Max De Luca – Five Things Inter Fans Can Be Optimistic About Next Season
Neither Sitirick and Company nor 5WPR – two of the best crisis management firms on the planet – would be able put a positive spin on Inter’s recently concluded season. Winston Wolf isn’t going to politely appear at the door and clean up the latest mess that the Nerazzurri have created.
The 2016-17 season was an abject disaster from start to finish. Looking back it’s hard to imagine that so many storylines unfolded in 11 months, but as is usually the case with Inter the truth is often stranger than fiction.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane shall we…
Erick Thohir’s inexplicable decision to sack Roberto Mancini two weeks before the opening game of the season derailed the campaign before it even started. Inter then pulled the plug on the Frank de Boer experiment 85 days after hiring the overmatched Dutchman, and in a blink of the eye the Nerazzurri were on manger number three.
The drama was not just limited to the managers as Mauro Icardi released a biography, which included a passage that enraged the Curva Nord, prompting the ultras to demand that the 24-year-old be stripped of the captaincy. They also declared Icardi was “dead to them” and raucously cheered his penalty miss in the 2-1 loss to Cagliari in mid-October.
Stefano Pioli – manager number four – looked to have stabilized the squad by guiding them on a seven-game Serie A winning run to enter the Champions League discussion, but Inter’s Potemkin village soon collapsed under the weight of the expectations, as they proceeded to go on their longest winless run in 35 years.
The Nerazzurri won two meaningless games to finish the season in seventh place, one point behind city rival AC Milan and a whopping 29 behind Juventus. No European place for Inter as they begin another Year Zero at Appiano Gentile.
But there is reason to believe that the worst is indeed over. Here are five things Interisti can be optimistic about next season:
Luciano Spalletti Can Deliver The Goods
Spalletti may seem like a consolation prize after Antonio Conte and Diego Simeone rejected Inter’s desperate advances, but the former Roma manager need not be merely a free play on a multi-million dollar lottery draw.
Spalletti led Roma to a record-breaking points total (87) in 2016-17, which would have been enough to win the Scudetto in seven of the previous nine Serie A seasons.
Spalletti will have the support of his old boss Walter Sabatini, who was appointed the joint technical director of Inter and Jiangsu Suning on May 10, and will likely have a say in which players are brought in to Appiano Gentile.
Spalletti is certainly not the sexy pick that Interisti were clamouring for but he has the know-how and expertise to get the Nerazzurri back into the Champions League.
Great Group Of Core Players Under 25
Mauro Icardi, Joao Mario (24 years old), Geoffrey Kondogbia (24) and Roberto Gagliardini (23) give Inter a solid foundation upon which to build on.
Icardi overcame a tumultuous year to set a personal high with 24 Serie A goals and added a new dimension to his game with eight assists. Icardi also passed the legendary Ronaldo with his 50th goal for Inter in September and was finally rewarded for his stellar play with a call-up to the Argentine national team for their friendly against Brazil in June.
Gagliardini was brought in during the January transfer window and hit the ground running before fading away down the stretch along with the rest of the squad. The former Atalanta midfielder made his debut for the Italian national team in late March and will be a mainstay in midfield for the foreseeable future. Easily one of the Nerazzurri’s best signings of the last few years.
Joao Mario was probably Inter’s best player in the first three months before he was mysteriously benched. The Nerazzurri are likely to reap the benefits of a restful summer after playing until July during Portugal’s winning run in the European Championship.
Kondogbia silenced his critics with a series of Herculean performances in midfield during Inter’s winning streak early in the calendar year and showed why he was such a highly-touted midfielder with Monaco in 2015. He provides some much-needed steel in midfield and has already built a formidable partnership with Gagliardini that promises to give opposing teams fits for years to come.
Suning To Splash The Cash
The Chinese owners are ready to flex their financial muscles this summer and Inter has already been linked with the likes of James Rodriguez, Angel Di Maria and Radja Nainggolan among others.
The Nerazzurri need upgrades in multiple positions and Suning seems poised to answer the call. This is an important mercato for Inter in its quest to return among the Serie A elite and Suning is ready to open its checkbook to make it happen.
Walter Sabatini Is The Real Deal
Sabatini’s track record speaks for itself as he engineered a dramatic turnaround at Roma. He built the capital city club into a serious contender with his shrewd purchases of Nainggolan, Miralem Pjanic and Diego Perotti just to name a few.
Sabatini should have a Scudetto in his portfolio save for Juve’s dominance in the last five years. Hopefully he can bring in some trusted colleagues and get everyone rowing in the same direction.
Inter Set To Trim The Fat
This has to be the year that the Nerazzurri braintrust offloads the players, which have no business wearing the shirt. Andrea Ranocchia was loaned out to Hull City in the winter and seems a good bet to leave for pastures new on a permanent deal.
The end has to be near for one of Interisti’s favourite whipping boy Yuto Nagatomo, whose schoolboy errors cost the team numerous points this past season. The same goes for Marcelo Brozovic and his petulant attitude, which will be someone else’s problem – most likely a Premier League team – in a matter of months.
Rodrigo Palacio had a great career with Inter and should be applauded for being a great servant to the team, but was largely ineffective over the last two years, scoring just two Serie A goals in 42 appearances during that span. Juan Pablo Carrizo’s time at Inter is also over while Gabigol is likely to be loaned out for the duration of the 2017-18 campaign.
Max De Luca is a journalist based in Toronto, Canada and has been published on Reuters, CBC, Yahoo, Goal, USA Today and many more. Every week Max pens a column exclusively for SempreInter.com discussing the most pressing topics of the past week.