Roberto Mancini, left, realises the European
campaign is over [AFP]
Roberto Mancini is Inter Milan's most successful coach in the last 40 years, but it wasn’t enough for him to keep his job.

Mancini has unexpectedly said he would resign at the end of the season, making the announcement immediately following a 1-0 home defeat to Liverpool that eliminated Inter from the European Champions League and sent the Reds to the quarterfinals.

"The next two and a half months will be my last as the manager of the team,'' Mancini said during a post-match press conference.

"This is a decision that I had already taken and has nothing to do with the defeat to Liverpool.''

Inter has a six-point lead in Italy's Serie A with 11 games left to play in a season that ends in May.

With Mancini at the helm, Inter has won the last two Italian league titles though the crown two years ago came after league-leader Juventus was stripped of the scudetto in a match-fixing scandal, and last year Juventus was in Serie B while crosstown rival AC Milan began the season with an eight-point penalty in the standings.

Mancini, who had a successful career as a striker for Bologna, Sampdoria and Lazio, joined as Inter's manager in 2004 and led the squad to the Italian Cup title in his first year.

He followed that with the two scudettos to end a 17-year drought for Inter.

"We have just been eliminated form the Champions League and it's a big delusion for everybody,'' Inter striker Julio Cruz said regarding Mancini.

Inter president Massimo Moratti declined to comment.

Mourinho linked

Meanwhile, former Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho has been installed as the Italian media's favourite to replace Mancini.

Earlier this term Italian media reports said Inter owner Massimo Moratti had held informal talks with Mourinho but the club and the former Chelsea manager denied it.

Mourinho, who left Chelsea in September, did say he admired Moratti for his work at the Italian champions.

"I respect him very much as a person that loves football and his club deeply," Mourinho told Gazzetta dello Sport last week.

Jose Mourinho has already been linked to
the Inter Milan role [AFP]
"However, I have never talked with him."

Media reports have said Mancini also indicated he would not manage in Italy again.

However, Inter midfielder Esteban Cambiasso has cast doubt on the announcement despite Mancini sounding definite.

"As far as I know, he said 'probably', so there's no need for reactions or comments in the heat of the moment," he told reporters.

Moratti has yet to make a comment and he may try to talk Mancini out of it.

The coach said his decision was not because of the Liverpool defeat and media reports could only speculate about why he should want to walk away with a four-year contract remaining and Inter six points clear in Serie A.

Another early Champions League elimination clearly hurts while he may have become unsettled by the earlier reports linking Mourinho with a job that was not then available.

Mancini, who took over in 2004, may also be bored after Inter romped to the Italian title last season and have only had AS Roma as challengers this term.

Other candidates

If his decision is definite, Fiorentina's Cesare Prandelli would also be a candidate to take over while Liverpool's Rafael Benitez has had his problems with the club's owners this season.

The Spaniard gave the usual line of being happy at Liverpool when asked in Tuesday's post-match news conference if Inter appealed.

Inter may have to move fast if Mourinho is their first choice.

The colourful tactician has been linked with Barcelona and AC Milan, whose respective coaches Frank Rijkaard and Carlo Ancelotti are under pressure after disappointing seasons.

Source: Agencies