Inter stand by Leonardo
Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti defends coach despite shock 5-2 home loss to Schalke in Champions League.
Last Modified: 06 Apr 2011 14:51
Leonardo has the backing of club president Moratti - for now [AFP] 

Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti has insisted he is standing by Brazilian coach Leonardo in the wake of the Italian club's 5-2 home loss to Schalke 04 in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

The disastrous result in the first leg of the quarterfinals came three days after Inter lost to AC Milan 3-0 in a crucial derby, but Moratti said he still had faith in Leonardo.

Leonardo has endured a dire four days as the top-of-the-table derby clash saw them give up a five-point Serie A advantage to their bitter neighbours with just seven games to play.

And that of course was followed by the spectacular capitulation to Schalke in which they were humiliated 5-2, despite leading 2-1, leaving qualification in next week's second leg virtually out of reach.

In defence

To have had two such high-profile failures in quick succession one might have expected Leonardo to be in the firing line, but Moratti came out defending his coach.

"My estimation of Leonardo hasn't changed," Moratti told Inter's website.

"For me nothing has changed because I know how cruel football can be and you have to keep going without losing heart.

"I don't like helplessness. We'll go on as we are and we'll see what happens - we've won a lot playing like this and we will win more."

Moratti blamed fatigue after Inter, reeling from Saturday's derby loss, collapsed against Schalke.

"What I liked least was the tiredness in the team, you could see the players were struggling. That's not to blame them, but you could imagine that something like that might happen.

"The extent of the defeat did surprise me, but you could see how tired they were on Saturday and you can't recover in just a few days," added Moratti, who said he spoke to Leonardo after the game.

"In football you always have to start over, even from situations worse than this. In two games we were supposed to achieve so much and yet in two games we've undermined nearly everything, though nothing is definitive.

"It hasn't changed the essence of the team or the coach."

Uncomfortable reading

Such support may be admirable in a president, particularly from a country known for its football club owners' whose knee-jerk reactions make coaching a precarious profession.

But Leonardo knows that previous performances are counting against him.

At at the end of last season, having been essentially relieved of his duties as Milan coach after an unspectacular campaign that saw them finish third in Serie A and eliminated from Europe at the last 16 stage, Leonardo seemed to admit that he wasn't prepared for coaching at this level.

Six months later he was back in full-time employment at Inter replacing Rafael Benitez.

He began the new year with Inter well, with 11 wins in his first 13 league games at Inter and pulled the club back from a 13-point deficit to Milan to a mere two-point one ahead of the derby.

However, it is in the biggest matches that Leonardo has been found wanting.

As coach of Milan and Inter he has played three derbies, losing all three, scoring none and conceding nine goals.

He has played six Champions League matches at home, winning none and losing four times and his overall Champions League record is three wins, three draws and five defeats from 11 games.

And when things have counted the most - such as last season's second round against Manchester United and the last two games this season - his teams haven't just lost, they've been embarrassed.

Milan lost 7-2 on aggregate to United while his combined score against Milan and Schalke was 2-8.

Time will only tell for Leonardo.

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