There's no two ways about it; 2016-17 was an appalling season for Inter. As far as the first-team is concerned, absolutely nothing good came from it. In fact, we could summarize our last twelve months in the same way that Captain Edmund Blackadder once summarized a poem written by his companion Baldrick in the trenches of the First World War*: "it started badly, it tailed off a little bit in the middle and the less said about the end the better. But apart from that, excellent." We've been *bleep*, basically.
*Blackadder was a British TV series that aired during the 1980s. I imagine 90% of people reading this have never heard of it...
Despite the sorry state the senior team are currently in, though, it has not all been bad, because at youth level Inter have enjoyed a far more successful campaign. Two prestigious national titles have been secured in the space of the last three days, in fact. On Friday, our Berretti side (under-18) clinched their second Scudetto in two years and the sixth in our history at that level, with Gianmario Corti's boys coming from behind to beat Torino in a one-off final. On Sunday evening, it was the turn of the senior Primavera to follow suit at Sassuolo's Mapei Stadium.
After seeing off Chievo and Roma in the quarterfinals and semifinals of the so-called 'Final Eight', Stefano Vecchi's boys squared up against Fiorentina in the grand final with the chance to win our first Primavera Scudetto since 2012, when Andrea Stramaccioni (remember him? He's at Sparta Prague now) was still in charge of the team. Belgian centre-back Zinho Vanheusden headed Inter into the lead during the first half, before a sublime header from Zinho's closest friend Andrea Pinamonti made it 2-0 with just over 20 minutes remaining. The Viola soon came back into the match when Andrea Sottil converted a penalty, but Federico Guidi's side were unable to get past Michele Di Gregorio for a second time and the match ended 2-1 in our favour. Marco Di Bello's final whistle rubber-stamped the eighth Primavera Scudetto in Inter's history and sparked wild scenes of celebration amongst the players and coaching staff, who are now also qualified for next season's UEFA Youth League as domestic champions. Congratulations guys!
In terms of which players we should be looking out for in the coming years, it was probably fitting that Vanheusden and Pinamonti were the two players to score the decisive goals in the final. At this moment in time they look like the pair with most potential; everybody knows about Pinamonti by now after his cameo appearances with the first team this season, but Vanheusden offers great hope in the centre-back role at just 17 years of age. He scored twice in the Final Eight and was declared the best player of that knockout phase, receiving a neat little trophy after the Scudetto presentation for his efforts. Elsewhere, Theophilus Awua has a bit of N'Golo Kante about him in central midfield and will in all likelihood be bought outright from Spezia (he's been on loan this season), while Xian Emmers has also impressed in the no. 10 role and scored the goal that eliminated reigning champions Roma in the semifinal. I haven't seen any of the Primavera's games in full this season, but from reading others' views and seeing bits and pieces on social media they would appear to be the brightest prospects right now. That's not to say others aren't capable of carving out decent first-team careers for themselves, though.
Of course the big question that follows this success is the same old question about Inter's treatment of young players. Every year we seem to get excited about various talents that have come through our youth system and every year they disappear without trace - Samuele Longo, Federico Bonazzoli and Marko Livaja to name but a few... - so it's worth remaining cautious for the time being. But if I'm totally honest, I can't be bothered to delve into that particular debate right now. We can face up to it another day.
For now, let's just celebrate yet another success at Primavera level. Congratulations guys!