As Inter announced in their official statement welcoming him to the club on Friday afternoon, Luciano Spalletti will not hold his first press conference as Inter head coach until Wednesday afternoon, when he will be presented to the Italian media at long, long last. But because Spalletti is a man who simply loves talking, and will never settle for saying in 10 words what you can say in 1,000, he effectively gave his first press conference on Friday evening when doorstepped by reporters outside the club's training centre. With the low rumble of car engines in the background, he was asked about several different matters he will have to deal with during his first few weeks in charge, and provided typically lengthy responses on each matter. Below are some of the more important things he said amidst all that waffle.
What are your first thoughts and feelings now it's finally official?
"My first feelings are good ones. Today I got my first taste of the atmosphere inside this black-and-blue tinted world; I've met pretty much everybody that is part of the Inter family now, from Zhang Jindong and all of his colleagues to all the staff here [at Appiano] who work behind the scenes to give the players the best chance of fulfilling their potential."
What's most surprised you between your trip to Nanjing and your first official day as Inter head coach?
"In China I saw just how hungry our new owners are to reconcile the history of this club with its current sporting results. When you come to Inter, when you're invited to become part of this club's incredible history, it's obligatory to develop a strong sense of belonging and affinity with these colours, with the history attached to them. Anything that does not exude greatness at Inter is essentially an anomaly; the problem is that this anomalous period has gone on for too long."
"There are many teams ahead of us at the moment and they have created a big gap back to us in terms of the league table - it's not just about the positions each team has finished in, it's about the distance they've created within that. There are some teams who've finished as many as 25 points ahead of us, so this year we'll need to put in a lot of hard work and be ready to compete straightaway. The more constructive and productive work we put in, the more we'll reduce that gap."
Did Suning give you any guarantees over the kind of transfer business Inter are going to conduct this summer, in order to close the gap to Juventus?
"It's not only Juventus we need to close the gap on! We have to respect everything the clubs ahead of Inter have achieved in recent years, but we absolutely must not fear them as rivals. [Evidently he's pretty proud of what he did with Roma last season, and rightly so I would say...] There are certain things we need to sort out within the team; I for one would like to have a group of hungry players who really want to help bring out the shining light of this club. If anybody doesn't believe they're up to that task then they need to say so soon, because there are a lot of things we need to correct within this team."
One of the recurring problems in the season just finished was the lack of intensity during training sessions; more than one coach has made such a complaint this year, and Ausilio on more than one occasion has spoken of a divided group. How much work is there to do inside the dressing room?
"If you don't train at 100% then it's impossible to win games of football, because there are other clubs with strong histories and squads who are after the same results as us and do train at 100%. It becomes difficult to compete against them in matches if you don't train properly, so training sessions will be completed with appropriate regularity and in the correct manner. When that isn't the case I become a difficult person to be around, because I'm only happy when I win football matches. If I'm the coach of a club like Inter and I don't get results I'm essentially a nobody."
What promises can you make to Inter supporters?
It's difficult to make promises, but for sure I can promise maximum commitment and a desire to respect the name of this club. I expect to see a reaction from the players [after this season] and to see a team that functions properly on the pitch; to obtain results it's fundamental that the team behaves like a team, and that there are no omnipotent players who see themselves as being above the team. If you don't have a strong togetherness and cohesion it becomes much more difficult to catch up with all those teams we discussed beforehand [Juventus, Roma, Napoli]."
Two questions regarding the mercato: is it still possible to convince Perisic to remain at Inter, as we've read about how Mourinho has been courting him at Manchester United, and is Rudiger the right man to reinforce the defence?
"We don't have to convince anybody, it's them who have to convince us that they deserve to remain at Inter. Inter is the maximum that anybody can aspire to - at least that's how I'm experiencing this new job. I have incredible enthusiasm to come here and work for this club, so if there's someone who doesn't share this enthusiasm - if there's someone who needs convincing - then it's better that they go elsewhere."
I mentioned on Friday that Spalletti has never come across as the most likeable character in the world since I started following Inter and Serie A in general, but it's pretty difficult to have any complaints with what he said there. That last answer in particular, about how playing for Inter should be seen as an aspiration instead of an obligation, was music to my ears; yes, it would be better if Perisic stayed, but only if he's absolutely willing to do so without sulking over it.
Spalletti won't be under any illusions that a few well-chosen words will be enough to win over Interisti worldwide; it'll be results and results alone that determine his fate and level of popularity amongst supporters. But with the first game of the season still over two months away, this was a pretty good way to start. Respect Inter and Inter will respect you.
Avanti così, Mister.