The struggling Italian giant parted ways with manager Claudio Ranieri on Monday, replacing him with Andrea Stramaccioni. But all signs point to Villas-Boas taking over in the summer, and it would be a wise move for all concerned.
It was only in September that Ranieri inherited a mess from the fired Gian Piero Gasperini. But the 60-year-old was given his walking papers after just 35 games in charge. A dreadful run of form saw Inter win one, draw three and lose six of its last 10 Serie A games. "The Tinkerman" also oversaw the club's exit from the Italian Cup and, most unforgivably, its exit from the UEFA Champions League at the hands of Olympique Marseille.
Owner Massimo Moratti gave Ranieri the dreaded "vote of confidence" last week, sealing the well-traveled manager's fate. Sunday's 2-0 loss to Juventus was simply the final straw. The 12 league defeats Inter has suffered this season is one shy of the club record that was set in 1947-48.
So Moratti promoted Stramaccioni from the youth team to lead the senior team for the final nine games of the season. Stramaccioni, 36, only joined the club (from AS Roma) at the start of the season, and there's no way he'll be offered such a high-profile job on a permanent basis.
It's also unlikely that the oil tycoon, Moratti, is holding any grand illusions about what can be salvaged from this lost season. Inter is in eighth place — ten points behind third-place Lazio, who hold the final UEFA Champions League qualification spot. AC Milan will probably be the only club playing European games (of any sort) at the San Siro next season.
To say Inter Milan is a team in need of a transition is an understatement. Its squad consists of several highly paid (and highly influential) veterans whose best years are behind them. Does this sound familiar? It should.
Barring some sort of miracle drive up the standings, Stramaccioni, who the Italian papers have taken to calling "the Italian Andre Villas-Boas," will steer the battered ship into port and give up control in May … to the real Villas-Boas.
Earlier this month, Goal.com reported the former Chelsea manager's representatives were engaged in serious discussions about the Inter job. Villas-Boas was one of Jose Mourinho's assistants from June 2008-October 2009. He reportedly made a favorable impression on Moratti and several veteran players in those 10 months in Milan.
Villas-Boas' Chelsea nightmare, which ended March 4, can serve as a source of great strength in his Italian advanture. The 34-year-old ran afoul of the veteran clique at Stamford Bridge, and his project was sunk before it ever got started. If and when he assumes the Inter role, he'll do well to avoid making the man-management errors that doomed his reign at Chelsea.
The Portuguese tactician should go out of his way to coddle the likes of Julio Cesar, Maicon, Christian Chivu, Esteban Cambiasso, Dejan Stankovic and Diego Milito. Make them feel needed. But when the time is right, he must gracefully push them out the exit door and dignity allow them to keep their dignity intact. After all, this group formed the core of a team that captured the UEFA Champions League in 2010. It was only Inter's first European conquest since 1965.
Of all Inter players, Javier Zanetti is the most important to the next manager. The 38-year-old is a club icon, and showing him the respect he deserves will create both time and breathing space. It will keep the demanding supporters on the manager's side, and allow him leeway to make unpopular, but necessary, decisions regarding other senior players.
Most things are easier the second time around, including managing Chelsea's transition from one era to the next. Years from now, Villas-Boas might look back and smile at the harsh lessons his time in West London taught him. For they may lead to a far more distinguished managerial career than he could have ever imagined.