The world may not be enough for beleaguered Rafa Benitez

Rafa is in a whole heap of doo-doo.

When Jose Mourinho left Inter Milan for pastures new in the summer, few could have predicted such a downturn in fortunes for the reigning European champions.

The Portuguese manager led the Nerazzurri to an unprecedented treble last season, with the UEFA Champions League complementing the previously secured Serie A title and Coppa Italia crown.

Inter became the first Italian club to achieve the feat and even procured their fourth trophy of the year after beating Roma in the final of the Supercoppa Italiana in August.

Since then, though, things have gone dramatically downhill.

After five consecutive Serie A triumphs, Inter currently lie seventh in the standings and are 13 points behind leaders AC Milan.

Not the ideal preparation for a tilt at their fifth trophy of 2010, the FIFA Club World Cup.

Despite recent poor form, the reigning European champions are able to head to Abu Dhabi with a glut of international superstars.

Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto’o leads the Inter line with aplomb, while Holland international Wesley Sneijder acts as the side’s inspiration playmaker, alongside a South American core that includes Julio Cesar, Lucio, Maicon, Esteban Cambiasso, Diego Milito and Javier Zanetti.

With such strength and depth, the latter has backed the Nerazzurri to triumph in Abu Dhabi.

Zanetti has won a hoard of trophies and personal accolades during his 15 years with Inter and insists that, despite their recent blip, he can add the Club World Cup to his medal haul.

“The atmosphere’s always been the same,” said the 37-year-old full-back, now in his 15th year with the club. “We’re like one big family that’s enjoying life and wants to keep on winning things, starting with the Club World Cup.

“Everyone’s got an important role to play here and we all do our bit, no matter which country we come from.

“As for me, well I’ve been here a long time and like all real Inter fans, I think I’ve earned the right to enjoy and savour everything we’ve achieved after so much suffering.

“I never [lost hope of playing in the Club World Cup, though],” he added. “Obviously I knew it would be difficult because you have to win the UEFA Champions League just to qualify.

“All the same, I felt Inter’s time would come sooner or later and I’ve been proven right.”

Dutch international Sneijder echoed his captain’s sentiments, adding that he too has set his sights on glory in Abu Dhabi.

“My heart is in Milan,” he said in the run-up to the 2010/11 season. “With Inter last season, I won everything in sight.

“But there are some great prizes still to be won, like the European Super Cup, the Supercoppa Italiana and the Club World Cup.”

Defeat to Atletico Madrid in the European Super Cup means that just two out of the three prizes are still within his grasp, although much will depend on the managerial situation in the build-up to the competition.

Inter’s poor domestic form and floundering performances at continental level has led to rife speculation that manager Rafael Benitez could be dismissed if results do not improve rapidly.

Club president Massimo Moratti has been vociferous in his calls for improvements, although insisting the Spaniard still has backing.

But should the club fall farther behind in the title race and fail to win their Champions League group, Inter may well head to Abu Dhabi in managerial turmoil.


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