Roberto Mancini has never been one to shirk a challenge – but his latest undertaking is, in his own words, his “biggest.”
The Italian returned to Inter Milan in November 2014 to have a second crack at the job, with the club’s fortunes having plummeted since his previous stint at the San Siro ended in May 2008.
Mancini won three league titles in his first spell in charge as well as two Italian Cups in 2005 and 2006 as his Inter side dominated Serie A.
His success paved the way for Jose Mourinho to lead Inter to the league, cup and European Champions League treble in 2010.
But times have changed for the “Nerazzurri,” with Juventus now Italy’s dominant team after winning three successive league championships and being set to make it four this season.
“To come back to Inter is the biggest challenge,” Mancini told CNN.
“It’s not easy at this moment. It’s not easy because we are working very well, but the results are so-so, and, you know, Inter is a top club.
“The supporters want to win every game. At this moment it’s difficult, and this is a very big challenge for me.”
Mancini’s challenge is immense – his side is ninth in Serie A and is 10 points off the final Europa League place, which is occupied by Napoli.
It is two places below its great rival, AC Milan, and has already fallen out of European competition following a defeat by German side Wolfsburg.
Since Mourinho left the club in 2010, six other men have attempted to steer Inter back to the top of Italian football but none have enjoyed success.
Mancini is not fooled by the size of task he faces.
“When I accepted this I knew that it was very difficult,” he added.
“I think that when we win again, I think that we’ll be better than 2004 (when he first took charge).
“When you come back to Inter for the second time and we’re able to win again, then I think that will be good.”
Much has changed since Mancini left the club seven years ago. The owner is now Erick Thohir – an Indonesian businessman who purchased a 70% stake in November 2013 from Massimo Moratti, who had owned the club since 1995.
Thohir also has a stake in the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers as well as an interest in Major League Soccer franchise DC United in Washington.
“I think that they are different owners,” Mancini said
“I think that Mr. Thohir’s mentality is totally different from Mr. Moratti because, you know, for Mr. Moratti, Inter is something special because Inter was his family for many years.
“I think that for Mr. Thohir it’s different, his mentality is maybe very close to the English owner or the owner that has clubs in England.
“I think that probably in this moment, his mentality will be good because I think like this he can build a top club in the next two or three years.”