Soccer-Inter fans still searching for Thohir's project


Jan 9 (Reuters) - Inter Milan's new president Erick Thohir said after Monday's defeat to Lazio that the result would not alter his belief in the project for the club. His comments have left many Inter fans asking the same question: What project?

The Indonesian business tycoon was appointed as chairman of Inter Milan in November after his International Sports Capital bought a 70 percent stake in the club, ending Massimo Moratti's 18-year reign at the helm.

The purchase raised hopes of a new dawn for the team which has fallen on hard times following the heady heights of 2010 when they won a Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League treble under Jose Mourinho.

But since his takeover, very little has been heard about Thohir's plans, except that he will spurn the big-spending approach of Paris St Germain and Manchester City.

"We will buy players, but we're going to be careful with our spending," he told Gazzetta dello Sport shortly after taking charge.

"Our objective is financial restructuring, creating a club which is in sound financial health, as agreed with Moratti."

There was also a brief mention of a new stadium, which would be a huge improvement on sharing the increasingly run-down San Siro with AC Milan, but nothing concrete.

Thohir, who is part owner of Major League Soccer club DC United and NBA team the Philadelphia 76ers, flies to Milan from Indonesia for big games and usually limits his comments to platitudes about how he is looking forward to the match.

This has frustrated the local media, used to the old-fashioned method of door-stepping Moratti, who would oblige by feeding them almost daily quotes from the street in front of his office or out of his car window.

Supporters are hoping that the January transfer window will provide more clues and there are hopes that the new owners will take an Arsenal-style approach based on spotting and developing exciting young talent.

That would be a far cry from the present side where aging Argentina pair Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso still feature regularly and Rodrigo Palacio is often a lonely figure in attack.

Coach Walter Mazzarri hinted that Inter's priority would be to reduce the squad, rather than look for new players.

"We're a work in progress here because we have players who aren't featuring much and deserve to be playing more elsewhere," he said.

"We should aim first of all to use this transfer window to adjust the number of players we have in this squad so that we can train well, with others going out to get some experience under their belts or so that their value can increase.

"That's the sort of choice we need to make. People need to know what's going on."


Inter's 1-0 defeat at Lazio left them a modest sixth in the table, below promoted Hellas Verona and eight points behind third-place Napoli in the coveted Champions League playoff spot.

Their next Serie A match is at home to Chievo on Monday (2000), giving them a chance to make up some ground on Napoli, who have a much tougher fixture at Hellas Verona on Sunday (1400).

As the championship reaches the halfway mark, leaders Juventus (49 points) will be looking for their 11th successive win away to Cagliari on Sunday (1400) while AS Roma, eight points behind in second, host improving Genoa (1400).

Inter have managed only one win in six games, in the derby against AC Milan, since Thohir officially took over and his first visit to San Siro, for the 1-1 draw Sampdoria, coincided with a performance which Mazzarri described as the worst of the season.

Following the Lazio match, Thohir released a rare statement in reply suggestions that his comments about the game were a criticism of the team.

"It's natural to feel disappointed when you lose a match, but that's not the same as criticism," he said.

"I reiterate that winning or losing a game because of a single incident - when other incidents might have gone in our favour - will not alter our belief in this project.

"We will continue to work in the best interests of the team, the club and our fans."

In the meantime, Inter fans are still wondering what the project could be. (Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by John O'Brien)

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