Having secured Champions League football next season together with Antonio Conte’s appointment, Inter Milan’s upcoming season will have plenty for fans to look forward to. Their first return to Singapore since 2017 for the International Champions Cup will offer a glimpse to what to expect for the incoming season.
2018/2019 Season Summary
Inter Milan experienced a slow start to the 2018/2019 season but picked up the pace midway through to clinch the final Champions League spot – something most of the Nerrazzuri fans would have gladly taken at the start of the season.
Their qualification last season made it two seasons in a row that have successfully earned Inter Milan their place in the illustrious competition.
After a six-year absence from the tournament, Inter finally qualified for the grandest stage of all – the UEFA Champions League – in the 2017/2018 season.
But if Inter supporters were hopeful that their qualification was a sign of resurgence to their glory days – à la the magnificent 2010 treble – then they were in for a rude awakening.
That awakening came almost immediately: Inter were eliminated in disheartening fashion during the group stages by a group that featured eventual finalists Tottenham Hotspur, continental heavyweights Barcelona, and PSV Eindhoven.
Inter began their Champions League conquest brightly, winning their first two games, but they floundered in their next four games and failed to win any. They eventually finished with 8 points – same as Spurs – but Spurs qualified because they scored more goals. Hence, the defeat knocked Inter out of the competition and relegated them to the less prestigious UEFA Europa League.
Having made light work of Austrian club Rapid Wien in the Round of 32, Inter ended up tumbling out of Europa League’s Round of 16 to German club Eintracht Frankfurt.
Antonio Conte will replace Luciano Spalletti – who is departing from the team – but the 60-year-old Spalletti deserves credit for qualifying the team for the Champions League in back-to-back seasons.
While his temperamental and spiky nature during press conferences have won him both supporters and detractors, Spalletti can hold his head high and be proud of his work this past season – especially when you take into account some of the challenges he had to face.
Come to think of it, the upcoming International Champions Cup (ICC) Singapore 2019 will feature two ex-Chelsea managers. Then again, given that Chelsea is a revolving door club for managers, every high profile manager you can name in world football has probably coached Chelsea at some point in his career.
The most prominent issue Spalletti had to handle was the controversy that his flamboyant star, Mauro Icardi, was stirring up. If you look purely at Icardi’s track record and his abilities as a footballer, you would know he is a legitimate stud.
Unfortunately for Icardi, his off-the-field antics and his past precedes his footballing talents. Most casual fans would know him as the man who got embroiled in the scandal with his current wife, Wanda Nara, who was the wife of his compatriot in the Argentinian squad, Maxi López.
Icardi’s marriage with Wanda has created friction between him and the Argentinian national team. He has allegedly not been called up due to the scandal, and it appears that Icardi has yet again found himself isolated as the pariah of his squad in Inter Milan.
His recent photograph gaffe – where he poses nude with his wife in a photo shoot in the middle of the season – appears to be the last straw as it outraged fans worldwide and polarised the entire nation of Italy. He was stripped of his captaincy back in February (pun unintended).
The relationship between him and the club appears to be irrevocably fractured with Inter condemning his actions – a transfer seems to be impending and imminent.
Although Icardi was the club’s top scorer last season with only 17 goals, and is currently ranked 8th in Inter’s all-time scorers’ list, he is not regarded as a hero as one would expect him to be. More often than not, he is looked upon as an unnecessary distraction.
Icardi’s departure would undoubtedly be a favourable one as it would allow Inter Milan to focus solely on football again – without the additional baggage of drama that Icardi’s presence entails.
Antonio Conte still has a relatively talented squad to work with, but he knows that in order to challenge Juventus’ reign at the throne meaningfully, astutely executed transfers have to be done during this summer’s transfer window.
Based on his managerial track record, however, it is hard to bet against the Italian.
Inter Milan’s Key Players: Samir Handanovic, Ivan Perisic
With the likes of Icardi and Ivan Perisic unable to replicate their goalscoring feats of 2017/2018 last season, the only real contender for Inter’s player of the season is the man who took over as captain in February.
Voted as Serie A’s Goalkeeper of the Season thanks to his 20 clean sheets, Handanovic’s performances helped gloss over several of the Nerazzurri’s issues. Despite the list of talented individuals currently in Inter’s first team, it wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that the Beneamata would not be in next season’s Champions League if it were not for the 34-year-old.
Consistently regarded worldwide by observers as one of the finest shot-stoppers, Antonio Conte can fully entrust his backline to the ever-reliable Slovenian.
On a side note, Ivan Perisic will be looking to bounce back from last season’s insipid performances. He remains a vital cog in Inter’s offensive schemes with his direct running and pinpoint crossing abilities. Until Inter Milan finds someone to replace the soon-to-be-departed Icardi, expect Perisic to shoulder the lion’s share of the team’s offensive load.
Positions of need for Inter Milan
As mentioned, Inter is in the market for attackers – to replace Icardi and to shore up their attack. Icardi has been talked up as a player of interest for incoming Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri, who views him as a player that can score 40 goals for his team.
But jettisoning a player of Icardi’s talent would require a seismic purchase of a player with similar qualities. Inter need a Striker to replace Icardi and also, to shore up their attack. Seeing that Inter only put up a putrid 57 goals in the league last season – by no means terrible – but when compared to Atalanta’s 77, it reflects poorly. Reinforcements need to arrive, and arrive fast.
Inter have undergone an extremely prolific transfer window thus far, at least in terms of cutting off the loose ends in the team. Nonetheless, the club have done well in prising Diego Godin – one of the world’s best Defender – away from Spain for free, and bolstering their attack with young players.
Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku has been heavily linked with a move to Serie A, and Inter Milan should do everything within their means to claim the services of Belgian’s national team’s all-time leading goalscorer. Having played a full season with his current teammates, Radja Nainggolan will also be expected to acclimatise and adjust to Inter Milan’s squad fully.
Photos courtesy of International Champions Cup Singapore and Thomas Serer.