It is a monumental week in Inter’s history. By the end of it, they could be Scudetto holders, have the ownership issue sorted out and have confirmed Antonio Conte as coach for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, a failure to secure investment could pour cold water over any title celebrations and jeopardise the tactician’s future. Conte is certainly looking for reassurances and it would be wise for the ownership to give him them. Inter have been transformed in his image and it would be imprudent to throw all this away.
It was the Corriere Dello Sport who announced that the critical talks between Conte and Steven Zhang were to take place this week. This gathering of Inter’s hierarchy was specifically called so that the President can clarify whether they will still be in charge next season or if they are considering selling the club due to the recent financial difficulties. Suning’s situation throughout the pandemic has been a tough one and their relationship with the Chinese government has raised questions over their ability to subsidise Inter in the manner they originally promised.
Conte has always spoken out when he believes the club should back him on the market. Who can forget his comment at Juventus when he said: “You cannot eat at a 100 Euro restaurant with only 10 Euro in your pocket.” There was also the fall-out at Chelsea when he went to war with Marina Granovskaia about the same topic, funds on the transfer market. There is no doubt that the coach will be asking just how much he will be able to add to the squad for next season, as they will want to fortify for the Champions League and try to continue domestic success.
Conte has been outspoken in his belief that Juventus still have the stronger squad and that the Nerazzurri need to be a match for them. He will undoubtedly ask for the club’s support again, as he believes that at times it was lacking. Reports suggest he will ask Zhang and the club to make it clear to the fans that there will be no serious funding (if this is the case) so that expectations are realistic. Of course, if funds are made available, then the pressure will be on Conte, but this is something he would relish.
If all is resolved and Inter look to the market, there will nonetheless be departures. Arturo Vidal and Aleksandar Kolarov are expected to leave and there are some other fringe players whose future is uncertain. Gazzetta dello Sport reported that the futures of up to nine players are being considered. The key for Conte would be that there are no major departures and the likes of Alessandro Bastoni, Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez, Nicolò Barella and other integral players, should all stay. They have areas that they need to look at improving on and there have been players linked to these positions. Udinese may have to fight Inter from taking the exciting Rodrigo De Paul from them in midfield. The Zebrette may see a double assault, as Juan Musso is a name lined up to potentially replace Samir Handanovic. The pink paper also reported that a left-back, a centre-back and a striker are positions Inter want to strengthen.
The league will watch and wonder just how these talks will go, as Inter could come out of this looking like a very serious machine if the financing model can be worked out. Conte already has a strong squad who are hungry and if this can be added to in force, then they will look devastating for the next campaign. They will have to be and Conte knows that, especially as Max Allegri’s return too Juventus looks imminent.
What Conte has done at Inter with the help of Beppe Marotta cannot be understated. They have a team who are organised, fearless and they have an identity. To break Juve’s dominance has not been easy, but as they stand on the verge off doing so, all thoughts look to the future. Quite simply, Inter’s legacy will be shaped behind the closed doors at Appiano Gentile and the Nerazzurri faithful hope it is a united front.