The 2020/21 campaign is the gift that keeps on giving.
Serie A viewers had been left reeling from the shock of seeing a team other than Juventus win the Scudetto for the first time in a decade, while simultaneously licking their lips at the prospect of a royal rumble between Inter coach Antonio Conte and new AS Roma boss Jose Mourinho.
Without doubt, the Portuguese guru’s arrival was expected to be the biggest managerial move we’d see over the Italian summer. Except, it wasn’t. Less than a week after celebrating I Nerazzurri’s first league title in 11 years, Conte walked away from San Siro, breaking the hearts of players and fans alike.
The Italian decided that he couldn’t work within the restraints of selling €100m of talent and reducing the club’s wage bill by 20% in the upcoming transfer market, and without a moment’s hesitation, he upped and left.
Inter’s owners saw this nuclear bomb plummeting from the sky from a mile off, and were equally as efficient in appointing his replacement. Much to the dismay and ire of SS Lazio supporters, Steven Zhang hand-picked Aquile bandiera Simone Inzaghi as Conte’s successor, and after some um-ing and ah-ing, the Lazio boss swapped Rome for Milan.
Inzaghi had initially agreed to put pen to paper on a new deal with the Eagles, having been convinced by club president Claudio Lotiito that his future lay at Stadio Olimpico. Less than 24 hours later, Inzaghi went back on his word, leaving Lotito with a half-signed contract in his hand, and making supporters feel very foolish, having praised him for his loyalty only hours before.
But perhaps Inzaghi’s change of heart stemmed from the fact he’d realised he is the perfect man to step into Conte’s shoes and steady this ticking time bomb of a ship.
Tactically, there is no one more suitable to picking up from where his predecessor left off. Conte is the 3-5-2 king, and by the time winter 2020 came around, he had fine-tuned his Inter players into the perfect portrayers of this system.
Each and every star looked at complete ease in their role within the side, thus transforming them into the relentless machine that couldn’t stop steamrollering teams. If you’re looking for continuity on the pitch, hiring a coach with similar principles and ideas is essential.
That’s where Inzaghi comes into play. His Lazio side have perfected the 3-5-2 formation over the past five years, and he has been able to prolong the careers of several misfits by moulding them into his effective style of play.
Like Conte, Inzaghi’s wing-backs play a huge role in helping the team progress up the pitch, so the likes of Ivan Perisic will not have to worry about having their wings clipped under their new coach.
The other huge tick next to Inzaghi’s name is his track record of working on a shoestring budget. Lotito is known for rarely sticking his hand in his pocket to splash the cash, and so the former Lazio boss was forced to make use of the limited tools at his disposal in the Italian capital.
The steady progression throughout the years was evidence enough of his ability to improve players, convince stars to buy into his ideas, and outperform expectations season upon season. Even with a limited transfer kitty and clear gaps in talent throughout the squad, Inzaghi was able to deliver on a consistent basis – and even brought home silverware in the form of the Coppa Italia.
So, what will he be able to do with a team set up in exactly the same way, only with a major increase in quality in almost every position? For Inzaghi, it’ll be like being handed the keys to the front door of his childhood house, only to discover that each and every room has undergone a stunning makeover – and there’s a hot tub in the garden, too.
Inter will be equally as delighted to have landed their primary target. Inzaghi arrives with similar methods to Conte, a promising track record for success, and all on a much smaller salary – with a much less divisive personality to boot.
The Lazio icon knows what it’s like to work in trying conditions, and will not be fazed by the prospect of having to sell one or two players in order to financially survive the summer. So with or without the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez, Nicolo Barella or Achraf Hakimi, Inazghi can still make this work.
For Inter supporters of course, this was not how the title-winning summer should have started.
They’ll still be devastated at the departure of such a great coach, but they can take comfort in the fact that while they mourn the loss of Conte, life after the Italian is already under way.
Inzaghi has earned his crack at a realistic Serie A title challenge over the past half-decade, and he couldn’t have stepped into a club more prepared for success than I Nerazzurri.