Football: Leonardo Named As New Inter Milan Boss

25 Dec

ROME: Brazilian coach Leonardo was on Friday named as the new boss of European and Italian champions Inter Milan, taking over from the sacked Rafael Benitez.

“Leonardo has just signed a contract with Inter until June 30, 2012,” said a statement on the club's official website.

“Everybody at Inter wishes to welcome Leonardo. He will take charge from December 29 when training resumes. The club will make an announcement over the next few days regarding his official presentation.

“We are sure that with his class, experience and winning mentality the club and the team can achieve the results that everyone at Inter and all the Inter fans want to see.”

The 41-year-old Leonardo, who played in Brazil's 1994 World Cup winning squad and speaks five languages, spent a season in charge at AC Milan from 2009-2010 as successor to Chelsea-bound Carlo Ancelotti.

Inter sacked Benitez – who had only been in charge since the summer when he succeeded Jose Mourinho – on Thursday just days after the former Liverpool boss had guided them to the World Club Cup title.

Defending league champions Inter are currently seventh in Serie A, 13 points adrift of their bitter city rivals although they do have two games in hand.

Leonardo spent 12 years at AC Milan – four as a player, seven as part of the backroom staff and one as coach when he took the club to third place in the championship before leaving in the aftermath of a bitter fall-out with owner Silvio Berlusconi.

As well as attempting to boost Inter's league position, Leonardo also has a last-16 Champions League date against Bayern Munich on February 23 and March 15 in a repeat of last season's final.

Inter captain Javier Zanetti said the appointment of Leonardo was the right move.

“I know Leonardo well. He is a very intelligent person, someone who is always on the ball,” said Zanetti.

“He has a lot to give as a coach thanks to the experiences he gathered as a player and as a man.”

Media reports in Italy suggested that Leonardo, the fifth man to have coached both Milan clubs, will be paid around 2.5 million euros a year.

Benitez, who won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005, had only been in the Inter post since July after leaving Anfield by mutual consent.

But he failed to convince the Inter fans that he could repeat the success of Mourinho who secured the domestic double and the Champions League trophy last season.

Benitez had looked to have ensured he would stay in the post with Saturday's 3-0 World Club Cup final win over Tout Puissant Mazembe in Abu Dhabi and was warmly embraced by Inter president Massimo Moratti.

However, the 50-year-old used the post-match press conference to attack the Inter board over transfer policy, an outburst which eventually persuaded Moratti to seek a new man for the San Siro hotseat.

– AFP/de

Channel News Asia

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