Inter manager Antonio Conte held his first press conference of the new season this afternoon ahead of tomorrow’s Serie A season opener for Inter at home to Inter and he started by discussing how this season will be approached and the goals.
“We have certainly worked very well and I am satisfied with these three weeks we had to prepare for the season. We were one of the last teams to finish, in these weeks we have worked well and I am very satisfied with the attitude and desire shown by the players,” he told the gathered journalists in attendance at the press conference.
“We are ready to start this season, it is certainly a difficult season in many respects. Both for how we finished and for how we are starting, we all hope that we can improve.
“As for the ambitions, they must be to confirm the credibility gained last year nationally and internationally, as we reached the Europa League final, always trying to do our best.”
Next the former Italian national team boss was asked about the growth that the team have made and whether he feels that the gap with arch rivals Juventus has been reduced a bit.
“If we talk about experience Vidal and Kolarov are players who can bring it. Hakimi is 21-years-old and has embarked on a career that will certainly be important.
“In total agreement with the club we have evaluated and chosen a strategy always taking into account what the owners said and the particular situation that all the clubs are going through.
“As Marotta said we are trying to seize opportunities taking into account what the owners told us. We are working in total harmony, knowing that we want to consolidate the credibility gained.
“Last year Inter scored 82 points in Serie A, we have achieved various results that demonstrate a newfound credibility. This must give us strength and courage, it must make us understand that the path we have taken is the right one. We are implementing a strategy accepted by all, trying to do the best for Inter.”
Next he was asked whether the recent tensions at the club have been overcome.
“I would not speak of misunderstandings. There have been meetings and views shared, sometimes even different ones but I think that in all good families it is right that everyone sets out their own reasons, right or wrong.
“There have always been honest and loyal meetings with those who work for the club, so on my part there is great serenity and desire to continue doing what I do best and that is working with the players. We are ready to start a new season knowing that it will be much more difficult than last year but we are ready.”
The former Juventus player was then asked how close Inter are to matching what he wants both on and off of the pitch.
“Last year we started a path of growth. It is inevitable that we must try to make evaluations and improve existing situations.
“On the part of all of us there is the will to improve ourselves in all areas of competence. I am very happy about this because if you are among intelligent people who have the will to do good for Inter, in the end you will always find a solution.
“From this point of view I am very happy because we are continuing a path that has begun. Together. We stay together addressing the problems that there are and will be, but always wanting to do good for Inter and this is the most important thing.”
A journalist then asked Conte whether he thinks that January transfer window recruit Christian Eriksen can be an added value for Inter despite the difficulties he has faced since his arrival.
“Everyone here is an added value, from Eriksen to Pirola, who is the youngest boy in the squad. Everyone can bring added value and from this point of view I am very happy to have these type of players because the players we have in squad are very professional, excellent players and excellent guys.
“They know very well that it will be a difficult and tough year, with 60-65 games and everyone is ready to become an added value and must become one. Starting with Handanovic, the captain, and ending with Pirola who is the youngest but also a great prospect.”
The conversation then switched to tomorrow’s match and Conte was asked about the availability of Arturo Vidal and where he thinks he will play him.
“Arturo is fine, he presented himself in good physical condition, tactically he is a guy who has already played with me but is doing new things compared to then.
“He is intelligent, he has a great mentality. In our midfield he can do everything. He can play in all roles and we are happy to have him with us.”
Upon joining Inter last year Conte said he wanted to feel that he had a 1% chance of winning and was then asked if that percentage has grown.
“It always becomes difficult to make predictions or give percentages. Last year you asked me why I joining the Inter project and I replied that it was important for me to feel that I have even very little chance of being able to win.
“I was right because in the end we were protagonists in all competitions, eliminated in the semi-finals of the Italian Cup, in the final of the Europa League and finished second in Serie A. My feelings were right but this should not obscure the path taken.
“Often and gladly I think I am hard on myself and I forget to enjoy the path taken with the teams. I think we had a great journey, it was there to be enjoyed and maybe when you feel the possibility of winning you try to do everything to get there but as I said before we must and maybe I must learn to enjoy the journey.
“The goal is to be in the competitions and win them and last year it wasn’t us. Little has been said about what we have done, which is extraordinary.”
Conte was then asked whether he thinks that the team are in a position to win and if the arrival of rumoured top transfer target N’Golo Kante could change things.
“I think that no team has an obligation to win because no coach can guarantee their club of being able to win. I think teams like Inter have an obligation to be protagonists. It means being competitive until the end and then you’ll see if it leads you to win or not win.
“In reference to the Europa League final, I think of Lukaku’s opportunity 15 minutes from the end and then of the own goal with which we were defeated. It is about luck, you can shoot the ball and it goes in or it does not and you end up not winning.
“When one wins, as I said before. We must also be good at enjoying the path we are taking, without neglecting anything, trying to do the best in all situations like last year.”
Conte was then asked about tomorrow evening’s affair with Fiorentina and whether Achraf Hakimi will be in the starting line-up.
“I am happy that we start talking about football and the match we will face. We will face a strong team, which has done very well on the transfer market and have kept on a very good and prepared coach. It is a match in which we will have to pay great attention.
“Hakimi is a footballer who has really important potential, it is inevitable that as with all new arrivals it will take some time to get used to things. Let’s not forget that we are organised offensively and defensively.
“There is work to be done but he has already shown his potential. In this first part of the season it will be important to work in all respects with him and the newcomers to improve. We have three games in ten days, some he will play, others he will come on as a substitute. I don’t want to give advantages to the opponents.”
Next he was asked about a former player of his in Andrea Pirlo becoming the manager of Juventus.
“Honestly, what I can say is that I have great affection for Andrea. Both for the professional and for the man because we are talking about a top person in both respects.
“As for the rest we will be adversaries and as I said previously to see that some of my footballers become coaches leads me to think that time is passing for me but I am very pleased and happy for Andrea and for this opportunity that has been given to him.”
Conte was then asked about Ivan Perisic, who is now back in the squad after a loan spell at Bayern Munich last season.
“I’m happy for Ivan because he had a great experience with Bayern Munich which led him to win three trophies. Now he is back with a great will to play for Inter, help us and give us a hand to put himself at the service of the team.
“I am happy that he has this desire because when there is this enthusiasm, in the end everything becomes easier for the coach too.”
In conclusion he was asked whether he will repeat what he did to get Romelu Lukaku to the club in order to get Kante signed.
“Times have changed. Romelu was important to me, Marotta and Ausilio. In the end we managed to convince the president to take Romelu and I think we were right in doing so. Delas like those give credibility to us and to the president.
“For the rest of the transfer window, we know what our strategy is and what the owners told us. We are all united, we embraced the project.
“When we are clear and put things in the right way, telling the truth, we can only benefit from the situation. We know what it is and this pushes us to be even more cohesive and united to find solutions for the good of Inter, respecting a strategy made together with the owners.”