APPIANO GENTILE - Piero Ausilio has reaffirmed the club's belief in Roberto Mancini and the squad, insisting that Inter will turn things around by working hard and sticking together.
Speaking at media conference ahead of Inter v Chievo, the sporting director declared: "We're delighted with the work Mancini and the players have been doing. They are the same people who had us top of the league for so long earlier in the season. We've had some problems but we know how to deal with them. We're alive and kicking."
Ausilio also replied to a question about recent refereeing decisions.
"We're not making ourselves out to be victims or blaming everything on referees. We expressed our feelings after the game when we thought it was right to do so but that doesn't mean we think other people are to blame for everything. We have our own responsibility too. When results aren't going your way you can't say it's down to the refereeing alone. We've come to our own conclusions and I'm sure we'll use that knowledge to our advantage on the pitch. When we thought something needed to be mentioned we did it.”
The sporting director then responded to reports that Mancini could leave the club at the end of the season.
"I find it all quite laughable really. When you lose a derby or a cup semi-final people always will always talk about off-field issues. The coach is happy at Inter and everyone at the club is delighted with the job he's doing. We're happy with the team and the players who kept us at the top of the league for a long time. But you can't do much about paper talk. We just have to show what we're about on the pitch."
Could Inter have done something differently in the January transfer window?
"All the transfer business we did – last summer too – was agreed on by the coach and the club and I don't mean just technical considerations. There are lots of top-quality players around but that doesn't mean Inter are able to buy them. We signed players who are good, useful and that we can afford. We signed an agreement with UEFA and we have to respect the Financial Fair Play criteria because there are rules that you simply have to stick to.
"Having said that, we've put together an excellent squad, bringing in great players from clubs like Manchester City, Wolfsburg, Monaco and so on. We're happy with our players because thanks to them we were top of the league until 6 January. And don't forget that Mancini is the same coach who started a highly successful period at Inter last time he was here. It takes time to build a great team but I'm sure the results will come.”
Inter now host Chievo on Wednesday looking to return to winning ways.
"Tomorrow's game is important because we have to win it. We were criticised for winning 1-0 but I'd gladly take another one because they're worth three points just like a 3-0. What matters tomorrow is getting the three points and getting ourselves back on track towards the targets we set ourselves at the start of the season."
Quizzed about why Inter's form suddenly dropped off, Ausilio went on: "No team can play to the very best of their ability for the whole season. And you would expect that even less from a team like Inter that was put together at the start of the season with 10 or 11 new players. I don't think it's a physical problem. Besides our own mistakes, we've also had more than our fair share of bad luck. But we're alive and kicking. We've had some problems but we know how to deal with them. We have to get our heads down and close ourselves off from what's going outside. We have to be stronger than everything else and I'm sure the criticism will turn back into applause."
A journalist asked the sporting director to reveal part of Inter's line-up for tomorrow's match at the Meazza, as Roberto Mancini has been doing in recent weeks.
"I'm not as good as Mancini at this but I can give you one name: Icardi."
Ausilio then commented on how summer signings Kondogbia and Perisic have settled in.
“For a start, they're lads who have come in from different leagues. I don't think they're doing as badly as some people like to make out. But in any case you can't judge a player based on his cost. Kondogbia is young and has joined us from another league. He needs to learn the language and get to know his team-mates as well as deal with the press watching him more closely than other players. It's not right to keep quoting his price tag. He's growing as a player and as a person. He needs to develop, to receive guidance and support. We're doing that with him because he's a top professional and a fantastic talent. He'll soon show what he's about and then all this talk will be forgotten.”
Another journalist enquired whether Inter will be able to keep within the €30 million losses required for Financial Fair Play.
“There are people at the club who are in direct contact with UEFA and inform me of all the figures I need to be aware of. I know that I've stuck to what I was asked to do. There were certain targets, agreed on within the club in December, and I've done everything I was asked to do so I'm relaxed from that point of view. We've respected the financial criteria while putting together a team that can achieve the targets we want to achieve.”
When will Inter get the money for Ricardo Alvarez?
“I can't tell you how long it will take. I know what is written on that contract and it's very simple. I – together with other people – were involved in the negotiations so I know what all the terms and conditions are. And if there's a law then sooner or later that €10.5 million need to be paid.”
Back on the January transfer window, Ausilio was asked why Inter bought a forward and not a midfielder.
“The answer to that is very simple. We could only sign one player now because of our financial situation. We assessed the matter and then reassessed things further down the line. Initially we were thinking of going for a midfielder but there aren't many quality ones around and they're hard to get. You don't necessarily need a playmaker. As we could only sign one player for now, we went for something in attack. We have very strong attacking options and all the players offer us something different.
“We decided to take Gnoukouri off the market. He's done well when he's played. The coach rates him highly so five midfielders for the games we have left to play are more than enough.
“We have a complete squad that has been put together in full agreement with the club. We're in line with our plans."
It was then put to Ausilio that Mancini has been agitated recently.
“I don't think he's particularly agitated and I see him every day. I've had more lunches and dinners with him in the last month than with my own family. Personally I think he's more calm and relaxed now than before. There may have been some things that got his back up but it was just one-off incidents.
"Everyone's talking about AC Milan winning 3-0 now but we all watch the games. In the first half it was Inter who did more to try and win the match. Then in the second half you have a penalty, when there should have been a red card for Alex, you miss it and find yourself 2-0 down. The game obviously changes after that and you get more worked up. Especially if you get sent off for so little.”
After a month of transfer activity, the sporting director says he can now focus his attention on other things.
“We'll all take a couple of weeks now to give our minds a rest and focus on the present and show the team our support. We're already planning for the future and we have some ideas. Next month we'll work on them to make sure we're ready for next season.
“Is it time for Banega to have his medical? No. We're following him but he's a Sevilla player. We know his contract is expiring but that's all there is at the moment.”
“Does Eder's arrival rule out Lavezzi? We're keeping tabs on lots of players and that includes players with expiring contracts because it offers you certain advantages. Lavezzi is a player we're looking at but he hasn't made a decision regarding his future yet.
“Is Soriano locked down for next season? We considered Soriano but once we opted for Eder all we were left with were our good ties with Sampdoria. We can’t say we’ve got an option. We’ve done great work with Sampdoria and that could work in our favour.
“Is Toure an option for the summer? At this moment in time I don’t have the energy to think about things like that. It was the big story last summer. I’ve not heard what his agent said.”
“Pirlo? No, he was never close to signing for Inter.”
Another question was about Mancini's squad management.
“That's not for me to discuss but if you do want to assess things you have to consider everything. There was an element of surprise when Montoya played against Udinese but he played extremely well. The same goes for D’Ambrosio and Nagatomo when they were brought in against Roma.
"Santon is an Inter player and has played lots of matches, then he suffered an injury. He was on his way back from a fitness problem but you have to be fit in order to play. Santon didn’t play badly, he just made a mistake on the third goal because he was tired. The game was already heading in a certain direction from an emotional and psychological perspective. I think he put in a good performance but obviously he can play better.”
Finally, Ausilio discussed what the future might hold for the club and if it depends on Inter qualifying for the Champions League.
“In instances like these you devise a Plan A and a Plan B. We won’t just sit around between now and 15 May. Obviously, though, you have to be honest because clearly making the Champions League would change our approach in the transfer market and would allow us to do more. Without Champions League football we’d miss out on some significant assets. Either way we’ve done some fine work in the transfer market with self-funded deals. Give us a few days off now, then we’ll start to think about next season."