BARI, ITALY - JULY 21: Rodrigo Palacio of Inter celebrates after scoring the goal 2-1 during the match between FC Internazionale Milano and AC Milan as part of the TIM preseason tournament at Stadio San Nicola on July 21, 2012 in Bari, Italy. (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Inter Milan have made some changes over the summer, but are they enough to challenge for the scudetto? Or even a Champions League position?
At some point, Inter Milan are going to have to shed their old skin for a new shiny one, but they're just not ready to let go quite yet. There are a few new faces, yes, but they're still clinging to the old standbys of their former glory days. Can Stramaccioni coax the last bit of talent out of these aging legs?
6th, Serie A. Inter had one of those crazy seasons again, in which the supporters experienced both fear of relegation and hope for the Champions League. Of course, there was never a real fear of relegation, but it wasn't until the 14th round, when Inter jumped from 16th to 7th, that nerazzurri fans could breathe more easily. Oddly enough, this did not coincide with the sacking of Claudio Ranieri -- that happened in March, when Inter were in 8th. But Inter had just lost to Marseille in the Champions League and weren't on the verge of qualifying for the tournament, so Ranieri was out and Primavera coach Andrea Stramaccioni in.
Giampaolo Pazzini: In one of the weirder transfer stories of the summer, Pazzini went to AC Milan while Antonio Cassano came over to Inter. What's the point? Yes, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is gone, but Pazzini certainly won't be the one to replace him, not if the season he had last year is any indication (5 goals in 33 matches).
Diego Forlan: I'm not sure anyone who isn't a fan of Forlan's six-pack is sad that the Uruguayan left Inter for Internacional in Brazil. A nearly pointless pickup spurred by the success of Uruguay's 2010 World Cup campaign, Forlan had but 14 starts in the nerazzurri kit, earning just two goals in the process.
Lucio: The Brazilian defender has taken his bone-crunching tackles and constant histrionics off to Juventus, who apparently watched their backline in the Euros and realised their defence needed shoring up. But Lucio's been on the decline, and Inter might be glad to see his back.
Goran Pandev: Loaned to Napoli last season, the vesuviani have made the move permanent. Most were probably glad to see him leave Inter, but he managed to impress in Naples, and will have a starting role now that Ezequiel Lavezzi is enjoying life in Paris.
Antonio Cassano: Why? We're not sure either. But with Euro 2012 behind him and no real hope of landing in Italy's 2014 World Cup roster, maybe Cassano's ready for a break, particularly after last season.
Rodrigo Palacio: 19 goals for Genoa last season made the 30-year-old an attractive buy for a nerazzurri squad that tends toward the elders. But with Wesley Sneijder and Philippe Coutinho playing behind, Palacio might not have much glory.
Walter Gargano: A fresh loan pickup that also leaves folks scratching their heads, but this time they're wondering not why Inter picked up the midfielder, but why Napoli would be so foolish as to let him go. His performances last season were impressive, but now he'll be dogging his former teammates in the middle of the San Siro.
Samir Handanovic: It's rare a club would let an impressive shot-stopper and penalty-saver extraordinaire out of their grasp -- particularly when the club is playing Champions League football and the new one isn't. But then you remember Handy's former club was Udinese and it all makes sense again. Inter have a solid keeper to replace Julio Cesar and Udinese once again have spare change rattling in their pockets.
Fredy Guarin: The former Porto midfielder joined on loan last January, and Inter made the move a permanent one this summer. But the likes of the nerazzurri midfield mean he's not likely to be a regular starter.
Alvaro Pereira: Inter paid a decent amount for the services of the former Porto player, who was valued under Andre Villas-Boas but found himself consigned to the bench last season after a string of poor performances. A left-back, he's likely coming in to take some of the pressure off Javier Zanetti.
Matías Silvestre: On loan from Palermo to ease the pain of Inter's aging central defence.
Keep An Eye On
Philippe Coutinho. Signed by the nerazzurri in 2010, the youngster found himself in the starting XI at the beginning of last season before being sent to Espanyol to finish off the year. He managed five goals for the Catalan club before heading back to Milan where, one hopes, he'll become a regular for Inter. Coutinho manages to fit the stereotypes of Brazilians, all samba and dance moves, and he certainly is fun to watch. Like his elder counterpart in Inter's midfield, Coutinho is two-footed, small, and tricky. Perhaps Inter shouldn't be so worried about Sneijder's health?
Relegation? Champions League? Despite the rash of incoming signings, the nerazzurri still don't seem to have done quite enough to compete for one of those precious three slots. Then again, neither have their crosstown rivals. Inter could be back towards the top this season, but I'd place my bets on Europa, not Champions League