In a varied and much travelled managerial career, ranging from the United Arab Emirates to, well, Bristol, the biggest job that Roy has had until last week was at Inter. So, I’ve delved into the archives to see just how well he got on there.
But first, here’s some background. Roy’s time at Inter overlapped with the early stages of Massimo Moratti’s ownership of the club, which began in February 1995. After finishing 6th in Serie A that season, Moratti allowed coach Ottavio Bianchi to spend lavishly in the close season to improve on that effort. As a consequence, Roberto Carlos, Javier Zanetti, Salvatore Fresi, Paul Ince, Benito Carbone and Maurizio Ganz were all recruited to bolster the squad. Meanwhile, the two Dutchmen, Wim Jonk and Dennis Bergkamp, left after two seasons each in Italy. After an indifferent opening to the new season, Bianchi was sacked and Hodgson given the job on a full time basis.
Right, so on the face of it, Hodgson inherited a pretty decent first team, if you throw in Gianluca Pagliuca, Giuseppe Bergomi, Massimo Paganin and Nicola Berti with those that had been bought during the summer. In the winter transfer window, further strength was added with defender Alessandro Pistone and striker Marco Branca. Ultimately, in Hodgson’s first season, Inter finished 7th in the league, only 5 points off Lazio in 3rd, but 19 points behind champions Milan. Compare this to the previous season with a weaker squad – one place higher, but instead 11 points off 3rd (again Lazio) and 21 points adrift of Juventus at the top. Given the players recruited and undoubtedly the money spent, there had been a slight improvement, but there’s no doubt Moratti would have been expecting more. Moreover, the press have told us that Roy ‘steadied the ship’ during this year. Well, when he came to the club, Inter’s record was P6 W2 D2 L2, not a great start, but hardly an unmitigating disaster. So, I suggest that the term ‘steadied the ship’ is being somewhat generous. A harsher analysis would conclude that he had steadied the ship, but it had been rocking the most whilst he was at the helm. Throughout the season, Inter’s form was mixed, but they did rally with five successive wins during February and March. So, Hodgson’s Inter record in Serie A in 1995-96 stood at P28 W13 D7 L8 GF43 GA25, To Roy’s credit, Inter had the 2nd tightest defence in the league (behind Milan, of course) and the purchase of Branca had been a successful one, netting 17 times in the league alone.
In the summer of 1996, Moratti once again backed his manager and Hodgson was able to bring in an impressive array of attacking talent, namely Youri Djorkaeff, Ciriaco Sforza, Kanu and Ivan Zamarano. In addition, Jocelyn Angloma and Aron Winter were drafted in to bolster defence and midfield respectively. However, Roberto Carlos left for Real Madrid, in what appears to have been a slightly acrimonious departure. Hodgson had openly questioned the Brazilian’s defensive qualities and had described him as tactically ‘indisciplined.’ Roberto Carlos retorted that “Hodgson uses me badly,” a quote made whilst still at the club. I now draw your attention to the following quotes made by the Brazilian at a later date about this situation (thanks to Paul at http://www.aliverpoolthing.com/ for these):
“My problem at Inter was Hodgson, Roy Hodgson. He wanted me to play as a forward when I’m a defender – I prefer to have space ahead of me to run into rather than be a winger already up there; for me it’s better to have 80 metres to play in than 20. I didn’t like the system or where Hodgson wanted me to play in it. He wanted me further up the pitch, sure, but stopped, still, rigid. The Copa America was coming up and I was playing at left-back for Brazil, so I wanted to play there for Inter too. I had to leave because I didn’t want to jeopardise my chances with the national team. If I couldn’t play the way I do I wouldn’t be able to play for Brazil. I spoke to Massimo Morratti [the Inter president] to see if he could sort things out and it soon became clear that the only solution was to leave.”
Apparently, Hodgson had now deemed the left-back surplus to requirements, commenting “Pistone, better than Roberto Carlos. He goes.” Just to make the point abundantly clear, this is the Alessandro Pistone, who spent much of his time at Everton in the treatment room. In Italy, this decision is still to this day met with disbelief by Inter fans, and ridicule by the majortiy of the remaining footballing fraternity. Moreover, Moratti did nothing to prevent it. Even Fabio Capello, now the beneficiary of the left-back’s services in Madrid, couldn’t quite comprehend all of this. I present this YouTube clip of one Italian journalist, expressing to Hodgson that he felt Roberto Carlos had been forced out of the club. Needless to say, Roy was rather unimpressed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hKvNoqgDX0
To provide some balance to this particular episode, we must note that Hodgson would later say “I’m sorry if people continue to think that I pushed Roberto Carlos out to Real Madrid. It seems to me an accusation that’s a bit ungenerous and completely undeserved.” When at Real, the Brazilian would aim one last parting shot at the man in charge of his old club, asking “Dr Moratti, is he crazy or just stupid?”
Here end’s Part 1 of Roy’s Italian Job. Tomorrow, I’ll provide Part 2, looking at season 1996-97, which includes banners, barnies and a bit of David Essex (a highly tenuous link that I’ll explain).