The last decade has been cruel to Inter Milan. After the feast that was the 2009-10 season in which Jose Mourinho guided the club to a historic treble, the Special One’s departure ended what was one of the most successful periods in the club’s history and sent them hurtling into a period of decline.
In fact, the following season’s Coppa Italia triumph in 2011 remains the last major trophy won by one of Italy’s gloried club as 12 managers have been and gone since Mourinho’s glory days. Throw in the uncertainty surrounding the club’s ownership and six consecutive seasons outside of the top three, you could forgive the supporters for thinking whether the good times will ever return.
But maybe a glimmer of hope is just around the corner. The latest incumbent tasked with returning Inter to the top is former foe Antonio Conte, once reviled by those in Milan for his time at Juventus as a player and later coach.
The initial signs were promising as Inter won their first six Serie A games to open up an early lead at the top of the table, largely thanks to the efforts of Romelu Lukaku who’s netted 17 league goals overall.
Crucially though, Juventus handed Inter their first Serie A defeat of the season with a 2-1 reversal at the San Siro back in October. Further losses to the Old Lady and Lazio before the enforced suspension of all football have left the 18-time Italian champions 3rd, and 9 points adrift of leaders Juventus with a game in hand.
Inter’s six draws have also been a contributory factor to their early lead dwindling away, as three consecutive 1-1 draws against Atalanta, Lecce and Cagliari in particular blunted their momentum. But opportunity still knocks in the Coppa Italia, although a 1-0 deficit against Napoli must be overturned in their semi-final tie.
In Europe, Conte’s poor UEFA Champions League record resurfaced as they were eliminated in the group stage having lost three of their six games. Inter’s inability to see out leads away to Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund respectively cost them dearly, as did a 1-1 draw on Matchday One at the San Siro to Slavia Prague. Although Europa League glory may still await depending on the resumption of football - I Nerazzurri are due to face Getafe in the round of 16 – their failure in Europe’s premier competition will no doubt have rankled with Conte.
On the transfer front, Conte has overseen busy summer and winter windows with a number of comings and goings. Conte raided the Premier League with Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Ashley Young and Christian Eriksen all swapping England for Northern Italy.
Victor Moses also reunited with the man who guided him to Premier League glory at Chelsea in 2017 and revitalised the winger’s career as a wing-back in Conte’s favoured 3-4-3 system.
There’s also been the shrewd addition of Diego Godin from Atletico Madrid to help shore up a defence that’s conceded 24 league goals; only Lazio (23) have shipped fewer in Serie A this season.
As for outgoings, Conte had to deal with the acrimonious departure of Mauro Icardi to Paris Saint-Germain on loan, as well as the loss of Ivan Perisic to Bayern Munich. With so much turnover of playing and coaching staff, a period of adjustment was always likely to happen but the winning start to the season no doubt raised expectations amongst supporters and the wider public.
Whatever way Conte’s debut campaign at the San Siro finishes, all at Inter will be hoping their seat at the top table domestically is a permanent fixture once again.