Spalletti can make Inter Milan great again
Tactical master could be the man to lead Inter back to glory days
It was just a little under seven years ago, when Inter Milan beat TP Mazembe 3-0 in December 2010 to win the Fifa Club World Cup and complete the quintuple along with the Serie A, Champions League, Italian Cup and Italian Super Cup titles.
Since then, the Nerazzurri have added just one more Italian Cup the following season, and have suffered an alarming fall from grace.
Since Jose Mourinho delivered their last league title, Inter have changed 10 coaches, finishing second, sixth, ninth, fifth, eighth, fourth and seventh this decade, and failing to qualify for the Champions League in the last five seasons.
They will sit out Europe's elite club competition again this term but, last night, in front of 23,338 fans at the National Stadium, Inter showed promising signs of revival under new coach Luciano Spalletti in a 2-0 win over Carlo Ancelotti's Bayern Munich, who will play in the Champions League for a 10th straight season.
After the second International Champions Cup match in Singapore, Spalletti told The New Paper yesterday: "You are absolutely right, Inter aim to play this type of high-level games in the Champions League.
"There's still a lot of work to be done. The team have just started training together, we are still assembling the team but I see progress and we have to work harder to get to where we want to be."
Spalletti knows the size of the task ahead as he attempts to restore some glory to the blue half of San Siro, and that success cannot be achieved overnight.
Almost sounding like he is playing down a title charge, the 58-year-old said: "We know the difficulty of taking Inter back to where they belong.
For Inter, this is a new life. With Spalletti, they can improve. Spalletti has a strong character, lots of experience, so Inter can have a really good season.Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti
"We have to grow, there will be some technical difficulties, but we have to improve.
"Our aim is to compete for a place in next season's Champions League, but there will be five, six or seven teams who will all be in the running to do that, too.
"We need to assemble a good team, and it is going to take time. I am new to this... so it will also take me a bit of time to understand how each player can (contribute to the team)."
Spalletti may not a miracle worker, but he does hail from the same Tuscan village as Leonardo da Vinci and is a clever innovator who started the false No. 9 craze with Roma about a decade ago.
He also seems to have a way with players with strong characters. Before moving to Inter, he successfully managed Roma legend Francesco Totti's transition from an undroppable into an impact substitute before his recent retirement.
Essentially, Spalletti is a coach who tweaks his tactical philosophy around the players at his disposal, rather than insisting on a fixed style of play.
This may prove crucial, especially as their pre-season transfer dealings have paled in comparison to eternal rivals AC Milan.
The signing of prized Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci from six-time defending Serie A champions Juventus took Milan's summer spending spree to 211 million euros (S$336m), one of the highest in Europe.
Other signings by the Rossoneri included forward Andre Silva from FC Porto; midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio), and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).
Teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma also committed his future to the club and Milan could challenge for their first Serie A title since 2011, after finishing sixth last term, ahead of Inter for the first time in four seasons.
A glance through the current Inter squad reveals few names that set the pulses racing, other than 20-year-old Brazilian upstart Gabriel Barbosa, Croatian winger Ivan Perisic, who provided one assist for last night's two-goal hero, Brazil-born Italian striker Eder.
Spalletti would do well to hang on to the likes of Perisic, who has been linked with Manchester United, but insists: "We are following our own path.
"We want to try to put a smile on our fans' faces this season. Some teams have already strengthened a great deal during the off season and that means the league will be tough with so much quality around.
"It will take good players, and we have those. It will take great effort and a lot of work, but we are all aware of the importance of this task.
"Those who are already here today will have to make the difference but, if the right opportunity arises (in the transfer market), we will be ready.
"But, if you look at the overall performance of the team last year, the team underperformed.
"I feel that each player can perform better this year and it should be the foundation of Inter moving forward.
"So far, I'm impressed by the players' availability.
"Everyone knows I'm transparent and straightforward. I have had a good reception and I can see that everyone is inspired to improve."