It took an ex-Juventus man, but finally the dominance of Italian football in the Old Lady’s decade is over.
It is now the moment of Inter Milan in the sun. They have an undeniable lead at the top of Serie A with four games to go, winning their first Scudetto since Jose Mourinho’s 2010 class.
So, how did Antonio Conte – who was on the verge of pocket earlier in the campaign – revitalized his squad for a historic title-winning season? Sportsmail takes you through how the Italian coach worked his magic.
Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan was crowned Serie A champions for the first time since 2010
3-5-2 WORKS MIRACLES AGAIN …
Conte built this side in exactly the same way – from a tactical standpoint – as his Juventus side that swept the floor with domestic prices.
The Italian coach has always had an obsession with defense, with Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni forming a formidable trio.
Continuing with three in the back worked in their own country, but failed in Europe, as Inter was eliminated in the Champions League in the group stage.
Still, that helped them get there in 2021, with fresher legs against sick opponents.
Conte’s ‘three-at-the-back’ philosophy also worked in a title-winning season at Chelsea, allowing his players to easily rotate when needed without changing their fundamental principles on the spot.
Milan Skriniar (left) was a key figure in the back this season for a strong Inter defense
‘MY WAY OR THE FAST WAY’
At his appointment in May 2019, Conte was unpopular among the Inter believers, to the point that ‘Not for everyone’ banners were used.
However, Conte has a knack for doing things his own way, with mostly positive results to follow.
The message was grim. Conte considers herself a free spirit who once just insisted, “I’m not a ** – licker.”
That was perhaps Conte’s greatest strength: the ability to follow his own beliefs in coaching his team, unimpressed by outside influences. It is a point that should not be overlooked.
Conte has methods of his own, and outside influences are not allowed to cloud his judgment
LUKAKU – THE NEW KING OF MILAN
Romelu Lukaku has become the new king of Milan in two years.
This season in Serie A, he scored 21 goals in 33 games with nine assists – extraordinary statistics – in a team that made the second-best attack in the league.
The Belgian’s contract expires in June 2024 and despite speculation linking him to a move, the club is desperate for Lukaku to become the club’s icon.
Romelu Lukaku has been in deadly form and his goals have sent Inter to the Scudetto
Since coming over from Manchester United for £ 75 million in 2019, he has scored 61 goals in 92 games – a huge improvement on his 42 in 96 at Old Trafford.
Inter is considering a contract extension this summer, which is hampered by the economic problems at the club.
Lukaku would like a salary increase of more than £ 8.6 million a year, which would be a 30 percent increase. Time will tell if the 27-year-old decides to commit the best years of his career with the Nerazzurri.
DITCHING ICARDI A MASTERSTROKE
One of Conte’s biggest decisions was to remove Mauro Icardi from Inter in the summer of 2019 – just as Lukaku came in and took on his No. 9 shirt.
The Argentinian, now at PSG, had a turbulent influence at the San Siro, and Conte made no secret of his willingness to sell Icardi to fund his inbound transfers upon his arrival that summer.
Primarily, it was about signing Lukaku. What a move that turned out to be – a bold statement, and a Conte hit absolutely perfect.
Mauro Icardi was never part of Conte’s plans in 2019 and was transferred to Paris Saint-Germain
ERIKSEN GAMBLE PAYS
Christian Eriksen’s time in Milan was far from simple.
The playmaker has been in and out of the team since he signed with Tottenham in January 2020. His influence from midfield was vital, however, as Inter has been hitting the points up this season.
Christian Eriksen scored from the bench last weekend and his influence was also key
The Dane was actually redundant in the January transfer window, but did not leave the club due to a lack of satisfactory offers.
Now he’s the center of the team – even if it’s often from the bench – despite his hefty salary of nearly £ 7.8 million.
NOTHING BEATS HARD WORK …
There’s no question about it – Inter are the hardest working team in Serie A.
No team has gotten more points – 16 – from losing positions this season, which sums up their never-say-that attitude, a hallmark of Conte.
Conte has created an environment where players are committed to working as hard as possible
Of course they have been able to rest players since the turn of the year. But Inter has done a great job playing the cards dealt to them superbly.
Since the end of January, they went on a winning streak of 11 games, which sealed the Scudetto.
Fresh legs and a fresh mind, along with an all-inclusive attitude, were the main components this season.