With Stefano Pioli receiving the sack on Tuesday evening Inter can now focus fully on finding themselves a new coach for next season. It had already been clear for quite a while that the man who replaced Frank de Boer in November would not be hanging around beyond the end of May, but now that it's officially been confirmed neither Suning nor Inter fans in general have any reason to feel guilty about looking to the future. So who will it be? Who on earth is going to be coaching Inter next season?
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past fortnight, you will already be well aware that there are 3 men in the running for one of the most impossible jobs in world football: Antonio Conte, Diego Simeone and Luciano Spalletti. Other names are occasionally mentioned - Leonardo Jardim, Luis Enrique and Mauricio Pochettino have all been fleetingly linked with Inter during the past week - but only in passing and without much concrete evidence to prove these people are genuine contenders. We can therefore say with a reasonable degree of certainty on May 12 that, barring an absolutely bizarre chain of events, Inter's Head Coach next season will emerge from that shortlist of three. However that is where the certainty ends.
Let's start with Antonio Conte. The former Juventus and Italy boss should secure the Premier League title for Chelsea over the course of this weekend, but at the moment he is making the headlines across the Italian media for a different reason: Inter. It is no secret whatsoever that Conte is Suning's first choice for the manager's job next season, having begun to pursue him back in February, and for that reason they seem intent on waiting until the end of May before giving up on him completely. In his press conference on Thursday the Italian ostensibly committed himself to at least one more season at Chelsea, but in fact the reality is not as simple as that. During the last month Conte has repeatedly been given the opportunity in public to declare that he will still be in London next season, and not once has he taken it. He has always phrased his words carefully so as to not commit himself totally, and it is this which continues to keep the story alive.
For sure, the chances of Inter getting Conte are slim. There's a good chance he is just using Suning's continued courtship to give him a stronger negotiating hand in talks with Roman Abramovich, and in any case it's pretty darn difficult to imagine Abramovich letting arguably the best coach in the world (at this moment in time) slip away from him after just one (very successful) season. But as long as there's a chance Suning will continue to push, because they are convinced he is the man.
A three-point plan has been drawn up to persuade Conte. Point 1 is money, with Suning having offered him as much as €14m per year in wages (Sky, TuttoMercatoWeb). Point 2 is autonomy, with Conte having been told that he would have absolute power at the club to do whatever he wanted, specifically in terms of transfer business (Gazzetta dello Sport). It is probably not a coincidence that three of the players being linked most consistently to Inter at the moment are Radja Nainggolan, Kostas Manolas and Antonio Rudiger - three players Conte made express requests for Chelsea to try and sign when he first arrived last summer.
Point 3 meanwhile regards former friends. Bit by bit Suning are building up a staff full of people Conte has either worked with before or is on good terms with, as a way of showing him just how much Inter want him to come and join them. New technical director Walter Sabatini, for instance, was keen on bringing Conte to Roma when he was still working for them a couple of years ago, and a month ago met with him in London to discuss the possibility of working at Inter together (Corriere della Sera). Gabriele Oriali is currently in talks with Suning over the chance to return to the club in a Team Manager role, leading many to put two and two together after the extremely successful relationship that the pair struck up while working for the Italian national team. And then there are Cristian Stellini and Dario Baccin, both of whom worked with Conte while he was at Siena and both of whom have been contacted at Genoa and Palermo respectively, over the prospect of coming to Inter next season. In short, Inter want Conte really quite badly. Will they manage to convince him? Probably not. But they sure as heck won't give up without a fight.
Should Conte say no to Suning's uber-extravagant offer, next in line would appear to be Diego Simeone. On Thursday afternoon FcInterNews reported that El Cholo is the only alternative currently being considered to the Chelsea manager as things stand, with new contact expected to be made in the upcoming days after Inter had previously got in touch a fortnight or so ago. He would certainly represent a popular choice amongst Interisti, having spent two season here as a player in the late 1990s and left a very fond memory in the process, and has been approached by Javier Zanetti on numerous occasions over the last year in an attempt to convince him to swap Madrid for Milan. He has reportedly been offered the same salary as Conte, which would make him the highest paid coach in Europe (Corriere dello Sport).
However Simeone has been slightly more clear-cut in recent public outings than Conte, regarding his desire to stay put next season. It has been reported in the past that he gave his word to Atletico Madrid last year that he would remain with the Colchoneros during their first season in their brand new stadium (Corriere della Sera), and after Wednesday's Champions League semi-final elimination against Real Madrid he pretty much confirmed he would not be going anywhere this summer. He would probably be the first choice of most Inter supporters but it looks pretty unlikely Cholo will be coming this summer, although Suning will continue to pursue him until the end of the month before accepting defeat.
If both Conte and Simeone decide that they would like to stay put for another year, the only other credible candidate in the running is Luciano Spalletti. Spalletti is set to leave Roma this summer after a toxic five months which have seen him fall out with pretty much every person in the capital, and for that reason is by far the most accessible coach of the three; some reports have even said that it is he who has offered himself to Inter (Gazzetta dello Sport). Without doubt he would be the least popular and least exciting choice, but he is the most plausible option given how difficult it will be to convince either Conte or Simeone. Knowing our luck he's probably the one we'll end up with, and we'll spend another season talking about who might be managing us the next season, with everybody safe in the knowledge that the current coach is only there because we couldn't find anyone else, which will lead us to have yet another embarrassingly disastrous season. Can't wait.
So there you have it. By the end of May we should know who will be sitting on the bench at San Siro for the 2017-18 campaign, and unless something weird happens it'll be one of the three I just spoke about. Conte, Simeone or Spalletti: who on earth is going to be coaching Inter next season?