By Kevin Koczwara
Life looks a whole lot better for Internazionale fans since Leonardo took over and Rafa Benitez let the San Siro door smack him in the rear. The Brazilian has lead Inter Milan to four consecutive league wins, helping the club jump from sixth to fourth in the table today after a 3-2 win over Cesena.
Inter Milan’s defense hasn’t been stalwart since Leonardo arrived — the club has yet to keep a clean sheet under the Brazilian — but he has injected a new life into an attack struggling to find an identity under Benitez. The Nerazzurri managed a meager 20 goals in 15 games under the Spaniard. Compared with Leonardo’s rejuvenated Inter Milan, which hasn’t scored less than two goals under Leonardo in his five games in charge, and one can see just how much stress has lifted from the squad. In fact, Inter has scored two goals once, three goals three times, and four goals once — an impressive run for a team that looked flat for much of the Serie A season.
Leonardo’s appointment and Inter Milan’s miraculous turnaround doesn’t mean the club will be crowned Serie A champions for a sixth straight time. But, this does mean the team has found its form again, and looks like it could be back on track. With one game in hand still, the Nerazzurri have a chance to start pushing its local rivals AC Milan for the first time this season, finally, because if Leonardo can get Inter to win that game then the gap will be a measly three points.
Who would have thought this a few months ago when Inter tied Lecce and lost to AC Milan and Chievo in three successive games in November? I know I wouldn’t have.
Late Bloomer Di Natalie Just Scores
Udinese occupies the eighth spot in the Serie A table with a 9-8-3 (30 points) record. The Bianconeri have scored 34 goals so far this season, and it comes as no surprise that almost half (so close!) of the team’s goals have come thanks to 33-year-old Antonio Di Natale. The Italian international has scored 14 of Udinese’s goals, leading Serie A.
Di Natalie has come into his own over the last few years — a little later in his career than most players perhaps. Last year the striker scored 29 goals in 35 games and assisted on six others, making him Serie A’s top-scorer last season. In the 08/09 season he scored 12 goals in 15 starts and seven substitution appearances, very solid numbers for a player with limited time to make an impact. In 08/09 he scored 17 goals and assisted on seven others in 35 appearances (33 starts). An impressive run for a player closing out his career, supposedly.
Di Natalie entered his 30’s and what is deemed at the twilight of most soccer players careers with a new vigor and enthusiasm. His goal scoring output has helped push Udinese towards the top of the table and helped them keep up with the likes of Inter Milan and AC Milan despite not having the same kind of financial backing.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at Kevin.Koczwara@thesoccerguysonline.com.