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Simone Inzaghi leads Inter to the Serie A title: from almost sacked to winning the Scudetto in one season



Simone Inzaghi leads Inter to the Serie A title: from almost sacked to winning the Scudetto in one season

A year ago, more or less, Inter fans widely asked the club to fire Simone Inzaghi. My how things have changed. It was thanks to the 2022/23 Champions League season that led to a loss to Manchester City in the final that the Italian manager was able to keep his job despite a disappointing season in Serie A. Inter won both legs of the Champions semi-finals League against AC Milan, a moment that, it turns out, was a decisive turning point in Inzaghi’s career at Inter. A year later he celebrated his first title as head coach and the twentieth in the club’s history.

The former Lazio manager knew he had to deliver this season despite having to deal with multiple summer substitutions. He knew that despite what had happened in the last two seasons, with Inter winning the Supercoppa Italiana three times and the Coppa Italia twice, the Italian giants were being asked to win another major trophy: the Scudetto. It wasn’t easy, and coming into the season few believed Inter were as strong as they showed during this campaign. But Inzaghi never hesitated.

Building a title-winning team

Step by step, Inter started from scratch again, after the club decided to unleash a revolution last summer. Andre Onana was sold to Manchester United for around €55 million and midfielder Marcelo Brozovic to Al-Nassr for €18 million. In one summer, Inter did not sell or renew the contracts of at least four regular starters, plus Romelu Lukaku. Inter withdrew from the race to sign Lukaku from Chelsea this summer after the player held initial talks with Juventus over a possible transfer. The Nerazzurri decided to sign Yann Sommer from Bayern Munich for €6 million to replace Onana, but made the main investments in midfield. Former Sassuolo player Davide Frattesi joined the Italian giants in a deal worth around €35 ​​million and also Benjamin Pavard from Bayern Munich for a similar fee after Milan Skriniar joined PSG as a free agent. Inter have, as always, also worked to sign a number of free agents, most notably Marcus Thuram, who arrived early in the summer to replace Edin Dzeko and opted to join Inter over AC Milan.

The job wasn’t easy, but he was able to rely on a solid group in the locker room, tasked with introducing the new players to their new team. A group formed over the years and led by the club’s new captain, Lautaro Martinez, and Italian players such as Federico Dimarco, Alessandro Bastoni and Nicolo Barella, three key figures on and off the field. Inter started the season strongly and immediately showed the world their stated goal: winning the second star.

In Italian football, teams that win at least ten Serie A titles can sew one star onto their jerseys, and so on. Inter can officially show their second star on the official shirt and logo from next season. The Nerazzurri become the second Italian team to do so after Juventus and their 36 Serie A titles. Inter were level with AC Milan at 19 and this season sees them overtake the city rivals in the Italian Championship.

Inzaghi’s history of Inter success

Inter played some brilliant football this season, probably some of the most exciting to watch in all of Europe. That was down to Inzaghi’s work and how well he handled the team. It seemed like he learned from some mistakes of the recent past and became a better coach, and somehow more mature. To be fair, he has also won trophies in his first two seasons at Inter as he has already won five titles, but being at Inter means fans and media always expect more. In his first year at the club, when he arrived to replace Antonio Conte, who had just won the title with the Nerazzurri, Inter had to sell both Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea and Achraf Hakimi to PSG for financial reasons, and in the following summer he lost also Christian Eriksen. his heart problems prevented him from playing in Italy. Inzaghi was the one who immediately called sporting director Piero Ausilio to sign former AC Milan midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu to replace the Danish midfielder. Inzaghi was the first to believe that Calhanoglu would be a perfect fit for his team, and he was right.

Calhanoglu became the face of his team that year as Inter was in the race until the last matchday of the season and aimed for a second title in a row, but lost to city rival AC Milan, who, as always, focused mainly on his former player. in these cases. That defeat, which came after the Derby della Madonnina loss to their city rivals in February after a strong start to the season, was hard to swallow for the fans and the coach, especially as AC Milan’s players were only celebrating in the same city. one season after Inter did it.

The following season Napoli dominated the league, but Inter were not at their level anyway. The Nerazzurri lost twelve Serie A matches, almost a third of the entire tournament. This is why Inzaghi’s job was in jeopardy several times despite winning the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana again against AC Milan. The Italian coach saved his job thanks to the European campaign after winning both semi-finals against their crosstown rivals, only losing 1-0 to Manchester City in the final in Istanbul. After extending his contract until the summer of 2025, he knew he couldn’t miss the chance to win the Serie A title this season or his cycle at Inter would likely be over.

Moratta’s most important decision to hire Inzaghi

There is another key figure at the club who has kept the level of the squad consistently high over the years, giving Inzaghi the opportunity to achieve this at Inter, and that is CEO Beppe Marotta. When he joined Inter from Juventus in December 2018, one of his first decisions was to appoint Antonio Conte as the new manager to replace Luciano Spalletti, but he mainly decided to sell former Inter captain Mauro Icardi to give more space to the current captain, Lautaro. Martinez. At the time it seemed like a risky decision, but looking at it now, it became one of Inter’s turning points in recent years. Under Conte, the Nerazzurri won the title again for the first time in eleven years, but when the former Chelsea manager decided to leave, Marotta opted to appoint a manager who could continue the same project, with similar tactical ideas but more open to collaboration. the club. Inzaghi decided to leave Lazio, the club where he actually played his entire career, and where he became a football manager in the youth team before starting his coaching career with the first team, mainly thanks to Marcelo Bielsa.

It was the summer of 2016 when Lazio president Claudio Lotito decided to appoint Marcelo Bielsa as the club’s head coach. The Biancocelesti owner fired Stefano Pioli a few months earlier and Inzaghi became the agent until the end of the 2015/16 season. When the season ended, Inzaghi became the coach of Salernitana, the other team owned by Lotito at the time, while Bielsa agreed to join Lazio. However, things did not work out with El Loco, who quit almost immediately after taking the job, and for that reason Inzaghi was called again to coach Lazio, a bench he only left in the summer of 2021. With Lazio he won one Coppa Italia and two Supercoppa Italiana, but then decided not to renew the deal and agreed to join Inter to take a new step in his coaching career.

Inzaghi had a difficult task at Inter, especially because he arrived just after Antonio Conte, the coach who managed to return the title to Inter eleven years after the last time, at a time when the club also had to sell several key players. Inzaghi worked with what he had at his disposal, but also had some interesting tactical intuition. The most relevant was that of Calhanoglu, who was moved on as a playmaker in his second season when former Inter midfielder Marcelo Brozovic was injured. Inter didn’t really have another playmaker and for this reason Inzaghi opted to try out the Turkish midfielder in that position, which quickly became his main role and also led to the club selling Brozovic in the summer of 2023.

During the 2023/24 season, Inter were much more consistent than before, despite being eliminated from the Coppa Italia by Bologna and more recently against Atletico de Madrid in the round of 16 of the Champions League. The Nerazzurri managed to open a gap at the top of the table and keep that distance from the other teams, especially Juventus, in the key month of January. Then a 1-0 win at San Siro on February 4, at the Turn-sie, completely changed the course of the season, effectively ending any glimmer of Scudetto racing.

The influence of Lautaro Martinez

Lautaro Martinez, the team’s captain, became an even more crucial player in the locker room. After taking on the role of former Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, Lautaro not only improved with his performances on the pitch (23 goals in 28 Serie A matches), but also led his teammates to glory, aided by other players who are crucial in this sense, such as Barella, Calhanoglu, Bastoni and Dimarco to name a few. Lautaro’s impact, and the way he improved as a striker, especially after winning the 2022 World Cup, showed that he is probably one of the best players in European football and still has some room to grow.

Inzaghi was also able to make this happen with a property that had more than one problem in recent years. According to La Gazzetta dello SportInter are now negotiating a new loan that could be worth $426 million, with US fund Pimco as club chairman Steven Zhang
is “looking to refinance” an existing $293 million line of credit with the Oaktree fund due next month. An agreement with Pimco “would provide the team’s owners with a way to meet their financial obligations and maintain control of the club”. The financing “could have a term of three years”, and this economic situation was the reason why Inter in recent years could only buy players after selling others.

Despite the whole situation, Inzaghi managed to win six titles in three seasons and became the third more successful manager in the history of the Italian club, after Helenio Herrera and Roberto Mancini, overtaking Jose Mourinho (5). However, it feels that this cycle is not over yet and that the Nerazzurri will also compete in the FIFA Club World Cup next season, the new competition that will see 32 of the best teams in the world take part. Inter, and Inzaghi in particular, are just getting started and there are several reasons to think this is just the beginning.