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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 October, 2003, 22:17 GMT 23:17 UK
Cuper fails Italian test
By Martin Richardson

Hector Cuper
  • 1993-95 Huracan
  • 1995-97 Lanus
    Conmebol Cup winners 1997
  • 1997-99 Real Mallorca
    Spanish Cup runners-up 1998
    Super Cup winners 1998
  • 1999-2001 Valencia
    Super Cup winners 1999
    Champions League runners-up 2000, 2001
  • 2001-2003 Inter Milan
    Serie A runners-up 2003
    Champions League semi-finalists 2003
  • Hector Cuper was left nursing the wounds of his first failure as a manager on Sunday after being sacked by Inter Milan.

    The Argentine had been under pressure since a defeat in the Milan derby two weeks ago, and a 2-2 draw at Brescia on Saturday proved the final straw for club president Massimo Moratti.

    From the outside Cuper's record at Inter may seem more than respectable, with league finishes of third and second as well as two European semi-finals, but unrest has been brewing in Milan for quite some time.

    As well as failing to bring any silverware to the club in his two-year tenure, Cuper leaves few friends behind at the San Siro.

    Fans and players alike have bemoaned Cuper's supposedly negative tactics, despite the consistent results on the pitch.

    Real Madrid and Brazil striker Ronaldo has not been slow to criticise the man who he believes forced him out of Inter a year ago.

    "I speak as an Inter fan when I say I hoped this coach would go as soon as possible," the World Cup winner said on hearing of his dismissal.

    I like my teams to play attacking football but I'm not going to commit suicide or give the opposition presents
    Hector Cuper
    Despite his excellent record, especially in European competition, since he came to Europe in 1997, Cuper's supposed lack of flair has proved a constant bind.

    After a reasonably successful career as a central defender in Argentina, where he won two league titles and five international caps, Cuper built his managerial reputation at Huracan and Lanus.

    Both modest-sized clubs, Cuper guided them to respectable league finishes and won Lanus their first ever honour in 1997 in the shape of the Conmebol Cup, the South American equivalent of the Uefa Cup.

    He then moved over to Spain and newly-promoted Real Mallorca, whom he took to the Spanish Cup final in his first season, losing on penalties to champions Barcelona, and the European Cup-Winners Cup final the following year.

    Mallroca also qualified for the Champions League in that season but Cuper joined Valencia and took them all the way to the final of that competition, where they lost 3-0 to Real Madrid, and was named Uefa coach of the year for 2000.

    Cuper repeated the feat a year later as Valencia lost the Champions League final on penalties to Bayern Munich.

    But after failing to recreate the flowing attacking football of the previous season's campaign the manager came under fire from the club's fans.

    "Something is obviously missing," he admitted at the time.

    "Valencia fans demand more risks and entertainment, but what is spectacle? I like my teams to play attacking football but I'm not going to commit suicide or give the opposition presents."

    Perhaps disillusioned by the lack of support from the stands, Cuper refused an extension to his contract and accepted the position at Inter as successor to Marco Tardelli.

    Cuper could have cemented his place in San Siro folklore in his first season in charge, but defeat in the final game of the season to Lazio saw the Scudetto cruelly snatched away by Juventus.

    Hector Cuper
    Cuper's reputation had been built at smaller clubs
    Second place in Serie A last season, once again behind Juventus, extended Inter's title drought to 14 years.

    After a Champions League semi-final defeat on away goals to neighbours AC Milan, rumours were rife that Cuper's time was up.

    With Moratti's number one choice as replacement, Roberto Mancini, still tied to Lazio for another year, Cuper was granted a stay of execution and, despite the sale of Hernan Crespo to Chelsea, was allowed to invest in Andy van der Meyde and Kily Gonzalez.

    But discontent soon arose in the new season as former player Luigi di Biagio criticised the way he had left the club in the summer and talented Uruguayan Alvaro Recoba was sacrificed to Cuper's rigid tactical system.

    Defeat in the fifth league game of the season to Milan, following two 0-0 draws to lesser opposition, exposed Inter's lack of creativity and when they failed to beat Brescia at the weekend Moratti swung the axe.

    The nerazzurri fans will be pleased with Cuper's replacement, Alberto Zaccheroni, who, despite winning Serie A with AC Milan in 1999, is a self-confessed, life-long Inter fan.

    Cuper will no doubt find employment at the top of the game thanks to his excellent credentials.

    But this sacking marks his first failure in management and whether he will change his coaching principles to please the fans in the future remains to be seen.

    Zaccheroni replaces Cuper
    19 Oct 03  |  Other European

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