Inter ended the 2013/14 season on a down note after a 90th-minute goal by former Beneamata striker Victor Obinna, his second of the game, leading Chievo to a 2-1 win over the Nerazzurri on Sunday. Marco Andreolli's first goal of the season had put Walter Mazzarri’s side ahead at the break, but as we have seen all too often this season, defending a lead is difficult for this side, and once again a late goal cost Inter points.
In my preview of the game on Friday, I wrote that season finales are so hard to predict as you never know what mental state the players and coaches are in. Are they ready for the match or are they already thinking of where they will be going on vacation next week?
Well one look at the Inter lineup told me that Mazzarri was already on vacation as he emptied his bench and gave his squad players a game. You can argue that by doing that, Mazzarri was getting one last chance to see how some of the backups would do in an actual Serie A match. If that was the case, then the backups did little to justify a more prominent role in the team next season.
Samir Handanovic was rested as Juan Pablo Carrizo got only his second start of the season in goal. With Luca Castellazzi out of contract this was the opportunity for Carrizo to demonstrate that he can be Handanovic’s backup next season. Based on this performance that is not going to happen, as the goalkeeper was at fault for Chievo’s first goal. Finding a quality backup for Handanovic has to now be a priority during the summer transfer window.
The Inter boss continued his surprise team selection when Esteban Cambiasso, in his last appearance for the club, lined up as one of the three centre-backs, alongside Hugo Campagnaro and Marco Andreolli. A baffling decision as Andrea Ranocchia was a substitute who came on for Campagnaro at half-time. Why Mazzarri did not start the Italian defender instead of Cambiasso is a mystery. With Cambiasso in defence, that meant that Saphir Taïder returned from exile to take up one of the three central midfield spots, alongside Mateo Kovacic and Ricky Álvarez. The legend that is Javier Zanetti played on the right side with Danilo D'Ambrosio playing on the left.
It was the first time that Taider and Kovacic had started together since the defeat in Turin back in early February, and I thought the two youngsters were good, but not outstanding. Kovacic has grown in confidence so much over the past month or so because he is not afraid of being substituted if he makes a mistake. Taider is still playing tentative, as you would expect after hardly playing in 2014, but he still shows signs to me that he can develop into a top midfielder.
That Mazzarri emptied his bench on Sunday and the fact that Fredy Guarin only got on for the last eight minutes as a substitute for Kovacic does not bode well for the Colombian’s future at the club. Guarin has clearly fallen out of favor with Mazzarri. He has played just 90 minutes on two occasions in the past three months. He is in the Columbia squad for this summer’s World Cup, and Erik Thohir must be hoping that Guarin plays well so he can fetch a higher price this summer.
Up front Diego Milito and Rubén Botta got the starts, and while El Príncipe was desperate to go out on a high note with a goal, he was unable to find the back of the net with one of his four shots. Botta, on the other hand, did not show anything to indicate he is ready to step up and play a bigger role next season.
Sunday’s match was also the final appearance for Cambiasso, Milito, Zanetti and Samuel in an Inter shirt. It was nice to see Mazzarri start all four of them, and unfortunately they could not end their careers with the Nerazzurri with a win.
But as one era ended on Sunday, our eyes are already turning toward next season. The signing of Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidić has already gotten the Curva Nord excited, and if technical director Piero Ausilio can add a top class striker to go with the youth of Taider, Kovacic and Mauro Icardi, then maybe the Nerazzurri can close the gap between themselves and that third Champions League place.