It took a former Juventus man to do it, but eventually the old lady’s dominance in Italian football is over.
Now is the time for Inter Milan in the sun. They have an unassailable lead at the top of Serie A with four games to go, winning their first Scudetto since Jose Mourinho’s promotion in 2010.
So how has Antonio Conte – who was on the edge of the sack earlier in the campaign – revitalized his squad for a historic title season? Sportsmail explains how the Italian trainer worked his magic.
Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan were crowned Serie A champions for the first time since 2010
3-5-2 RECEIVES WONDERS …
Conte built this squad in exactly the same way – from a tactical standpoint – as his Juventus side which swept the floor with domestic awards.
The Italian coach has always had an obsession with defense, with Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni forming a formidable trio.
Persevering with three at the back worked nationally but failed in Europe, seeing Inter knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage.
Still, it helped them come 2021, with fresher legs against sick opponents.
Conte’s three-back philosophy also worked in a winning season at Chelsea, with his players being able to simply rotate as needed without changing their fundamentals on the spot.
Milan Skriniar (left) has been a key figure at the back for a strong Inter defense this season
‘MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY’
When he was appointed in May 2019, Conte was not popular among Inter’s loyalists, to the point that banners with “Not for everyone” were used.
However, Conte has a knack for doing things his own way, usually with positive results to follow.
The message was cruel. Conte sees himself as a free spirit, once simply insisting, “I’m not a lick **.”
This was perhaps Conte’s greatest strength – an ability to follow his own beliefs about how to coach his team, unresponsive to outside influences. This is a point that should not be overlooked.
Conte has his own methods and outside influences are not allowed to cloud his judgment.
LUKAKU – THE NEW KING OF MILAN
Romelu Lukaku became the new king of Milan in two years.
This season in Serie A, he has scored 21 goals in 33 games with nine assists – extraordinary statistics – in a team that has formed the second best attack in the league.
The Belgian’s contract expires in June 2024 and, despite speculation linking it to a move, the club are desperate to get Lukaku to become the club’s icon.
Romelu Lukaku was in deadly form and his goals propelled Inter to the Scudetto
Since joining Manchester United for £ 75million in 2019, he has scored 61 goals in 92 games – a marked improvement over his 42 in 96 at Old Trafford.
Inter are considering a contract renewal this summer, which presents obstacles due to the club’s economic woes.
Lukaku is said to want a pay raise to exceed £ 8.6million a year which would be a 30% increase. Time will tell if the 27-year-old decides to commit the best years of his career to the Nerazzurri.
DITCHING ICARDI UN MASTERSTROKE
One of Conte’s biggest decisions was removing Mauro Icardi from Inter in the summer of 2019 – when Lukaku walked in and took his No.9 shirt.
The Argentine, now at PSG, exerted a turbulent influence at San Siro and Conte made no secret when he arrived that summer his desire to sell Icardi in order to finance his incoming transfers.
It was mostly about signing Lukaku. What a movement that turned out to be – a bold statement, and a Tale was absolutely perfect.
Mauro Icardi was never a part of Conte’s plans in 2019 and transferred to Paris Saint-Germain
ERIKSEN GAMBLE PAYE
Christian Eriksen’s stay in Milan was far from easy.
The playmaker has been in and out of the squad since signing from Tottenham in January 2020. However, his influence as a midfielder has been vital as Inter have racked up the points this season.
Christian Eriksen scored this weekend on the bench and his influence was also essential
The Dane was in fact surplus than needed during the January transfer window but has not left the club due to a lack of satisfactory offers.
Now he is the focal point of the squad – albeit often coming from the bench – despite his high salary of almost £ 7.8million.
NOTHING BEATS DIFFICULT JOBS …
There is no doubt about it – Inter are the hardest-working squad in Serie A.
No team has gained more points – 16 – after dropping positions this season, which sums up their never-say-die 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 the players since the start of the year. But Inter have played the cards exquisitely dealt to them superbly.
Since the end of January, they have won an 11-game winning streak, which sealed the Scudetto.
Fresh legs and a fresh mind, as well as an all-in-one attitude, have been key this season.