By the time Luca Banti blew the final whistle of the Inter-Empoli game, Luciano Spalletti already knew. The 60-year-old’s face was saying it all and for a moment it was really easy to get confused and think that Spalletti was still the Coach of the relegated Empoli, instead of an Inter side who just secured their Champions League qualification.
In fact the Tuscan tactician looked like an isolated figure among the jubilation and the relief that took over San Siro, as he played his part in the relegation of the club where his managerial career started and was losing his job at the same time.
It was easy to feel bad for Spalletti, as his disappointment and sadness were there for all to see. And while some might consider his sacking a bit harsh, there was one other emotion on his face that justified the decision of the club. Obedience.
In all honesty, Spalletti didn’t have much of a choice, but to obey the decision made by the club. However, this part of his character has been evident way too often throughout his Nerazzurri reign and was arguably the main reason for his dismissal.
Since joining Inter, Spalletti has never really showed enough boldness to challenge the current status quo in Serie A, nor within the club.
It was obvious a long time ago that actions should be taken against the unacceptable behaviour of Mauro Icardi and his agent-wife Wanda Nara. However, in order to avoid a conflict within the locker room, Spalletti was ignoring the elephant in the room for way too long. While Inter could’ve undoubtedly handled the Icardi-situation much better, actions were taken only after Beppe Marotta’s arrival at the club.
Another example that showcased Spalletti’s timid approach was the Joao Mario case. The Portuguese publicly criticised and disrespected more than once not only Inter, but also Serie A as a whole. Despite that, Spalletti surprisingly allowed him to get back into the team after the midfielder’s loan spell at West Ham came to an end. While the 26-year-old put in some decent performances, he was eventually frozen out once again due to his reported lack of dedication in training.
Putting the situations in the locker room aside, the lack of progress on the pitch compared to last term was also a proof that Spalletti can’t take Inter much further. Despite allowing him to have a much needed full pre-season with the team and boosting his squad with the likes of Radja Nainggolan, Lautaro Martinez, Keita Balde, Kwadwo Asamoah, Sime Vrsaljko and Stefan de Vrij, the Nerazzurri faithful once again had to wait until the final game of the season to secure their target.
While Spalletti’s brilliant decision to put on Keita Balde after the break against Empoli proved to be decisive, if it weren’t for Samir Handanovic’s heroics between the sticks, right now we would be talking about a complete disaster of a season for Inter.
While by looking from the outside, the Nerazzurri seem to have a really good squad, this was often nullified by Spalletti’s cautious and at times very negative approach. The Icardi drama and the reported internal conflicts within the locker room didn’t help help him, but the truth is Spalletti and the club were ignoring a ticking bomb for way too long.
By saying all this, we should clarify that Luciano Spalletti is not a bad Coach by any means. Finishing fourth with Udinese and constantly securing Champions League finishes at both Roma and Inter prove that he is more than capable of reaching important objectives and building solid foundations at different clubs on a high level.
His four trophies in Russia during his time at Zenit St Petersburg might not be the most prestigious ones, but winning the Coppa Italia twice, as well as a Supercoppa Italiana with Roma, should not be underestimated.
However, Spalletti has one big flaw that has prevented him from making the next step and become a truly great Coach and that is that he is too timid to break the status quo. With Inter having the resources, prestige and ambition to end Juventus dominance, the Nerazzurri need a Coach who is both brave and arrogant enough to challenge the champions.
La Beneamata seem to have found their man with Antonio Conte and while it remains to be seen if the former Juventus boss will manage repeat his heroics on the Nerazzurri bench, it was clear that Spalletti doesn’t have what it takes to do it.