After a long 11-year wait that saw the team go through countless coaches, Inter are finally back atop the Serie A standings following a season Nerazzurri fans won’t soon forget. While many had tipped Antonio Conte’s men as Scudetto challengers prior to the start of the season, few would have imagined the title being wrapped up with four matches remaining.
It’s all the more impressive given Inter didn’t exactly come flying out of the gates, winning just three of their opening seven Serie A matches. That form also hindered their progress in the Champions League, with the Nerazzurri finishing bottom of their group after a stunning goalless draw with Shakhtar Donetsk on the final matchday.
Nevertheless, the disappointment allowed Antonio Conte to focus on Serie A, with the Italian showing why Inter made him the highest-paid coach in Italy back in May 2019.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON: ROMELU LUKAKU
The synergy between coach and players is often the difference between a good team and a championship-winning one, and it was clear for all to see that Romelu Lukaku is a Conte player through and through.
Given how hard the Italian fought to bring him to Milan, it’s no surprise the two share a special bond. Lukaku has even said he would die for Conte, praising the tactician’s work in training as the reason why he has been such a hit in Serie A. Lukaku finished the season with 24 Serie A goals, second behind Cristiano Ronaldo, but he also added an incredible nine assists, with his distribution and team play crucial to Inter’s success.
The Belgian has also endeared himself to Nerazzurri fans by scoring in four consecutive Milan derbies in Serie A, matching Benito Lorenzi’s record from 1950. His latest goal put an exclamation point on Inter’s 3-0 victory in February and sealed his grip on the title of King of Milan, regardless of what Zlatan Ibrahimovic may tell you.
BEST SIGNING: ACHRAF HAKIMI
Conte rarely, if ever, deviates from his 3-5-2 formation which requires strong play on the flanks. It made Inter’s decision to sign Achraf Hakimi a no-brainer, and the Moroccan made an immediate impact on the team’s fortunes.
His pace and eye for goal caused headaches for opponents, and after an initial settling-in period that saw him in and out of the lineup, Conte made him a firm fixture in the starting XI.
That’s because Hakimi’s contributions defensively improved under the watchful eye of the Italian. However, even Conte himself can’t help but smile on the return of seven goals and nine assists in 45 appearances across all competitions for the 22-year-old.
THE COACH: ANTONIO CONTE
While there were some Inter fans that were sceptical when Conte was brought in given his ties to rivals Juventus, even the harshest critic will have softened their stance given he helped the team capture their first trophy since 2011.
After a first season that saw them come up just short in Serie A and the Europe League, the 51-year-old became the first coach to finish with more than 90 points with two different Serie A sides. Although Conte was aided by Juventus’ poor season and a second-half slide by AC Milan, it doesn’t diminish his accomplishment. The Italian took over an Inter side that had finished miles behind I Bianconeri for years, and in just his second season he’s leapfrogged them and finished 13 points ahead.
It’s only the second time Inter have finished with 90 or more points in their history, which is thanks to the second-best attack and best defence in Serie A. Add in a win percentage of 62 percent from his 102 matches in charge since 2019, and you can see why Conte’s the main architect of the Scudetto triumph.
But it’s the only trophy he’ll add to Inter’s cabinet after he and the team mutually agreed to end their deal just days after the conclusion of the season. It adds yet another question mark to an offseason that could see I Nerazzurri say goodbye to a key player or two due to their financial situation.
While there are several standout moments to pick out from a Scudetto-winning season, it’s hard to look past Inter’s victory over hated rivals and reigning champions Juventus back in January.
Inter entered the game off the back of a disappointing defeat away to Sampdoria and a draw with Roma. Even the most optimistic Inter fan was likely worried that the team’s January woes, which have hindered them in the past, would once again doom their push for the Scudetto.
Instead, Conte and his players ended that narrative in spectacular fashion, dominating Juventus in a manner rarely seen over the past nine years. In a script fit for a movie it was former Bianconeri star Arturo Vidal, who didn’t exactly set the world ablaze in his first and possibly only season in Milan, who netted against his former side to open the scoring.
From there the Nerazzurri controlled the game before Alessandro Bastoni and Nicolo Barella connected to double the advantage after the restart. Although Inter wouldn’t leapfrog Milan in the standings for another four matchdays, the symbolic nature of taking down Italy’s top club for nine years can’t be overstated.
For all the highs that Inter experienced on the way to their 19th Scudetto, you can’t overstate just how disappointing their performance in the Champions League was.
Coming off a defeat to Sevilla in the Europa League final, there were hopes the Nerazzurri would carry their European form over to the top club competition in the world. Instead, Inter faltered despite featuring in a group with a Real Madrid side that wasn’t at their best early in the season, Borussia Monchengladbach and Shakhtar. In fact, Inter managed to stumble their way out of Europe entirely by finishing bottom of their group despite entering the final matchday with a chance to go through to the knockout stages. However, a disappointing 0-0 draw saw them exit Europe with their tails between their legs.
The defeat to Milan in the first derby should also be mentioned given Inter haven’t lost many of those in recent years, but they more than made up for it with a 3-0 hammering in the return fixture.