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While important, prior league experience is overrated.

Why Inter should not limit their managerial search to just those with prior Serie A experience.

FC Internazionale Milano Training Session & Press Conference Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Let’s talk about experience.

Former AS Roma manager Luciano Spalletti has become the odds-on favorite to be appointed the next manager of Inter Milan. It seems his prior league experience in Serie A is a main reason why he’s the front-runner in the eyes of both the club and fans.

I like Spalletti. I’ve been impressed with what he’s been able to accomplish in Rome, and I think he’d be a good manager for Inter. If it materializes, I’d fully support the club’s decision to hire him. That being said, I’d like to take a moment to dispel the notion that a manger needs to be Italian and have prior experience in Serie A to be successful at Inter.

I get it – we’ve been burned before. Frank de Boer was a disaster, and his unfamiliarity with the league and language didn’t do him any favors during his short stint at the San Siro. He simply wasn’t the right man for the job. The same can be said for Rafa Benitez, who lasted just 25 matches as Inter boss.

After these failures, I can understand why fans would crave a manager with domestic experience, and it’s certainly a valid concern to have. However, it would be mistake to dismiss a candidate just because he wasn’t born on the Italian peninsula and got his managerial big break elsewhere.

While certainty beneficial, prior league experience shouldn’t be valued more than talent, tactical ability, and results. Above all, it should never be a prerequisite preventing the club from hiring a manager, as overvaluing Serie A experience runs the risk of shutting the club’s doors on some of the most talented up-and-coming tacticians in the world.

Bayern Muenchen v Inter Milan - UEFA Champions League Final
Before joining Inter, Jose Mourinho had no experience managing in Italy. Did it matter? Of course not.
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Let’s take a closer look at Inter’s history for a second.

At a club of Inter’s stature, the end goal for any manager should be to win trophies, right? Using silverware as a key determination of success, the three best managers in the illustrious 109-year history of Inter are Helenio Herrera (7), Roberto Mancini (7), and Jose Mourinho (5).

While Mancini was tested at Fiorentina and Lazio before joining Inter for the first time in 2004, neither Herrera nor Mourinho managed a single match in Italy before taking the reins at Inter.

Did it matter? Of course not. Herrera and Mourinho were the right men for the job, and the results speak for themselves.

None of this is to say that prior experience isn’t important. It’s certainly an added benefit. Familiarity with the league, opponents, and the Italian media can help smooth the transition for a new manager. But, what matters most is a coach’s talent, tactical acumen, and ability to get the most out of his players.

Serie A isn’t the only top league in the world. Managers can test their chops in England, Germany, and Spain, and still be incredibly effective in Italy.

Imagine if all the world’s “big clubs” made prior league experience a prerequisite when hiring a manger. If that were the case, Sir Alex Ferguson wouldn’t have started a dynasty at Manchester United, Jose Mourinho would still be in Portugal, and Helenio Herrera would never have had the chance to lead Inter to back-to-back European Cups in the ‘60s.

In my opinion, any manager worthy of Inter’s bench should be able to analyze and break down an opponent regardless of whether he’s faced them a dozen times, or if it’s his first season in the league.

As fans, we may disagree over a potential candidate’s ability to do that, and we can debate if his resume is truly up-to-par with Inter, but we should never dismiss a candidate because he isn’t Italian and hasn’t managed a game in the league.

Simply put, doing so is against our “brothers of the world” mantra, and at the end of the day, it’s talent, not experience, that wins out.