How Inter Milan survived their own banter era

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With Antonio Conte set to take control, Inter Milan are in the best shape they've been in for several years

The closing weekend of the Serie A season saw Inter Milan qualify for the Champions League in successive seasons for the first time since 2011. It's been the case that both Inter Milan and AC Milan have faced a drastic decline within the past decade, but while AC Milan are arguably in the midst of a struggle that continues into future years, Inter Milan have clinched Champions League football for next season, and strong links to Antonio Conte only put more hope for their chances of progression in the coming months.

All kicking off in 2010, Inter Milan began to crumble, with it starting following a run of five successive Serie A title victories. The end of their time at the top prompted the start of the Juventus monopoly over Italy, where they've won the league in consecutive terms since that point, but Inter Milan fell away each season, reaching what would be best described in most football communities as a 'banter era', leading to poor player acquisitions, and the sort of football club management that was always doomed to failure.

In finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel through the proposed arrival of Serie A and Premier League winning manager Antonio Conte, we thought it was finally safe to reflect on the club's lowest era, starting with the arrival of Rafa Benitez in 2010:

2010/11 - Deadwood as far as the eye can see

Joining the club in the worst way possible, Rafa Benitez burst into the San Siro a matter of days after leaving Liverpool by mutual consent following a season of decline in Merseyside. His primary issue was poor decision making behind allowing star midfielder Xabi Alonso to leave, looking to sign Gareth Barry as his replacement, and ending up with Alberto Aquilani instead, who eventually went down as one of the Premier League's most disappointing ever signings.

Nobody was confused by Rafa Benitez choosing to become Inter Milan manager after the club had so much history behind it, winning the league over the last five years in succession. He hoped to make a handful of low key transfers, spending over €10 million euros in total, with future Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho and FIFA legend Jonathan Biabiany being the only notable names.

Cristian Chivu Inter Milan
Possessing a squad of players who were mostly aged thirty and above, Rafa Benitez would have been best scrapping the lot and starting again, but failure to do so cost him his job.

At the same time, Rafa agreed to allow Marko Arnautovic, Ricardo Quaresma, Mario Balotelli and several other squad members leave on permanent deals. One notable issue with his thought process surrounding transfers was his stubborn approach to older squad members, where all of Julio Cesar, Luca Castellazzi, Paolo Orlandoni, Ivan Cordoba, Javier Zanetti, Lucio, Marco Materazzi, Walter Samuel, Cristian Chivu , Dejan Stankovic, Esteban Cambiasso, Samuel Eto'o, David Suazo and Diego Milito remained at the club despite being aged thirty or above.

By Christmas, the team were massively underwhelming compared to the previous five years, sitting thirteen points behind top place AC Milan, leaving the club with no choice but to part ways with Rafa Benitez. Former player Leonardo took his place, guiding Internazionale to a second place finish in the league and clinching the Coppa Italia, leaving more than an ounce of hope over the next term.

2011/12 - Managerial merry-go-round at the San Siro

Despite the promising caretaker stint from Leonardo, Gian Piero Gasperini took the helm, only making it as far as the end of September before being sacked following a poor start in the league. Claudio Ranieri took his place, winning his first game at the San Siro in October and enjoing an incredible run of form over the Christmas period.

A polar opposite display spans between January and March, where Inter Milan bizarrely failed to win every single fixture. By the end of March, Claudio Ranieri was also sacked following an exit from the Champions League and a 2-0 defeat to Juventus, which obviously wouldn't be a horrendous result in the current climate.

Javier Zanetti Inter Milan
Ageing players at Inter Milan began to leave the club. Stalwart Javier Zanetti remained in hope of seeing more glory days at the San Siro.

Now making their third managerial appointment of the season, Inter Milan oddly chose to appoint Andrea Stramaccioni as the club's next manager despite having no previous coaching experience. He was only thirty-six at the time and was working as a youth coach at the club. He reached sixth place in the table, barely qualifying for next season's Europa League.

2012/13 - A reason to trust experience over youth

If it wasn't strange enough that Leonardo didn't get the job of managing Inter Milan full-time after performing so well towards the end of the 2010/11 season, the decision to put Andrea Stamaccioni in charge permanently was beyond belief.

The club waved goodbye to old favourites Lucio, Giampaolo Pazzini, Julio Cesar, Maicon and Wesley Sneijder, and classed the transfer of Diego Forlan as a write off after - once again - choosing to sign a world class player past their prime. Transfers stood out over the 2012/13 campaign, as they opted to allow nineteen-year-old Philippe Coutinho to leave for a lowly fee, only for him to go on to make Liverpool over £100 million in joining Barcelona five years later.

Philippe Coutinho Inter Milan
Philippe Coutinho left to Liverpool for an estimated £8.5 million fee. Not quite sure what he's doing these days...

Unsurprisingly, Andrea Stramaccioni was a poor appointment, only making it to the round of 16 in the Europa League, making it to the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia, and landing at ninth in Serie A. Despite looking unimpressive throughout, it took until the end of the season for Stramaccioni to be relieved as manager, and the club never looked in a worse position.

2013/14 - One of the most disappointing Inter squads of all time

Hiring Walter Mazzarri saw lots of ambition from Internazionale after he created such a phenomenal setup at Napoli. The previous season was incredible for his Napoli side, clinching a Champions League place through finishing second in Serie A, exceeding expectations by some distance.

Reasons to trust Walter Mazzari were hard to find as the campaign went on, only making it as high as fifth in the league to show signs of life but still fall far below the standard usually seen at the San Siro. It also prompted the construction of possibly the worst ever Inter Milan squad including a now thirty-five-year-old Diego Milito, and unimpressive midfielders Ricky Alvarez, Gaby Mudingayi, Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Ruben Botta, Saphir Taider, McDonald Mariga and Patrick Olsen.

Mauro Icardi Inter Milan
Signing Mauro Icardi was the only positive from the 2013/14 season.

If it wasn't for the signing of Mauro Icardi and the consistency of Rodrigo Palacio's goalscoring, it would be hard to find any positives at all. Hernanes is one of the only players of note, but even he ended up leaving the club to play for Juventus after just one season in Milan, so it's clear to see how far they'd fallen in the space of three years.

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2014/15 - 2015/16 - The return of Roberto Mancini

Hope remained over Walter Mazzarri eventually finding success at Inter Milan, and there was more faith put into him in allowing the transfers of Nemanja Vidic, Gary Medel, Pablo 'Danny' Osvaldo and Yann M'Vila. Fans of the club were hoping that this would be a fresh start for the club, leading to more pressure on Mazzarri's shoulders as question marks over upcoming silverware began to appear.

An apparent argument between Walter Mazzarri and club president Massimo Moratti didn't help his chances after a poor run of form and he was sacked after drawing 2-2 with Hellas Verona. Former manager Roberto Mancini returned to the club after winning the Premier League with Manchester City and spending a mostly confusing stint at Galatasaray.

Starting his role in the Milan derby, Roberto Mancini secured a 1-1 draw to save face. He arrived at the club in November, making transfers of his own in the January window, acquiring the services of veteran Germany striker Lukas Podolski, exciting winger Xherdan Shaqiri and defensive midfielder Marcelo Brozovic - who remains at the club to this day - but defeats in both the Europa League and the Coppa Italia didn't give fans much promise over his second coming.

Roberto Mancini Inter Milan
Roberto Mancini won three Serie A titles and two Coppa Italia wins at Inter Milan. His return didn't come anywhere close to matching that trophy haul.

Eventually, the season finished with Inter Milan at eighth in the table, but the club were happy to give him a full season to prove himself, where they happily agreed to the transfers of Geoffrey Kondogbia, Miranda, Jeison Murillo, Matteo Bianchetti, Martin Montoya, Jonathan Biabiany, Stevan Jovetic, Adem Ljajic, Felipe Melo and Ivan Perisic. This was met by a lot of outgoings, with the new-look Inter still attempting to find a level of chemistry.

To his credit, Mancini pushed Inter Milan to fourth in the Serie A whilst achieving the highest number of points over the last five years. It looked as if he was ready to get Internazionale back to where they thought they belonged, but it all changed again when he left by mutual agreement several weeks before the start of the next campaign.

2016/17 - Frank de Boer presenting a new rock bottom for Internazionale

Highly regarded for being a respectful figure in football, Frank de Boer continued his incredible playing career into management, winning four successive Eredivisie titles with Ajax. This is what put him in charge of Inter Milan, where the club were enjoying the drama of Euro 2016 by selling the club to a super rich Chinese company that would put them among Europe's elite once again.

The sudden departure of Roberto Mancini came as a shock - fans assuming that he was unhappy with the structure put in place by the new owners - but Frank de Boer was the exciting replacement that fans had hoped for. In reality, the Dutchman struggled to speak any Italian and he could barely lead his team to wins over the Serie A's worst performing teams, never mind any hope of competing.

Playing Europa League football was another opportunity for Inter to capitalise before they lost their first two games to Hapoel Be'er Sheva and Sparta Prague, bouncing back with a narrow 1-0 win over Southampton, but losing 2-1 in the next meeting of the group at St Mary's. Another defeat to Hapoel Be'er Sheva saw them finishing bottom of the group, going out of what was originally perceived as being an easy three teams to get past.

Frank de Boer Inter Milan
Frank de Boer has proven himself as a flop throughout Europe, worsening the situation at Inter Milan, finding himself sacked after five games at Crystal Palace, and now struggling in the MLS with Atlanta United.

By November, Frank de Boer was sacked and there was absolutely no need to feel sorry for him. He even admitted that the whole fiasco was his own fault. Twelve signings were made that summer, equating to an estimated €82.8 million in transfer fees, but the squad was distinctly worse and a mess with no planning behind it.

Former Lazio manager Stefano Piolo took his place instantly, showing promise for a lot of the season up until his own dismissal at the start of May, where caretaker manager Stefano Vecchi took control to complete an abysmal seventh place finish.

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2017/18 - 2018/2019 - Luciano Spalletti the right man to build, but not the right man for the future

Investing further funds in the second summer of the club's new owners, Luciano Spalletti was brought in as Inter Milan manager following a successful second attempt at Roma. During his time in the capital, Spalletti guided Roma to second, reached the semi-final of the Coppa Italia, and made it to the round of 16 in the Europa League after falling short in the Champions League early.

An underlying issue for Luciano Spalletti was his attitude, where he's built a reputation for being an extremely volatile man to work with. He spelt the end of Roma club legend Francesco Totti, who he had a reportedly heated relationship, leading to Totti retiring during Spalletti's time at the club, finishing his career under an upsettingly dark cloud.

His first year with Inter saw the club finishing at fourth, and fans of the club seemed relieved to be away from Europe for once while they sorted out other issues. It was an almost identical season immediately after, once again finishing fourth, but while stability has been welcomed at the club for the first time in several years, another manager is needed to make the next step, and Antonio Conte is more than qualified.

Luciano Spalletti Inter Milan
Luciano Spalletti has had public feuds with Francesco Totti, Radja Nainggolan, Mauro Icardi, and even the Italian Football Federation.

Once again, Luciano Spalletti's problem came from his hostile approach to management, falling out with Radja Nainggolan and playing a part in the effective end of Mauro Icardi's Inter career. Not only did Spalletti get Inter to two successive fourth place finishes in Serie A, but he also recorded a place in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals over both terms too. The feeling of consistency is a far cry from the feeling of uncertainly and disappointment since Jose Mourinho left the club to take over Real Madrid in 2010.

Based on Antonio Conte's track record at Juventus, where he started their bout of consistent Serie A titles after Inter began their decline, he should be the perfect man for the job. He doesn't hold the frantic approach seen by Rafa Benitez, he isn't overtly old school like Claudio Ranieri, he isn't immensely inexperienced like Andrea Stramaccioni, he isn't stubborn as a mule like Walter Mazzarri, he isn't a sign of being stuck in the past like Roberto Mancini was, he possesses the ability to speak Italian unlike Frank de Boer, he isn't impossible to work with like Luciano Spalletti, and he's qualified when it comes to winning all there is to claim in Italy's top tier.

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