By Brian Homewood
MILAN (Reuters) - Inter Milan, currently enduring their fifth straight season without Champions League football, are determined to establish themselves as one of the world's top 10 clubs, vice president Javier Zanetti told Reuters in an interview.
Zanetti, a former Inter captain who made a club record 858 appearances over 19 years, also said the club were committed to redeveloping the San Siro stadium along with neighbours and rivals AC Milan.
The Argentine played for Inter during one of their most successful spells, helping them win four successive Serie A titles and culminating in a league, cup and Champions League treble in 2010 under Jose Mourinho.
Since then, Inter have entered a period of instability coinciding with a decline in Serie A, which has been unable to keep up financially with the Premier League or La Liga.
The club has changed ownership twice, most recently last June when it was sold to Chinese retail giant Suning Commerce Group, and it has employed nine coaches since Mourinho's departure.
Currently seventh in Serie A, Inter are set to miss out on Champions League action again next term and have slumped to 44th in the UEFA club rankings, which are based on performances over five seasons. But Zanetti sees a better future.
"We were winning for seven years in a row so it was perfectly natural that (would end), at a time when the ownership changed twice in three years," he said.
"Now we are at the stage of trying to build an important team ... where the club wants to be in the best 10 in the world. That is what we are working for but you can't do that overnight. You need time, a strategic plan."
He said it was not just a case of the new owners trying to buy their way out of trouble.
"You do it by building a team with good players but also with human values and with planning," he said.
"If we also buy players in the future that will help...but we have to spend intelligently, choosing players who fit in with what we are looking for."
"The first thing we are looking to do is get back into (the Champions League), where we feel at home."
Rivals AC Milan's new Chinese owners have said they were planning to invest in a stadium. Zanetti said Inter would be happy to jointly renovate San Siro, possibly reducing its capacity to improve the atmosphere.
"Inter has been ready with the project for more than one year," he said. "I hope that this situation can be resolved quickly."
"San Siro is one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world and to remodel this stadium and bring new alternatives within the stadium would be a fundamental strategy for us," he added.
He said that Inter's fans could rest assured Suning would respect the club's traditions.
"Suning has great respect for the identity and history of the club and for that reason we are working together to get Inter back to the big competitions," he said.
Zanetti, who retired three seasons ago at the age of 40, said he was still learning the ropes in his new role.
"For me it's a big challenge and I thank the owners who have shown me a lot of confidence and made me an important part of the club," he said.
"As soon as I got to Inter (in 1995), I realised it was going to be my home. It's a club that for me has, is and always will be very important."
(Editing by Hugh Lawson)