Without Eto'o, Inter's season full of questions

Without Eto'o, Inter's season full of questions

Published Aug. 22, 2011 8:50 a.m. ET

Samuel Eto'o's sudden departure has left Inter Milan in a state of flux for the start of the Serie A season.

It's not just Eto'o's scoring touch that Inter will miss - the Cameroon international led the club with 37 goals in all competitions last season - it's also his ability to involve teammates near the goal.

After a 2-2 draw with Greek club Olympiakos in a preseason friendly Sunday, new coach Gian Piero Gasperini acknowledged that forwards Giampaolo Pazzini and Diego Milito can't pick up the slack alone.

''Milito and Pazzini are fine at center forward, but we need wingers, because that's where the offensive action is created,'' Gasperini said, adding that he would like the club to sign ''at least two or three'' more players before the transfer window closes Aug. 31.


Inter is eyeing Diego Forlan of Atletico Madrid, Ezequiel Lavezzi of Napoli or Carlos Tevez of Manchester City as a replacement for Eto'o.

''Of course I'm sorry to see Eto'o go, because he's a great player, but Inter eventually will be just as strong without him,'' Gasperini said, with Eto'o's transfer to Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala all but official.

Gasperini himself was only hired by Inter in June after previous manager Leonardo unexpectedly left for an executive position with Paris Saint-Germain. He became Inter's fourth manager over the space of little more than a year.

After guiding Inter to the Champions League title in 2010, Jose Mourinho bolted to Real Madrid, and his replacement Rafa Benitez lasted just half a season, as did Leonardo.

Gasperini likes to employ a three-man defense with his preferred 3-4-3 formation. His first-choice defensive line appears to be Walter Samuel and Andrea Ranocchia flanking center back Lucio.

Right back Maicon will miss the first month of the season following right knee surgery and reserve playmaker Coutinho will need time to recover after helping Brazil to the under-20 World Cup title Saturday.

New signings thus far include right back Jonathan from Santos and Argentine playmaker Ricardo Gabriel Alvarez from Velez.

After months of transfer speculation, playmaker Wesley Sneijder appears set to stay with Inter, and 38-year-old captain Javier Zanetti is entering his 17th season with the club.

Against Olympiakos, Inter dropped behind 2-0 before Pazzini scored two goals to equalize after the Greek side was reduced to 10 men.

In its first official match of the season, Inter was beaten 2-1 by AC Milan in the Italian Super Cup in Beijing earlier this month. Sneijder gave Inter the lead with a perfectly placed free kick, but Milan responded with goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kevin-Prince Boateng.

Inter opens Serie A against Lecce at the San Siro on Sunday. Perhaps the club will have a replacement for Eto'o before its second match at Palermo two weeks later.