Former Inter striker Nicola Ventola has criticised the club for their approach this season and suggested that they are missing midfielder Arturo Vidal following his move to Flamengo.

The Nerazzurri are languishing in fifth place in Serie A and find themselves 11 points behind league leaders Napoli, ahead of their match against Atalanta at the Gewiss Stadium tomorrow.

In an interview published in today’s newspaper edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport, Ventola offered his thoughts on the meeting between his two former clubs, and argued that key departures were hurting Inter this season.

“They are the teams I love most together with Bari. I expect a tense match, because the three points at stake are heavy ones,” the ex-Italy U21 international claimed.

“Both teams are very distant from Napoli, but even if Atalanta did not have the obligation to fight for the Scudetto, Inter are much more linear and predictable than last year because they lost skilled elements in one-on-one situations, like Ivan Perisic and Alexis Sanchez.

“In addition, even if not everyone will agree, in my opinion they also feel the loss of Arturo Vidal, who gave substance when he was on the pitch.

“Now the team is less balanced and concede many goals because in the turnover phase they only have Nicolo Barella.”

Inter have failed to pick up a point in any of their matches against teams in the top eight so far this season and Ventola felt this could come back to haunt them, whilst he was concerned at the gap to Napoli.

“It is inevitable that in some matches they suffered, but too many head-to-head clashes have gone wrong and the double-digit gap from Napoli is significant. There are still 24 matches to go, but if Napoli goes on like this there is little hope.”

Ventola was expecting an exciting battle at the top end of the table but saw Inter finishing above Atalanta at the end of the season.

“I say Inter, but Atalanta can also reach the Champions League. To get into the top four I foresee a good fight because Lazio are flying, while Juventus are in clear recovery and in my opinion they will be the one who will challenge Napoli the most.

“Then there is also Milan and Roma, it will be an exciting battle until June.”

The 44-year-old then reflected on his own stints with Inter, from 1998-1999 and 2000-2005, including the infamous 5 May 2002 defeat to Lazio that cost the Nerazzurri the Scudetto.

“The first thought that comes to mind is the training sessions with Christian Vieri and Ronaldo, but also the chances that Mohamed Kallon and I had to replace them. I was the reserve of the best in the world.

“I returned to Milan in that season that was decided by the now famous 5 May. We could and should have finished first but instead we finished third.

“We have our faults, no doubt, because we had to win that match at the Olimpico against Lazio, but there were also other reasons why we didn’t win the title. It hurts to think about it, I do not deny that that title is the biggest regret of my career. I’ll stop there, it’s better,” he concluded.

Ventola scored 10 league goals in 37 appearances for Inter, either side of a spell with Bologna in 1999.