Well that took longer than expected, and probably longer than necessary. (A sentence I suspect we haven't seen the last of this summer.)
On Sunday afternoon we wrote an article about how Luciano Spalletti had agreed a deal to become Inter's new Head Coach for the 2017-18 season, following a meeting he had attended in Firenze with Piero Ausilio and Giovanni Gardini. At the end of it I confidently stated that "Inter will officially announce Spalletti on Monday - or, at the latest, Tuesday", which would have enabled the former AS Roma coach to be presented to the Italian media by the end of the week. In hindsight that was a wildly optimistic assertion; everything seems to be taking a lot more time than it should at Inter right now. But finally, finally, the news we've all known about for a week has become official.
"F.C. Internazionale is delighted to announce that Luciano Spalletti has been appointed as head coach of the first team", an official statement on Inter's official club website reads. "The new coach, who has signed a two-year contract, will be unveiled at a media conference at Suning Training Centre in memory of Angelo Moratti next Wednesday at 12:00 CEST. He will take his first training session with the team on Monday 3 July." So there we have it. Wednesday 14 June at 1200 CEST will be the time of his first official press conference.
Speaking to Inter Channel this afternoon, Spalletti said "I'm very excited to have been given this job and to become part of this incredible family. To some it could be seen as a burden that we have millions of supporters around the world who demand results, but we have to use this as an extra incentive to work hard and take the energy they give us onto the pitch. We absolutely need to improve on recent results; we need to work to reconcile Inter's current results with the glorious history this club has." On his meeting with Suning in Nanjing this week, he said that it made him realise just how enthusiastic Inter's owners are to give their sporting project a shot in the arm.
So, now that it's official what are your thoughts on this appointment? My personal view on Spalletti is that, while it can be very difficult to like him as a person, it is reasonably easy to like him as a coach. In terms of communication and handling the media he has traditionally left quite a bit to be desired - just look at the bizarre manner in which he's dealt with Francesco Totti over the last eighteen months - but despite this he always manages to get his teams fulfil their potential on paper (if not go beyond it, admittedly) and has achieved very good results in Serie A. Spalletti sides always play good football too, which never hurts - we've not had a lot of that at Inter lately (or ever, in fact, if you want to be argumentative). From a tactical point of view I really don't think he has many superiors - if you ask me not even Antonio Conte or Diego Simeone are that far ahead of him in this regard, as much as that might sound like blasphemy (they're superior coaches for other reasons). Hate him all you want - and a lot of Interisti do - but this guy knows his stuff.
Will comprehensive footballing knowhow be enough to ensure Spalletti can succeed at Inter? Most probably not. This is a club where being a good coach isn't always sufficient to produce good results - given all the confusion within the club, you need to be a very good coach. In fact coach isn't exactly the right word - Jose Mourinho took on far more responsibility than simply being the coach of the first team, and that was out of necessity more than choice. But nonetheless, I'm pretty certain that Luciano from Certaldo represents an upgrade on Pioli, De Boer, Mancini, Mazzarri, Stra- OK I need to stop now. My word is it depressing thinking of all the bad coaches we've employed in the last seven years. He isn't perfect by any means, and three months ago I would never have wanted him at Inter because of how thoroughly unlikable he can be, but he's definitely good enough to get us into the top four next season (fourth place will once again be worth a Champions League place from next season). I remain rather pessimistic about the general state the club is in, but in Spalletti we finally have a coach whose qualities I fully believe in. Let's just pray he avoids useless arguments with the media and focuses on what's happening on the pitch.
Oh, and one more thing: you all need to get used to the following slogan. "Strong men, strong destinies. Weak men, weak destinies." Spalletti said it in an interview a year ago and for some reason it's gone completely viral on Twitter.