Welcome to the SC Internacional End of Season Review of Season 2 in Top100. A short run down of how the Brazilian outfit got to where they are now – newly promoted back to Division 3 after a 3rd place finish.
Manager Robérto Downinho was appointed midway through season 1 with Inter languishing at the bottom of Division 3, but despite a full makeover on the team they failed to survive, including the sale of such veterans as Joan Roman Riquelme and Lisandro Lopez, and the arrivals of Odion Ighalo and Duarte Bernard.
Downinho however saw positive signs as his new team clawed back points during his first half season, but ultimately it was not enough and the club were relegated. Nevertheless the Chairman was pleased to offer Downinho another year to prove himself, who decided to keep faith in his assembly for season 2 in Division 4, knowing that players like Ighalo and Bernard could spearhead the attack and hopefully prove a threat in Division 4.
One of the problems however lay in depth, one good striker would simply not do. Downinho made the shrewd purchase of Congolese striker Cedric Bakambu from Hellas Verona for £10m. What was considered to be a relatively ‘safe’ buy at the time seems to be turning out to be a fantastic one given the player’s great form for Inter in Top 100 and for Villareal in real life (sorry to combine both realities). The striker was signed to be a strike partner for Ighalo and instantly made Inter’s attack more dangerous.
(Bakambu – major signing)
Another key addition at the beginning of the season was central midfielder Mirko Valdifiori for £5m + Nielton from external. Strengthening the backbone of the team was important to the Chairman and Downinho found the experienced Italian to fill the gap in the hope to create a more efficient midfield.
(Valdifiori – a leader in the midfield)
On with the football and Internacional were touted as relegation candidates by pre-season bookmakers. But they started the season brightly in the league with a few mixed results followed by a 4 game winning streak, with new signing Bakambu getting on the scoresheet a few times, and Bernard providing most of the assists from the wing. Early form seemed to become less consistant as Cup and Shield matches added to the schedule caused patchy performances.
Inter were knocked out of the Top100 Cup by their close league rivals Genoa, losing 2-0.
The Shield run however was slightly more successful, with Inter keen to attempt to make it their tournament after Downinho took the team to the final in the first season, only to lose to Real Madrid. This time Inter cruised past Cruzeiro and Sampdoria only to run into giants Bayern Munich in round 4. They gave their all but were inevitably knocked out, giving Downinho and his boys sole concentration on the league from then on.
Then came an impressive 8 game unbeaten streak to propel Internacional towards the top 3 amongst the likes of Genoa, Malaga, Atalanta and Southampton (to name a few), who remained strong challengers for promotion throughout. Inter even flirted with 1st place for a few rounds, but couldn’t capitalise as form began to drop again, causing Downinho to try new formations and player rotation. Still, Inter were there or there abouts in the chase for playoffs/promotion, a feat that seemed too good to be true at the start of the season. The attacking trio were of Ighalo, Bakambu and Bernard were clocking up the goals with other chipping in along the way.
As the season drew in on the last 10 games with Inter still looking well placed for the playoffs despite being such a close league, with 10 or more teams all looking like they could challenge for it. Inter’s form picked up again, setting a new club record with a run of 9 games unbeaten.
Despite being such an important stage of the season, a business opportunity arose as interest in winger Duarte Bernard grew due to his sparkling form, with 8 goals and 15 assists for the season. With 3 games to go, the clubs’s chairman accepted an offer from Fenerbahce for Bernard of 10m plus Paul-Georges Ntep and Bruno Alves.
(Star man Duarte, the offer too good to refuse)
Ntep, 23 year French winger, was seen as a great propect who would immediately fit in as Bernard’s replacement.
(Ntep with an immediate impact)
Alves, we all know is a hugely experienced centre back who is still a good player, will further strengthen the defence and backbone of the team.
(Alves, a great big brute of a CB)
Ntep scored and received man of the match on his debut with 3 games to go. A following draw in the penultimate game set up a grand finale against league leaders Southampton, who led 2nd placed Inter by a point, with Genoa and Malaga both close behind and gunning for automatic promotion. The winner of this game would be crowned Division 4 champions. Inter needed a bit of luck if not from their own game, then from the games of their close rivals.
But it was Mike Scalotti’s Southampton who easily beat Internacional on the final night 2-0, with Greg Billington’s Malaga being the unlucky team to drop points to secure Internacional a 3rd place finish for automatic promotion to Division 3! A huge achievement for Inter given the quality of teams in the Division, and their predicted mediocrity by the bookies.
Frank Hirst’s Genoa achieved 2nd place to go up. And just in… Udinese win the Division 4 playoffs to join the trio in promotion.
Here’s how our best performers did this season:
Bernard 8 goals 15 assists
Bakambu 9 goals 5 assists
Ighalo 10 goals 9 assists
Didavi 7 goals 2 assists
And here are Downinho’s players to watch, who could play a starring role in the club’s future:
Paul-Georges Ntep – 88 – age 23, a star player from Rennes and highly coveted amongst bigger clubs.
Becker Alisson – 87 – age 23 – now undisputed number 1 for the Brazil National team and a move to Roma all but done.
(Alisson, could one of the best GKs)
Cedric Bakambu – 87 – age 25 – a goal machine for Villarreal all season and is sure to get better. Clubs in Top100 are swarming for his signature, some even desperately making persistent enquiries for the club to sell. But Downinho insists he’s going nowhere, he’s tied to a contract to a club where he’s first choice. What more could he want? …
Odion Ighalo – a good season at Watford in the EPL, 16 goals.
(Ighalo, Downinho’s first great signing)
Gonzalo Escalante – 83 – age 23 – an ever present in the Eibar starting lineup in La Liga this season, gaining a great amount of experience.
(Escalante, almost unknown but one to watch)
Willi Orban – 83 – age 23 – a key figure at the monumental uprising of Germany’s RB Leipzig, gaining promotion to the Bundesliga. An important season ahead, could emerge as one of the Bundesliga’s consistant centre backs.
(Orban, next season could be the making of him)
Oliveira Andrigo – 75 – age 21 -just signed from Chievo, a great addition to the Inter youth team. Now a starter for Internacional in real life, will only get better.
(Andrigo, star in the making?)
Daniel Didavi – 87 – age 26 – has moved from relegated Stuttgart to Wolfsburg after an impressive season.
(Didavi, Stuttgart’s best by far, great season)
So what now for Internacional? Well with a huge reward of £20m gaining promotion, plus £10m received from Fenerbahce from the Bernard deal, and ultimately the sale of veteran defender and captain Humberto Rever, Inter have never been in a better position financially. The plan is to invest in the future by building a youth team, and also trying to strengthen the existing lineup to allow for the best chance of survival next season in Division 3. It’ll be tough, and Downinho will still bear the scars from last season’s relegation, but it’s a full season ahead with a capable team who have potential to improve themselves. The whole Internacional family, from the board of directors to the coaching staff are immensely proud of these players’ achievement and will be supporting them all the way!
THANK YOU FOR READING!