Marotta and Conte Propelling Inter Forward With A Clear Vision

When Giuseppe Marotta was appointed as Inter’s sporting director after an abrupt departure from Juventus, the nerazzurri sent a clear message of intent to the rest of the league.

Rather than being satisfied with vying for a place in the top four, Inter wanted to emerge as contenders once more. Gone are the days of Pazza Inter and they have since been replaced with stability and a particular focus on the team rather than the individual. Marotta’s track record is impressive within Italy, and he played a major role in Juventus’ ascent back to the top of Italian and European football.

However, much of this success couldn’t have been achieved without the initial groundwork laid down by Antonio Conte in 2011. In the tactician’s first season, Juve’s roster was nowhere near what it is today, and frankly was inferior to Massimiliano Allegri’s Milan that they were up against. Instilling this belief of ‘us v them’ and bringing back a sense of accountability to the side, Juventus won their first Scudetto in years against all the odds.

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To this day, It remains a mystery how the bianconeri would finish that season undefeated with the likes of Alessandro Matri and Mirko Vucinic leading the line and Paolo De Ceglie featuring regularly. At the same time, however, Juve’s success with limited resources was a testament to Conte’s great work.

Now reunited with Marotta at Inter, expect no less from the veteran tactician. The duo have been together in Milan for a mere couple of months and have already banished notorious bad apples, Mauro Icardi and Radja Nainggolan from the club.

As per Bleacher Report, Marotta proclaimed neither player had a spot in Conte’s team. “Talent can win you games, but the squad wins you the league, which is the main objective we are setting out for,” said Marotta. “They are not part of our project, with all due respect.”

While both Icardi and Nainggolan have been among Inter’s top performers and are a major reason behind their recent Champions League qualification, their exclusions show that Conte and Marotta are ready to build a true team rather than a collection of talented individuals; something that the Inter brass have struggled with in the past. If the nerazzurri’s summer activity is anything to go by, you can already see the duo’s work slowly being put into place.

Much like it was the case at Juventus, Marotta turned to a free transfer to shore up a squad need, and brought in Diego Godin from Atletico Madrid. The Uruguayan is among the best defenders in the world and will fit like a glove in Conte’s back three alongside Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij. In many ways, this is Inter’s version of Juventus’ BBC, albeit with way more to prove.

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Outside of defence, Inter have secured Italian internationals Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi for their midfield. Both players are the archetypal Conte midfielders and possess the qualities the former Chelsea tactician demands. Determined, technical and team-oriented. In Inter’s new-look midfield, Barella will act as a mezz’ala (#8) making late runs into the box much like Marchisio did at Juve while Sensi will be used as the side’s regista. In this role, the former Sassuolo man will be able to make the most of his range of passing and in many ways, will be a poor man’s Andrea Pirlo for Conte.

Realizing that centre midfield wasn’t their only need, Marotta quickly concluded a deal for Valentino Lazaro. At just 23 years old, the fullback has demonstrated he’s a hard worker and is the prototypical two-way player. Lazaro will be a much welcomed addition down the right-hand side; think Stephan Lichtsteiner but with more upside and end-product.

To round off Conte’s 3-5-2, he has requested Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku. While the Belgian has blown hot and cold for the Red Devils, finding the back of the net has never been an issue for the former Chelsea man. With his towering physique and keen eye for goal, expect the 26-year-old to slot in wonderfully alongside Lautaro Martinez. Martinez and Lukaku are the typical, hard-working, ‘small-big’ partnership Conte has turned to in the past. Think Vucinic-Giovinco, Tevez-Llorente, Eder-Pelle, and so on and so forth. Inter are reportedly tabling their first bid for the striker shortly and have prioritized the Belgian.

With both Conte and Marotta leaving Juventus on poor terms in their own way, the duo have now reconnected at their fiercest rivals and are well on their way at creating a Juventus 2.0, but this time, in Milano. Banishing drama-kings Icardi and Nainggolan was the first step, followed by the acquisitions of prototypical Conte players. It may not end the same way as the league is much stronger than it was in years past, but one thing’s for sure: Linking up Conte and Marotta is Inter’s best bet at silverware in nearly a decade.

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Benatia opens up on Juventus exit and Pirlo news

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Medhi Benatia reflected on his departure from Juventus in an interview with Sky Sport: “In December, I was on vacation in Dubai, I talked with my wife and my kids were asking me all the time why I was not playing. I was burning inside and I was unhappy for that. I left a team full of friends I am very attached to, but I would have liked to give my contribution on the pitch.”

“When Leonardo Bonucci came back, I talked to Massimiliano Allegri, who told me that he needed me and that I would have found some room. However, things changed after that, but I do not have any problem with him, I do not look back at what could have been and was not. I played my last game against Milan in San Siro, which was a tough one because I had to guard Gonzalo Higuain. I played well but I stayed out the following fixtures.” Continue reading

Juventus Need To Splash For Sandro Tonali

Six years ago, a 20-year-old Marco Verratti was on the market after a stellar first season with high-flying Pescara in Serie B. After what seemed like an eternity of negotiations, Juventus eventually deemed their 12 million euros price-tag too high, and pulled out of the deal, allowing Paris Saint-Germain to snap up the diminutive playmaker. Today, Verratti is still dominating the middle of the park in Ligue Un, and is easily worth four times the price. Juventus have since signed Miralem Pjanic, but missing out on Verratti is a decision the bianconeri still rue today.

The Juventus brass may still be licking their wounds, but they now have the opportunity to learn from their past lapse in judgement and make things right by splashing on Brescia midfielder and Italy international Sandro Tonali. Similar to Verratti, Tonali has had a phenomenal season in Italy’s second division and is attracting interest from all over. As a result, Brescia have slapped a 20 million euro price tag on their prized possession and are unwilling to budge on their valuation. While it may be a bit steep for an unproven midfielder, it’s time for Juventus to stop fretting over the price and secure Tonali before other suitors join the race. After all, they know all too well how quickly others will pull the trigger and bank on potential.

Tonali, while likened to Andrea Pirlo due to his position and silky hair, is more of a modern regista himself. Equally capable of splitting open a defence as he is at making a tackle, the 18-year-old makes for a long-term solution to Juventus’ ongoing midfield conundrum.

Continue reading

Conte right not to call MLS pair

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Antonio Conte on Monday released his preliminary 30-man Italy squad for Euro 2016 and it raised eyebrows across continents. Aside from forced absentees Claudio Marchisio, Marco Verratti and Mattia Perin, the lack of Domenico Berardi, Leonardo Pavoletti, Andrea Pirlo and Sebastian Giovinco sparked debates.

The Serie A pair, at Sassuolo and Genoa respectively, missed out despite impressive campaigns. Berardi starred as the Neroverdi qualified for Europe. It wasn’t as prolific a campaign as previously, but Berardi has continually shown why big clubs are linked with a move. Grifoni striker Pavoletti was Serie A’s highest scoring Italian, with 14 goals.

In North America the other absences were protested. Pirlo’s quality cannot be debated. While his New York City form has been below that of his recent Juventus days, it was thought midfield injuries would re-open the door. Giovinco has been in stunning form across two seasons at Toronto. He scored 22 goals in 33 games last term and has started the new campaign in equally blistering fashion, with eight goals in 12. His goals have enthralled audiences. But Conte chose to overlook the pair.

Those calling for Giovinco’s inclusion wondered how his goals could be overlooked, especially since Ciro Immobile and Eder haven’t set Serie A alight. There was a big problem for Conte, which put simply is the competition. MLS is not up to the standard of Serie A, nor what the Azzurri will face when they go to France.

Speaking last week, Pirlo remained hopeful of his inclusion, but knew he faced difficulties. “When someone makes the decision to come to the USA, he knows what he’s getting into.”

The boss knows both players from their time at Juventus. But he couldn’t look back at that. Pirlo has struggled this term and Conte cannot continue to rely on the veteran. Giovinco only began to shine when he moved to Canada. Before that his record in Turin was average at best, so too with the national team. He also showed little in the Champions League.

The selected Azzurri strikers have struggled for goals, but Giovinco – with one in 23 appearances – isn’t exactly a tonic. Not facing a high level of competition for 18 months was too big a risk for Conte. Instead, he has called Stephan El Shaarawy and Lorenzo Insigne to offer the creativity needed in attack.

It looks like an uphill climb for Italy this June. They will not be one of the favourites in France and the midfield injuries have only compounded that. However, selecting the MLS pair would not have solved the dilemma.

Conte hampered by wounded Italy

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It has been a difficult month for Antonio Conte. He first saw Claudio Marchisio clutching his knee when Juventus met Palermo. It was later revealed Marco Verratti would undergo surgery to correct a sports hernia problem and will miss the tournament. And on the weekend, Manchester United’s Matteo Darmian was stretchered off in the match against Norwich.

The defender should be fine, but Conte is not so lucky with his midfield duo. When the worst was confirmed and Marchisio diagnosed with an ACL tear, Azzurri hopes turned to Verratti. But the Paris St-Germain player has been struggling with a groin problem for some time.

“I had hoped to the end that I’d be able to participate in such an important competition as the Euros and to help my teammates achieve the objectives we’d set, but unfortunately I didn’t make it…” Verratti wrote on Instagram.

It leaves a gaping hole in Italy’s midfield. Arguably the strong point of an Azzurri team which has flattered to deceive throughout Conte’s reign, the coach is left scratching his head prior to the June 13 opener against Belgium.

There looks two ways Conte can turn. One, the experience route. Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi are Azzurri mainstays with over 100 appearances each. Veterans of Italy’s 2006 World Cup and run to the Euro Final four years ago, it’s well known what the pair bring. But neither is enjoying particularly fruitful seasons, at New York City and Roma respectively. Nor have they been in Conte’s recent plans. Pirlo last featured in October, De Rossi a month prior. Can the veterans have the same impact as they did previously?

Or Conte can go to youth. A criticism of the boss is he failed to integrate Verratti into the midfield at the outset of his reign, allowing for growth at international level. He may be forced into such a risk at this stage however, with a player who recently made his Azzurri debut.

Napoli’s Jorginho was a late substitute against Spain in March, a reward for a stellar season in the southern city. He has the passing range and ability to sit deep in midfield create, a characteristic shared with Marchisio and Verratti. But he lacks international experience, ensuring a decision to build the midfield around the Brazilian-born player to be a risk.

But after losing two certain starters in the past month, perhaps Conte has to go down that path. As the difficulties increase for the future Chelsea boss, does he have something up his sleeve come June?