It could have all been so different, they both could have left and Inter would have been worse off for it.
Ivan Perisic and Christian Eriksen were all smiles after Inter demolished Milan during last weekend’s Derby Della Madonnina.
Their performances drew praise from media, ex-players and the coach. Should Antonio Conte be criticised for not having faith sooner? Should he be praised for working with them to adapt their style of play? Maybe none of that matters, as with the two in form, they could now give Inter a new dimension and perhaps even a Scudetto.
There was no doubt that the three players who were miraculous in the Derby were Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez and Samir Handanovic. There were also some excellent all-round performances from most of the team. Perisic and Eriksen however, stood out. This was perhaps as they have not been trusted in the early parts of the season and they looked like two new players.
This was certainly the thoughts of former Inter defender, ‘Beppe’ Bergomi, who was quick to say after the game Perisic is offering much more attacking threat on the left, whilst Eriksen’s defending had come on leaps and bounds. It is undoubtedly a stance that Conte would and does agree.
He believed that both players lacked certain elements and qualities that they needed to play in his system. He commented after the Derby “Perisic’s and Eriksen’s improvements make me proud. Barella arrived at Inter and settled in well immediately. Other players need more time, Eriksen needed time too. He has understood our ideas and the same is true of Perisic.”
He also said that last year Perisic did not have the same commitment, he explained how the Croat had gone onto change and has incredible potential if he believes in himself.
The 32-year-old winger may find it strange to listen to his coach say he has potential; after all, he did win a treble with Bayern Munich last campaign. Conte could argue, however, that in that season he was a bit-part player with 11 starts with 11 appearances off the bench in the Bundesliga, Perisic produced four goals and three assists.
In Serie A this season, he has already had 13 starts and he has come off the bench eight times. Two goals and four assists are comparable statistics, but there is more to go and he will surpass this.
He played two games less in Inter’s Champions League and scored two goals less but let us not forget, Bayern won it that year, Inter went out in the group stages.
Whatever the thought process, Bayern did not purchase him and the end of the campaign, so he returned to Inter, where he played every other match.
Conte wanted him to be more direct offensively, more thoughtful defensively and to but in to the system. It seems that he has now done this and the two assists in the Derby showcased how much. His performance was arguably the best he has had in an Inter shirt and it looks like there is more to come.
As for Eriksen, there was much published about his fractious start at Inter. Did Conte even want him? Did Eriksen not want to play in the system? Was he lazy? There were many questions about his struggles to settle in at Inter.
Had relations broken completely? Indeed, it was a surprise to many when he did not leave in January. He played a mere 63 minutes in 2020 but in January, something changed. A display of 20 minutes against Sampdoria was followed up with his first 90 minutes the week after against Fiorentina. Then came that special moment went he put Milan out of the Coppa Italia with a free kick in the last minutes of the game just after coming on.
Since then he has flourished and he is featuring much more. Conte talks of changing his attitude, having more self-belief and his style of play has changed to see him more skilful without losing the exquisite range of passing and his brilliant style of play.
Now it also seems he is happy and as the weeks go by, it is expected he will feature more and more.
Whether circumstance or hard work from the coach (it is probably a mixture of the two) Inter now face the business end of the Scudetto race in a much better place.
Two castaways that most thought would not last long in Milan are now be eulogised over as much as the other conquering heroes of the Derby Della Madonnina.
Whatever the reasons, swallowed pride, hard work, belief or persistence with a vision, things look good for the Nerazzurri.