The message was clear and very strong. Ivan Perisic had no place in Antonio Conte’s new system. The statement from the Inter Coach seemed ill-timed and rather unnecessary, his team had only just really started pre-season, so what motive was behind the outburst? Now the Croatian moves on to the list of players looking to exit this summer, a missive that includes Mauro Icardi, Radja Nainggolan and Borja Valero. Is this wise?
“I don’t think Perisic is suited to the role I am asking for, so right now the only place he can play is upfront,” Conte told the Press after defeat to Manchester United. He went on to praise Dalbert’s work rate and performance before criticising the winger again, saying that the “sensations were negative” and “he couldn’t give the team what they need.” These words were contradictory to his Press conference with Beppe Marotta on his arrival, when he picked out Perisic for special praise over his attitude and fitness levels.
Whilst Perisic can suffer dips in form, his fitness and his attitude on the pitch are exactly what Conte normally likes in a player. He will always help to defend and he will run until the final minutes of the game. He works tirelessly in the gym to build his physical presence and he has the technical qualities to be a difference maker in the final third of the pitch.
Even if his performance at wing-back wasn’t up to Conte’s standards and even if he misinterpreted the role he was meant to be playing, did it warrant such an outburst? It cannot be easy to suddenly shift from a winger to a wing-back, it can take time to adapt. Even centre-backs require time from playing in a back four where you have one partner, to a back three, as the roles ask different things of a player. Conte more than anyone would understand this, as he has implemented this system at various clubs.
It was no surprise that the Croatian was reportedly unhappy with the comments made by Conte and now his future looks to be elsewhere, with moves to the Premier League and China being mentioned. It does seem as though Conte’s outburst, however, was part of a bigger plan. He has been vocal in recent days about Inter’s disappointing transfer window so far, as moves for Edin Dzeko and Romelu Lukaku have failed to materialise. The biggest problems, noted the Coach, were that nobody had actually left yet, so leaving no funds or room for new arrivals.
Conte is pulling no punches; his methods are clear and he is vocal with it. He is holding the club up to the same high standards he sets the players. He has been clear he needs strikers before the start of the campaign and this no-nonsense attitude is certainly his way of bulldozing any obstacles that are put in front of him. It may not be everyone’s preferred approach, as he does seem to be playing it out in the Press, but the messages are not cryptic, they are direct, and he is stating what he expects.
It is for this reason that Perisic simply seems to be the next fall guy. Was Ivan that terrible? Perhaps not, but can he be sacrificed so that Conte can get one of his strikers in? Absolutely he can, in the Coach’s mind, at least. Perhaps the former Azzurri boss has come in intent on taking no prisoners, but is this what Inter really need? For too long Coaches have got lost in the ‘crazy’ world of Inter bureaucracy, but not this man. As he said, he wants to take the ‘Pazza’ out of Inter.