Walter Mazzarri gave a long interview to Sky Italia today, which was broadcast on ‘Speciale Calciomercato’ at 23:00 CET. You can read what the coach had to say here on inter.it:
Has the club been as you expected it to be so far?
“I knew Inter was a well-run club with a great history but I must admit that so far I’ve found it even easier to settle in than I imagined. I’ve been given the best welcome possible by the people who work alongside me, the president and everyone at the club, but especially by the fans. As I’ve said on other occasions, in my four years at Napoli I tried, as you do, to make things difficult for any opponent we came up against and I did that against Inter too. There were lots of battles on the pitch so the thing that’s surprised me most is the incredible enthusiasm the supporters have shown towards me after the years we spent on opposite sides.”
When will we see Mazzarri’s Inter playing on the pitch?
“Time is always a problem. At the moment I couldn’t say, I couldn’t give you a precise date. Based on my past experience, I can tell you that the motions have to become automatic and I don’t think you’ll see what I want during our friendlies. Of course if the lads want to spring me a surprise and carry out everything I ask of them sooner I’ll be delighted. But I repeat, these things take a bit of time.”
Do you think you’ve joined a big club at the right time or, considering what you’ve achieved in your career, did you expect it earlier?
“I always look to the future, I don’t ask myself that sort of question. If I’ve been called here now it’s because the time was right. I’m happy and I think the most satisfying thing for a coach is to reach a top club thanks to what he’s achieved on the pitch at another club of a certain level. I believe we should all have to earn what we get and I’m glad I’ve done it in the best way possible, starting from the bottom, little by little earning myself the plaudits, and working my way up higher and higher.”
Some people might point to the fact that you’ve joined at a time when it would be impossible to do worse than last year and say you have everything to gain.
“I think the only advantage in this situation is that the lads who were here last year will be totally motivated, desperate to make up for a year that wasn’t up to the tradition and standing of a club like Inter. The lads I’ve come across here – and I’d like to stress this – are very motivated, very willing, because for them what happened to Inter last year was hard to take.”
What did Massimo Moratti say when he handed you the reins of the team?
“He said, ‘I’ve contacted you because I need a coach just like you’. When you’ve been coaching for 12 years, the presidents and other people who work in this world know all about a coach’s methods, especially when you get to a certain level. It gave me a huge boost. As a lot of people know, I was considering taking a few months off if I hadn’t found the right project, something that tickled my interest. But when the president said that to me it was like a shot of adrenaline, it gave me goose bumps and made me want to get going again straight away. It was what I wanted to hear from a president as important as Moratti.”
Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso have said that Inter needed a strong person in charge. Why did a team that has won everything need a strong figure?
“It’s not my place to say. I think my methods can be described as authoritative, not authoritarian. I give the players a bit of freedom but it’s important they understand from the off that we all have our jobs to do and that people’s positions must be respected. If they said that – given that they’re responsible lads, champions, men and not boys any more – then you’ll have to ask them about it. I don’t want to get involved in things that aren’t for me to say.”
Do you like your ‘hard man’ tag?
“I don’t think I’m a hard man. At the start of my career I set out to act as a steady guide for my players, someone they can always rely on. I’d like to be seen – as I have been by the players I’ve coached up until now – as a fair man.”
Is there anyone in particular who’s surprised you in these first ten days?
“Yes, the group. Before coming here I thought there might perhaps be a few problems, hearing some of the things that you [journalists] publicise. Instead I’ve met a group of hard-working, professional, motivated individuals who aren’t afraid to bust a gut, who are trying to cope with the huge workload the fitness coach and I have given them. That’s the best surprise, the news that I can give you. That’s what matters to a coach.”
The players have just had a bad season. Is there any particular bet you want to win? A particular player you want to back?
“Anyone who knows me, who’s watched some of my training sessions, knows very well that I set no limits, that I work on every little aspect. One of the things I tell my players when we sit down for our one-to-one chat, with Zanetti, Cambiasso, Milito, players who have won everything, is ‘You must remember that there’s always something you can improve’. And if I say that to them, I obviously say it to all the others too. It a philosophy I’ve always carried forward and what I want to convey here at Inter, as I’ve done at my other teams.”
Given the lack of wide players, why was Ezequiel Schelotto dropped from the squad before the training camp even began, instead of being looked at here?
“That was a decision we gave a lot of thought to considering the overall squad. Looking at the number of players, who we needed to put in certain positions and the way I work, we thought it was the best decision – although it doesn’t take anything away from the lad, who’s shown he’s a good Serie A player.”
When you left Napoli, were you looking for a club that would give you more freedom, let you be more of an English-style manager?
“With all the presidents at all the clubs I’ve coached at – and this is something I’m very proud of – I was given all the manoeuvring space that Moratti has said I’ll have here too. When I sit down to sign a contract, the club tell me what they want but I’ve always been approached because I was successful the season before, so I’ve always been in a strong position from a contractual point of view and been able explain my side of things, because the facts were always there to prove what needed to be proven. Presidents know how I work when they give me a contract to sign. I’ve always done what I had to, what a coach should do, no more, no less. I don’t want, nor have I ever wanted, to go beyond the realms of what a coach’s job should involve.”
Has Moratti ever told you that the only coaches who have won the Scudetto with him had surnames beginning with ‘M’?
“I read that in the papers. If I’m honest, superstitious things like that are quite nice but I’ve always focused on hard work. I always say that football isn’t an exact science but it needs science. The closer you get to science, the better your chances of succeeding and getting results. That’s something I’ve always believed. When things go well you might look at other little coincidences but they don’t mean anything.”
Three reasons why Juventus should be worried about Inter?
“To start with, as I’ve said to my team and as I’m used to saying to my players, I’d like to put on record that I want us to make it hard for other teams to get a result against us no matter who the opposition are. That goes for Juventus too and all the big teams in Serie A.”
Has the balanced been tipped even more in Juventus’ favour with the signing of Carlitos Tevez?
“There are at least six or seven teams, including Fiorentina and Lazio, who will be bunched together on the starting grid. It’s hard to know who has got more quality, who can do better: it depends on how you work on the pitch, on whether you manage to exploit the players’ ability to the max. Besides Juventus, I think that in terms of financial muscle and on the strength of the last four years, Napoli could be a notch above the rest. Along with Juve.”
So from the outset it’s impossible for Mazzarri’s Inter…
“There’s no such thing as impossible. What I’m saying is that as things stand, looking at the factors usually weighed up in football – signings, wages, squad, the previous season – if Inter finished ninth, then that’s where we start from. Then the technical work takes over, the work put in on the pitch, the chemistry within the group, and that can make the difference, help a club which was perhaps fourth, fifth or sixth in the eyes of some to shock a few people and finish ahead of the pack. That’s what the teams who on paper start a little further back always hope. I think generally speaking, people who watch Mazzarri’s teams – especially spectators and those who have no reason to say anything good or bad on principle alone – have always said that they’re good to watch, that they play attacking football, that they’ve even drawn the attention of clubs like Bayern and Barcelona and caught the eye of Europe in general, besides Italy. But we’ll see, all that matters at the end of the day are the facts that everyone can see.”
Why do your strikers always score so many goals?
“Because we don’t play well, because my teams don’t play very well… [smiling]”
Since you’ve only got the league to focus on this year, how do you plan to bring on Icardi and Belfodil if Milito and Palacio stay fit?
“You can say all sorts of things about developing players. Bringing young players through is about real growth, which means increasing their technical attributes, but it also depends on how much playing time you give them and how much the team wants to finish in the top positions or not.”
Hamsik, who you’ve described as the most intelligent player you’ve ever come across in your career, said it will be difficult for him to face Mazzarri as an opponent.
“For a coach who goes about his job professionally and seriously, as I think I do, it gives you immense satisfaction to hear something like that. It’s the sort of real satisfaction you’re interested in because it’s the players who know their coach and if a world-class talent and a great man like Hamsik says something like that, it’s a compliment that fills me with almost as much joy as winning a trophy. I think most or certainly many of the players I’ve coached would speak about me in the same way as Marek did: it’s a source of great pride and it inspires me to keep coaching players with the same enthusiasm. I really couldn’t care less what other people say to be honest, because they don’t actually know and they only say things if it’s in their interest to say one thing or the other.”
What does Kovacic need to do to become as good as Hamsik?
“If you’re looking at me for a headline or to hype him up, then you’ve got the wrong man. What I can say is that the boy clearly has huge talent. To become an established player on the world stage like Hamsik he must show year after year that he’s useful to the team, that he’s a player who can make things happen for his team. And to really take his game to the next level a midfielder needs to be getting a certain amount of goals. Kovacic is a lad we all believe in but he’ll have to put the work in on the pitch and understand certain things, and it’s also my job to explain them to him.”
Are you curious to see how Napoli do without Mazzarri and Cavani?
“Apart from the fact that I’m at Inter now, that I’ve moved on and am happy, I hope Napoli do well for the fans. I had a wonderful relationship with them – there was a lot mutual trust. When I saw things I didn’t like I went to speak to them directly on camera or with the microphone. It was a wonderful relationship and together we achieved some extraordinary results in the last four years. I left a club which I think at the moment is probably one of the richest in Europe, because we worked away on the pitch and got the results that are there for everyone to see, leaving behind a legacy. So I think Napoli can only push on now and do even better than what they did with me, regardless of whether they have Cavani, because as we all know Cavani was a huge resource for them and – if they use it as they should – they’ll do superbly, even better than we did in the last four years. I think Cavani took a real step up in quality when he joined Napoli and I think Edi recognises that. The credit is primarily his own, but I think part of the credit should also go to myself and those who work with me and his team-mates, who helped him gain the confidence of a top player. Now that he’s established himself and has got that confidence he can be a success elsewhere too, providing of course that the team is geared towards helping him express his ability.”
What sort of reception do you expect to receive when you go back to the Stadio San Paolo?
“That’s not something I wonder about. I know that the people who care about Napoli know how things went and know Mazzarri as well. I know exactly who appreciates me. But of course it’s normal that fans should support their own team and that they might not be happy when a coach who’s been very successful leaves, although I’ve explained my reasons clearly and at length. But as tends to happen in this world, it may be that what I said gets twisted or misinterpreted, or that perhaps some people want to misinterpret it for their own benefit.”
Is Benitez the right man to pick up from where Mazzarri left off?
“I think Benitez’s record proves that he’s a good coach. He and the players that my staff and I have left him have every chance of building on our achievements of the last four years.”
Will there be enough time between now and 23 July for you to assess your squad properly or will you need the other friendlies?
“I think the people at the club and the president himself are very willing to listen to me. We’ll have to see, also bearing in mind the parameters the club has imposed itself this year – which is something I must respect too. When I join a new team I always try to work first and foremost for the good of my club, because we’re starting a new project together. I can see we’re on the same wavelength and pulling in the same direction, and I think that’s the best guarantee there is.”
Moratti has said that he might sign a top player. What is a ‘top player’ for you?
“Quite honestly that’s not something I’ve spoken to the president about, because as you’ve seen over this past week and as he knows, the first thing I want to do is get a feel for this team, for this group of players and their abilities. Yesterday, for example, after the friendly I gave the president’s assistant and the president himself some early feedback. I’ll continue to do that and we’ll keep each other updated. Then, based on the guidelines set down by the club, we’ll see if we need to make any adjustments.”
Is there a promise you want to make to the Inter fans?
“I’m the last person who’s going to come out and make any promises. I’ve let the facts do most of the talking over the last 12 years. Other people can do the talking.”