Mourinho suddenly not so special at Inter

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

As Jose Mourinho is finding out in a hurry, things are a little bit different at Inter Milan.

Unlike when he took over at Chelsea in 2004, Inter's stated goals for the season are not simply expectations. They are a blueprint for perfection.

Mourinho's early campaign achievements would appear to be respectable. He has taken the team to third place in the Serie A after 10 matches and has a spot in the UEFA Champions League last 16 seemingly under control.

So why then is all the Mourinho-related talk in Italy about the level of pressure the boss is under just a few months into his new job? The problem lies in the level of success Inter fans have become accustomed the past few seasons.

While AC Milan, Juventus and Fiorentina were heavily punished and left to wallow in the reflected embarrassment of the 2006 Italian match-fixing scandal, Inter got busy racking up three straight Serie A titles. Even that, though, was not enough to save former chief Roberto Mancini, who was axed for failing to deliver the European Cup, which Inter last won in 1965.

Mourinho's task was to bring that prize, as well as cruising to yet another domestic title. However, the early signs have been far from convincing.

Saturday brought a victory at bottom side Reggina but only after an injury-time winner from Ivan Cordoba. That was preceded by two consecutive 0-0 draws in league play – the first time Inter has been involved in two straight stalemates in more than five years. Also, an earlier defeat to hated rivals AC Milan in the city derby did little to inspire ultimate faith in the hardened and hungry fans of Inter.

The summer signings of Ricardo Quaresma and Sulley Muntari for a combined total of around $50 million were expected to raise the team's play, but neither player has stood out so far. Mourinho has done little to help himself, too, alienating the influential Milan media by either refusing to talk to them or coming across as aloof.

An unlikely defeat to Anorthosis Famagusta in the Champions League on Tuesday would see the knives sharpened further. Mourinho needs to discover the magic that brought him Chelsea glory. Quickly.

1. Get him an Advil

Despite what he says in public, Real Madrid chief Ramon Calderon is still desperate to sign Cristiano Ronaldo – and everyone in soccer knows it.

However, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson fended off interest in Ronaldo from the Spanish giants last summer and is on a mission to do so again.

Ferguson gave a strong signal of intent this week by coming out firing against Madrid, highlighting their history as "General Franco's club" and describing Calderon's behavior as "arrogant" and "ridiculous."

One thing is for certain – if Calderon does manage to finally get his man in January or next summer, it will only be after a fierce psychological battle with, in Ferguson, one of sport's most savvy mental warriors.

2. Get him a beer

Jozy Altidore scored his first ever La Liga goal Saturday, finding the net for Villarreal just 17 seconds after coming on as a late substitute away to Athletic Bilbao.

Altidore netted the fourth goal in a 4-1 win that kept up Villarreal's outstanding early season form. And before you point out that the United States international is only a few days shy of his 19th birthday, remember that the drinking age in Spain is 18.

3. Get them some earplugs

Major League Soccer referees have grown accustomed to being on the receiving end of David Beckham's angry arguments, but things could get even worse next season. Beckham finally lost all patience with the officiating after the Los Angeles Galaxy's season ended, launching into an impassioned rant against MLS refs.

But at least things might be looking up. "Things have to get better," explained Beckham. "Because they can't possibly get any worse."

4. California dreaming

The Chicago Fire has put itself in good shape for a deep run in the MLS Cup playoffs after securing a 0-0 draw with the New England Revolution in the first leg of their Eastern Conference semifinal.

Cuauhtemoc Blanco and company should be too strong for an injury-hit Revs in the Windy City, and the Fire looks tough enough defensively to go all the way to the MLS Cup final in Southern California on Nov. 23.

5. Catch a flight to …

Nicosia. Anorthosis Famagusta faces one of the biggest nights in its history as Inter Milan comes to visit Tuesday.

The little club from Cyprus has been magnificent so far in the Champions League and has a real chance of making the last 16 after collecting four points from three games. They did themselves huge credit in losing only 1-0 in Milan two weeks ago and will be fired up for what promises to be a huge occasion for both the club and the island.

6. A round of applause for …

• Kim Jong-Il – While it is impossible to support the policies of North Korea's communist dictator, at least he seems to be a fan of the beautiful game. Photos released by North Korea's state-run media agency last week claim to show Kim taking in a match between two army teams.

• Savo Milosevic – The Serbian striker's last-minute winner sealed a first-ever Russian league championship for FC Rubin Kazan. Following Zenit St. Petersburg's triumph in 2007, it is the first time in more than 15 years that the champion has come from outside Moscow in consecutive seasons.

7. Get them a Kleenex

• Seth Stammler – The influential New York Red Bulls midfielder is out for the rest of the season with a torn meniscus. He will be sorely missed as Juan Carlos Osorio's side tries to upset the defending MLS champion Houston Dynamo.

• Curt Onalfo – The Kansas City Wizards coach was just seconds away from taking an advantage to Columbus for their Eastern Conference semifinal second leg, but a defensive lapse allowed Steven Lenhart to equalize deep into injury time.

• Preki – Chivas USA was also poised for a valuable away draw before Real Salt Lake stole their first-leg tie 1-0 thanks to Yura Movsisyan's 90th-minute winner.

8. Get ready to say hello to …

Alessandro Del Piero. Really, I hear you say? Well, the rumors linking the Italian superstar with a switch to Toronto FC continue to grow, implausible as it may seem. Del Piero would be an incredible coup for the Canadian club, but surely he will see out his career with his beloved Juventus, right?

9. Get ready to say goodbye to …

Scott Sealy. The San Jose Earthquakes forward wants to try his luck in Europe after a productive MLS campaign. San Jose could afford to offer him a raise from his current $35,000-a-year salary, but it would still not be enough to compete with likely offers from Italy and Holland.

10. Get excited about …

Sergio Aguero. The brilliant young Argentine has been touted as an emerging superstar ever since he signed for Atletico Madrid in 2006. However, his performances this season have been nothing short of sensational and his two goals against Mallorca last weekend provided further evidence that the 20-year-old is now one of the elite players on the planet.

11. Why it's good to be a soccer player

British actress Gemma Atkinson seems to be fond of soccer stars. The former girlfriend of Cristiano Ronaldo is now engaged to Birmingham City striker Marcus Bent.

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