Disappointment only rises from expectations, just ask any Interista. It was supposed to be the summer of Suning, as cross-town rivals Milan also had Asian financial backing, so the two were expected to lock horns for Europe’s top talents. As it stands, Milan have spent €230m, compared to Inter’s €86m.
It’s not that the Nerazzurri have had a bad mercato, they’ve covered almost all of their needs. They’ve signed a great left back in Dalbert from Nice, Joao Cancelo fills the right-sided full back position and they’ve completely revamped their midfield whilst keeping key players. The only valid criticism is that they didn’t sign a senior CB to partner Joao Miranda, or at least one in between the level of Milan Skriniar and Andrea Ranocchia.
However, I believe Inter’s best bit of summer business comes not in the form of a player, the man in the dugout, Luciano Spalletti.
I had my doubts when Spalletti was re-hired by Roma in 2016 following a previous 2005-09 stint, however those doubts were quickly erased. In Spalletti’s first full season in Rome, he transformed Rudi Garcia’s dull and unimaginative outfit into a must-watch team. The Giallorossi ended up creating the second most chances (519) in Europe’s top five leagues, only four behind Real Madrid at 523.
It would be an injustice to mention that Roma only finished four points behind first placed Juventus, albeit the race was never that close.
There didn’t seem to a player that Spalletti didn’t improve during his relatively short stay in Rome. It was once said that top managers always take players up a level: good to great, great to elite, elite to world class. You can’t deny Spalletti did that.
He took Edin Dzeko from the depths of mocking memes all the way to a Capocannoniere crown. Radja Nainggolan and Mohamed Salah were taken up a few levels to become two of the best players in Italy. Even players that were regarded as mediocre prior to his arrival, such as Emerson Palmieri and Federico Fazio, became more than respectable and reliable starters under Spalletti.
Of course, it would have been great for Suning to fulfil the hype and sign the big names that Inter fans have been crying out for. But they didn’t, and if there’s one man who’s exceptional at working with what he’s got, it’s Spalletti.
Another of Spalletti’s strengths is he’s excellent at judging team functionality and which players work well together. He took Nainggolan’s offensive game to the next level by playing him as an attacking midfielder and gave Strootman more responsibility in terms of building up play from deep. Both changes helped the functionality of the team and changed Roma for better. Considering the mix-up that is Inter’s midfield right now, it has to be a plus the Coach has experienced something of this ilk before.
It will most likely be Inter, Milan and Roma battling for two Champions League spots. In my opinion, all of their respective squads are quite similar in terms of ability and one or two key injuries could derail all three of these teams.
What sets Inter apart from Milan and Roma is the man writing on the chalkboard. Vincenzo Montella and Eusebio Di Francesco are no chumps, but they’re not Spalletti, and there’s quite some distance between the two. I think that’ll be the difference between Roma and Inter for top four.
After the past couple of years, I can understand Nerazzurri fans’ pessimism, but Spalletti is the best Inter manager since Jose Mourinho, and by quite some distance.