Diego Forlan's snub lacked tact

Samuel Eto'o was a hero among Inter Milan fans for sacrificing himself for the good of the team, something the Uruguayan striker could learn from, writes Ian Hawkey.

Diego Forlan was happier to carry out his coach's tactical decisions earlier this year. Claudio Villa / Getty Images
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During the brief chapter of Inter Milan's season when talk was of the Ranieri Revival rather than Claudio's Crisis, it looked as if the club might pull off a January coup by signing Carlos Tevez from Manchester City.

Inter, like AC Milan, felt tempted not only by the Argentine striker's many assets as a footballer, but because they thought a cut-price offer might secure the services of a man who had fallen out badly with the City manager Roberto Mancini after Tevez refused to warm up while on the substitutes' bench during an important fixture.

To do so is about the strongest heat-of-the-moment act of disobedience a professional can commit. Tevez had a rebel reputation before that; it worsened that evening as City lost to Bayern Munich.

Something of the same ilk seemed to have taken place on Sunday when Diego Forlan, the Inter striker who was among the substitutes against Atalanta, had a discussion with Ranieri in the second half of the goalless draw.

Forlan did not come on in the match, because, as Ranieri told reporters afterwards, he had declined to take up a wide position, implying that he would go on at centre-forward or not at all.

Forlan's account of what happened differs to Ranieri's in as far as the Uruguayan striker maintains there had been "a consultation with the coach about tactics" and "everything is fine with Ranieri. It's not true that I refused to go and play on the wing".

The disagreement is not as explosive as the Mancini-Tevez row, and Ranieri has already softened his account of it - "a conversation about tactics", he called it on Tuesday.

But the question of where the two individuals go from here still fascinates.

Ranieri needs a goalscorer of Forlan's calibre to hoist Inter out of their trough of form. But the player has had a frustrating time, notably with injuries, since he joined from Atletico Madrid in the summer to replace the departed Samuel Eto'o.

Eto'o was a San Siro hero, remembered among other things for his sacrifice in willingly playing in an unfamiliar wide-right position as Inter won the treble in 2010.

Forlan, twice a winner of the Golden Shoe, has not had Eto'o's impact. He also has a stubborn streak, as Al Ahli head coach, Quique Sanchez Flores, who had a testy relationship with Forlan at Atletico, would testify.

Sunday's incident puts him under special scrutiny at his latest club, one more prickly problem Ranieri did not need.

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