Inter reached the top in 2009-10 – Jose Mourinho delivered an unprecedented Serie A, Champions League and Coppa Italia treble.
Still to this day, Inter remain the only Italian club to achieve the feat after claiming the Champions League for the first time in 45 years.
Not since 2010 had Inter got their hands on Scudetto, while the Nerazzurri until 2020 had gone eight consecutive Serie A seasons without a top-to-finish – and finished a campaign as low as ninth in 2012-13.
Step forward Antonio Conte.
Criticism was leveled at Inter when former Juventus CEO Giuseppe Marotta approached a Bianconeri big and rival to restore the club’s fortunes in Milan.
After an immediate improvement in 2019-20 – a second place in Serie A to run for the Europa League final and Coppa Italia semis – Conte delivered and broke Juve’s strangulation team on Italian football this season.
– Inter (@Inter_en) May 2, 2021
Inter’s victory ended a race of nine consecutive Scudetti for Juve, three of which were won by Conte when he was in charge of the Torino giants from 2011 to 2014.
“Those who played with Inter or have been coaches at Inter are aware that it is a complicated situation,” Conte told Sky Sport Italia in the middle of the selection. “You have to understand the different dynamics, sometimes play together, but never lose your identity, and I have never lost my identity.
“I think it was appreciated by those who had initially turned their noses at me because of my past. I was brought to Inter to bring it back to victory within three years and I did. ”
While there are four rounds left, Inter are starting to plan for 2021-22, and as a sea of blue and black shirts flood the streets of Milan, what’s next for Conte and his team?
Convince Conte of the future of Inter
Conte won his fourth Serie A title this season – only five other coaches in league history have managed at least four.
The former Italian boss is only the second coach in Serie A history to win a Scudetto with both Inter and Juve and join Giovanni Trapattoni, though his biggest achievement may just be the conversion of Christian Eriksen from flop on his way to a exit to Inter’s XI.
Conte ended Inter’s 11-year drought, and while many involved in the Nerazzurri hope it’s the start of a winning cycle, his future at the San Siro is still uncertain.
The 51-year-old has previously spoken out against the club’s hierarchy, particularly at the end of last season due to serious concerns that he would resign or be fired.
His position is back in the spotlight as he reportedly plans to meet with Inter president Steven Zhang.
Suning Holdings Group owns Inter after the Chinese company acquired a majority stake in the club in June 2016, but rumors persist that a sale could take place due to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Conte – who has never backed down from his views – is expected to be contracted until the end of next season, but he wants clarity on Suning’s position and whether he will be able to strengthen his team in the transfer window.
“We definitely focused on the present as this was too important to get it done and bring Inter back to win Scudetto after so many years,” Conte, who was also criticized for his football style, told Sky Sport Italia on Sunday. .
“The president has arrived now, there are four games left. Since I have more experience, I now also want to enjoy this moment, because in the past I got caught up in other problems and did not really enjoy it enough.
“There will be time to talk together, understand the situation, try to organize ourselves and see what comes out of it. For now, though, I want to enjoy this with the players, the club, the fans and everyone, because we have all earned this. I do not want anyone to disturb what we achieved. ”
While Marotta is hopeful about Conte’s future, it remains to be seen if he will be back to defend Inter’s crown.
Hold on to Lukaku
Inter’s uncertain financial position could affect Conte’s trusted talisman – Lukaku.
Like Conte, Lukaku arrived at Inter amid criticism and doubts about his ability to head the club. Rejecting a club record fee to reward the Belgian star from Manchester United in 2019 did little to lower expectations.
Lukaku scored 34 goals in his debut season at the San Siro, 23 of them coming in Serie A. The 27-year-old has well and truly silenced his critics again this season with 21 goals and 10 assists in the league so far.
Not since his last season at Everton has Lukaku attempted or completed several dribbles (97 and 52 in 2020-21), meaning he is once again heading towards goal, involved in 13 counter-attacks – his most since 2014-15. He also has 10 assists for the first time.
Still, Lukaku still takes the largest share of his hand in the box to date (18.3 percent), leading to a career-high 35 big chances.
From such positions, he can afford to waste 17 great chances and only net 16 goals without penalty from effort worth 16.8 xG, another new benchmark.
Lukaku now scores with a staggering 23.6 percent of his shots – making him the first Serie A player since 2004-05 to count 20 goals and 10 assists in the same season.
His holdings reportedly have Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City in line to take advantage of Inter’s financial situation and sign their precious asset.
Refusing to make money on Lukaku could go a long way in convincing Conte and shaping Inter’s future in the years to come.
| IM MILANO
– Inter (@Inter_en) May 2, 2021
Make a splash in the Champions League
Inter have built a strong side under Conte – Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi, Nicolo Barella, Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, Stefano Sensi, Ashley Young, Aleksandar Kolarov and Matteo Darmian, all taking part in the search for silverware.
But for all of Inter’s success this season, their Champions League campaign left a sour taste.
Inter – Europa League finalists in 2019-20 – looked on the right path to reach the Champions League last 16 in a group with Madrid, Borussia Monchengladbach and Shakhtar Donetsk. Instead, the 2009-10 winners finished at the bottom. Conte’s Inter also failed to make it out of the group last season, taking a back seat to Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
While Inter’s early Champions League exit helped their Scudetto charge during this period, the club and their fans want European joy.
Only twice since Mourinho’s treble-winning campaign – before a six-season absence in the Champions League – has Inter made it out of the group stage of Europe’s elite club competition.
Inter-legend Walter Zenga – considered one of the greatest goalkeepers ever after collecting 473 appearances for the Italian powerhouse – recently told Stats Perform News: “In Europe you play differently. In the Champions League you play completely differently, in the Champions League it looks like there are no tactics, only who is stronger.
“We are constantly thinking about tactics [in Italy] and this is our mentality. If you watch the game in the Italian league, it’s a very strong game, if you think it’s boring, in the stands it’s not boring, because if you’re involved, you have to take an aspirin after the match, because it’s so strong. If you watch the Spanish league, it seems that they play slowly, but when you play against the Spanish teams, [sometimes] you do not touch the ball because you do not know where they are.
“In Germany or in France it’s less interesting season, so when you play against them in the Champions League, you have to make a big effort because you think, ‘Oh in Germany there are only two teams, Bayern and Borussia Dortmund, it’s not competitive championship ‘and when you play against them you see that it is so strong.
“So it’s a question of mentality and everything. To win in Europe, in my opinion, you have to play to win. And probably you will find either clubs like Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, like this team, that if you read the lineup specifically at the top … the talent and the quality, the class is the difference in Europe. I do not know what is in the minds of Conte or Inter’s management, but in Europe I think you need world – class players. ”
Time to say goodbye to Handanovic?
With four games left, Inter – 13 points clear on the table – matched their points (82) and clean sheets (14) throughout last season as they finished one point behind Juventus.
Inter have the funniest defense in the league, as they have so far only conceded 29 goals in 34 games.
Samir Handanovic – a loyal Inter servant – has contributed a lot with 14 clean sheets, but the long-term goalkeeper looks set to decline.
Mistakes have crept into Handanovic’s game in the backend of this season. The 36-year-old, who came from Udinese in 2012, has three errors leading to goals, compared to just one last period.
Among the goalkeepers for the top seven clubs in the league in 2020-21, only Roma’s Pau Lopez registered more (four). By comparison, Milan star Gianluigi Donnarumma (two) and Juventus’ Wojciech Szczesny (one) are next on the list – Napoli’s David Ospina, Lazio striker Pepe Reina, Atalanta’s Pierluigi Gollini and reported Inter goal Juan Musso from Udinese have none to their name.
Among the same list, Handanovic has conceded the highest number of goals outside the box (five), while his three drop shots are only exceeded by Donnarumma and Reina (both four). In 2019-20, Handanovic finished with just three goals cashed outside the box and three drops.
Musso have emerged as a strong opportunity for Inter, and if they want to take the next step in Europe while averting a domestic challenge, it may be time to move on from Handanovic.
| IM SCUDETTO
– Inter (@Inter_en) May 2, 2021