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Simone Inzaghi leads Inter to the Serie A title: From almost fired to winning the Scudetto in a single season

One year ago, more or less, Inter fans were widely asking to the club to sack Simone Inzaghi. My how things have changed. It was thanks to the 2022-23 Champions League campaign that led to a loss to Manchester City in the final that the Italian manager was able to keep his job despite a disappointing Serie A season. Inter won both legs of their Champions League semifinals against AC Milan, a moment, as it turns out, that was a defining turning point of Inzaghi’s career at Inter. One year later, he’s celebrating his first title as head coach and the 20th in the history of the club. 

The former Lazio manager knew that he had to deliver this season, despite having to deal with multiple summer changes. He knew that despite what happened oveer the past two seasons where Inter won the Supercoppa Italiana three times and Coppa Italia twice, the Italian giants were being asked to win another major trophy: the Scudetto. It wasn’t easy, and coming into the seaon only few believed that Inter was as strong as they showed during this campaign. But Inzaghi never wavered. 

Building a title winning side

Step by step, Inter started again from zero after the club decided to start a revolution last summer. Andre Onana was sold to Manchester United for around €55 million and midfielder Marcelo Brozovic to Al-Nassr for €18 million. In one summer, Inter sold or did not extend the contracts of at least four regular starters, plus Romelu Lukaku. Inter pulled out of the race to re-sign Lukaku from Chelsea this summer after the player had initial talks with Juventus for a potential transfer. The Nerazzurri decided to sign Yann Sommer from Bayern Munich for €6 million to replace Onana, but made the most important investments in the midfield. Former Sassuolo player Davide Frattesi joined the Italian giants for a deal worth around €35 million and also Benjamin Pavard from Bayern Munich for a similar fee after Milan Skriniar joined PSG as free agent. Inter, as they always do, worked also to sign some free agents, most notably Marcus Thuram, who arrived early in the summer to replace Edin Dzeko, and chose to join Inter over AC Milan. 

The job was not easy, but he could trust a solid group in the dressing room, that had the task of introducing the new players into their new team. A group that was formed over the years and led by the new captain of the club, Lautaro Martinez, and Italian players such as Federico Dimarco, Alessandro Bastoni and Nicolo Barella, three key figures on and off the pitch. Inter started the season strongly and immediately showed to the world their declared target: winning the second star. 

In Italian soccer, teams that win at least ten Serie A titles can sew one star on their jerseys, and so on. Inter, from next season, can officially show their second star on the official jersey and logo. The Nerazzurri become the second Italian team after Juventus and their 36 Serie A titles to be entitled to it. Inter were tied with AC Milan at 19, and thanks to this season they overtake the city rivals in terms of Italian championships. 

Inzaghi’s history of Inter success

Inter played some brilliant football this season, probably one of the most exciting to watch around Europe. That was thanks to Inzaghi’s work and how well he handled the team. It looked like he learnt from some mistakes of the recent past, and became a better coach, more mature in some way. To be fair, he also delivered in terms of trophies in his first two seasons at Inter, considering he won five titles already, but being at Inter means that fans and media always expect more. In his first year at the club when he arrived to replace Antonio Conte who just won the title with the Nerazzurri, Inter had to sell both Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea and Achraf Hakimi to PSG for financial reasons, and also lost Christian Eriksen in the summer after his heart issues that wouldn’t let him play in Italy. Inzaghi was the one that immediately called the sport director Piero Ausilio to sign former AC Milan midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu to replace the Danish midfielder. Inzaghi was the first one to believe that Calhanoglu could be a perfect fit for his team, and he was right.

Calhanoglu became the face of his team that year because Inter were in the race until the last matchday of the season as they chased a second title in a row, but lost to city rivals AC Milan, who targeted their former player in particular as always happens in these cases. That defeat, whose path was set after losing a Derby della Madonnina against their city rivals in February after a strong start of the season, was hard to digest for the fans and the coach, especially because AC Milan players were celebrating around the same city only one season after Inter did it. 

The following season, Napoli dominated the league but Inter were not at their level anyway. The Nerazzurri lost 12 Serie A games, almost one third of the whole tournament. This is why Inzaghi’s job was in danger multiple times despite winning again the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana against AC Milan. The Italian coach saved his job thanks to the European campaign, after winning both semifinal legs against their crosstown rivals, and only lost 1-0 to Manchester City the final in Istanbul. After extending his deal until the summer 2025, he knew that this season he couldn’t miss the chance to win the Serie A title, otherwise his cycle at Inter was likely over.

Moratta’s key decision to hire Inzaghi

There is another key figure at the club who was able to keep the squad’s level consistently high over the years, giving Inzaghi the chance to accomplish this at Inter and that’s CEO Beppe Marotta. When he joined Inter from Juventus in December 2018, one of his first decisions was to appoint Antonio Conte as new manager to replace Luciano Spalletti, but most notably he decided to sell former Inter captain Mauro Icardi to give more space to the current captain, Lautaro Martinez. Back at the time, it seemed a risky decision, but looking at it now it became one of the turning points of Inter over the past years. Under Conte, the Nerazzurri won the title again for the first time in eleven years, but when the former Chelsea manager decided to leave, Marotta opted to appoint a manager that could continue the same project, with similar tactical ideas but more open to working with the club. Inzaghi decided to leave Lazio, the club were he played for his whole career basically, and where he started to become a football manager in the youth team before starting his coaching career with the first team thanks to Marcelo Bielsa of all people. 

It was the summer 2016 when Lazio president Claudio Lotito decided to appoint Marcelo Bielsa as the head coach of the club. The Biancocelesti owner sacked Stefano Pioli a few months before and Inzaghi became the caretaker manager until the end of the 2015-16 season. When the season ended, Inzaghi became the coach of Salernitana, the other team owned by Lotito at the time, while Bielsa agreed to join Lazio. However, things didn’t work out with El Loco, who quit almost immediately after accepting the job, and for that reason Inzaghi was called again to coach Lazio, a bench he didn’t leave until the summer 2021. With Lazio, he won one Coppa Italia and two Supercoppa Italiana but then decided to not extend the deal and agreed to join Inter to make another step in his coaching career. 

Inzaghi had a difficult task at Inter, especially because he arrived right after Antonio Conte, the coach who was able to bring the title back to Inter eleven years after the last time, in a moment when the club also needed to sell some key players. Inzaghi worked with what he had available but also had some interesting tactical intuition. The most relevant one was the one of Calhanoglu, who was moved as playmaker in his second season, when former Inter midfielder Marcelo Brozovic was injured. Inter didn’t really have another playmaker and for this reason Inzaghi opted to try the Turkish midfielder in that position, which quickly became his main role and also led the club to sell Brozovic in the summer 2023. 

During the 2023-24 season Inter were much more consistent than before, despite the Coppa Italia elimination by Bologna and more recently the one against Atletico de Madrid in the Champions League’s Round of 16. The Nerazzurri were able to open up a gap at the top of the table and keep that distance from the other teams, especially from Juventus, in the key month of January. Then a 1-0 win at San Siro on February 4, over the Turn sie, completely changed the course of the season, effectively ending any glimmer of a Scudetto race. 

Lautaro Martinez’s influence

Lautaro Martinez, the captain of the team, became an even more crucial player inside the dressing room. After taking the role from former Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, Lautaro improved not only with his performances on the pitch (23 goals in 28 Serie A games) but also led his teammates to the glory, helped by other players that are key in this sense like Barella, Calhanoglu, Bastoni and Dimarco to name a few. The impact of Lautaro, and the way he improved as a striker especially after winning the 2022 World Cup showed that he’s probably one of the best players around European soccer and still has some more room to grow. 

Inzaghi was also able to make this happen with an ownership that had more than one issue over the past years. As per La Gazzetta dello Sport, Inter are now “negotiating a new loan” that could be worth $426M with U.S. fund Pimco as club Chair Steven Zhang 
is “looking to refinance” an existing $293M credit with the Oaktree fund that comes due next month. An agreement with Pimco “would give the team’s owners a way to meet its financial obligations and retain control” of the club. The financing “could have a duration of three years,” and this economic situation was the reason why Inter could only buy players after selling others over the recent years. 

Despite the whole situation, Inzaghi was able to win six titles in three seasons, becoming the third more successful manager in the history of the Italian club after Helenio Herrera and Roberto Mancini, overtaking Jose Mourinho (5). However, it feels that this cycle is not over yet and the Nerazzurri next season will also compete in the FIFA Club World Cup, the newborn competition that will involve 32 of the best teams around the globe. Inter, and Inzaghi in particular, have just started and there are multiple reasons to think that this is just the beginning. 

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