Can Inter return to Champions League glory under Antonio Conte?
Background Image Via: Wikimedia Commons/Luigi Inter. CC BY 2.0.
There’s a wind blowing across Lombardy for fans of the Nerazzurri. It’s one that inspires belief and lofty expectations. Inter Milan is a revamped side with the resources and personnel to haul in silverware at season’s end. But how far can Inter ride this momentum?
A modern-day Inter fan will not forget the 2009/10 campaign. The Nerazzurri was simply devastating that year. They had a historic treble to show for it – a clean sweep of the Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League. Before the year was over, a FIFA Club World Cup was added to the collection.
A big part of Inter’s 2010 success was Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese won hearts in the blue side of Milan with his charisma and controversial persona. His departure to Madrid immediately after the Champions League title was secured was crippling to his closely-knit squad.
Since Mourinho left, the three-time European Champions have failed to reach the standards set by the former Chelsea gaffer. In nine years, the Nerazzurri has burned through 12 different managers. That’s an average of one different tactician every nine months.
When Chinese electronics retailer Suning Holdings took over the majority shares of Inter in 2016, it was a sign of good things to come for the Italian giants.
More than three years on, the anticipated trophies are yet to roll in. In fact, Inter is yet to threaten in the Serie A or in Europe. The Nerazzurri has managed two consecutive fourth-place finishes in the last couple of seasons, but that’s just it. No trophies to brandish.
Inter has started the 2019/20 campaign brilliantly due to two main reasons. Firstly, they brought in Antonio Conte – a serial winner who was ridiculed by Chelsea and has been gearing for a job for a year. There’s even talk of Conte-ball nowadays.
Conte’s contract is a juicy one. The former Juventus boss will earn a €12 million every season for three terms, including bonuses.
Secondly, Conte has been backed in the transfer market by the club. Per Transfermarkt, Inter spent €155 million in the market this summer. Top players signed include Romelu Lukaku, Matteo Politano and Valentino Lazaro.
With a proactive manager who has the tactical nous and winning mentality to grind out success, Inter has begun the Serie A campaign with a 100% record – going into a crunch tie against Juve. The Nerazzurri top the league with two points and are looking likely to break Juve’s vice grip on the Scudetto.
Inter’s fine form in Serie A is quite impressive. Truth be told, it’s a breath of fresh air for the Italian top tier. But there’s a bigger fish to fry for the Nerazzuri – you know it as the crème de la crème of club football.
The question is, can Conte push Inter back into Champions League euphoria?
Inter hasn’t started the Champions League as well as they have the Serie A. They’ve taken one point from their first two group stage games. It’s not looking good, given the Nerazzurri is pitted against Barcelona and Dortmund in Group F.
Regardless, teams will look at Inter’s squad and tactics and get the shivers. You only need to watch how Barcelona toiled to grind a 2-1 win against them at Camp Nou to understand that rhetoric. Inter boast a brutal attack and a watertight rear. If the Nerazzurri can survive their group of death, they really can kill anyone in the knockout stages. From then on it’s up to grit and luck.
Don’t forget, Inter Milan was the last Italian team to win the Champions League. With Antonio Conte in charge, don’t put it past them to repeat the feat.