfielders often being chosen in the starting eleven.
Whilst needless to point out it is true that Manchester City would be able to offer Sneijder the wages he is on at Internazionale Milan however Roberto Mancini has said just prior to the opening of the current transfer window that Manchester City are not relying on spending big money to improve their squad so it could well be that Manchester City are too not interested in prying Wesley Sneijder away from the San Siro.
With all the English avenues now fully explored there seems very few options available to Wesley Sneijder, Internazionale Manager Andrea Stramaccioni has made his position clear in recent weeks “I’m sure that Wesley can make me change my mind and, if he does, the shirt is waiting for him” this leaves the door open for Wesley Sneijder to sign a new deal in Milan and return to the team however I feel too much has happened for this to occur and the once harmonious matrimony of Wesley Sneijder and Internazionale Milan is now irreversibly fractured. Paris Saint Germain is a club that has proven it is not afraid to test UEFA’S Financial Fair Play regulations with the big money signings of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lucas Moura and Ezequiel Lavezzi and it wouldn’t surprise anybody if they were to add Wesley Sneijder to their list of handsomely paid ‘Galactiques’ however there has been very few signs of development on that front.
Leonardo who is the current Director of Football at the Parc des Princes has worked with Wesley Sneijder during his five month tenure in charge of Internazionale and this could swing a potential move to the French capital for the Dutchman providing there is a bid made. One final point to make in relation to Paris Saint Germain is it would suit Sneijder’s lifestyle it is clear his wife Yolanthe plays a big part in his decisions and a move to Paris would suit Wesley Sneijder in terms of his family.
With Internazionale no longer feeling like home for Sneijder the only other conceivable option would be Russia, it was reported last month that a club believed to be Anzhi had made initial contact with regards to the potential purchase of Sneijder but nothing materialised. The big money at Anzhi and Zenit Saint Petersburg would allow both clubs to offer Sneijder a substantial wage packet and if there are no other options on the table then I feel Sneijder would have to move to Eastern Europe. On the positive note of a move to Zenit, he would be playing in the Champions League alongside stars such as Hulk and Axel Witsel but moving to the Russian Premier League when you look at the position Wesley Sneijder was in two seasons ago, ‘On top of Europe’ and with Manchester United wanting to bring you to their club then you have to look with hands over eyes at the Dutchman’s dramatic freefall from grace and wonder how much of this was of his own doing?
Written by Chris Winterburn