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SoM Staff Roundtable: Conte’s Exit

Though we still haven’t fully recovered, the writing crew did our best at putting into words what Conte’s shock exit means for Inter and who could replace him

FC Internazionale v UC Sampdoria - Serie A Photo by Sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Only Inter could go from champions on Sunday to terminating its coach’s contract by mutual agreement Wednesday. Pazza Inter at its best. Such a monumental announcement naturally called for a gathering of the Serpents of Madonnina writing staff, and we did our best reacting to Conte’s exit and its many domino effects.

FC Internazionale Milano v Udinese Calcio - Serie A Photo by Sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

What was your first reaction when rumors over Conte’s exit and the official announcement came in? How does this affect the bigger picture?

David: It still doesn’t seem real. Less than a week ago we were lifting the Scudetto and watching Conte celebrate with the entire team and fans outside the stadium. And now Inter’s back at square one. Who knows how much of the championship-winning team is going to be sold this summer but either way, it feels like Inter is at the end of this particular road both in terms of players, coach, and ambitions. I hope we don’t descend into another Banter Era but it's hard to be sure of anything at the moment.

Josh: Personally, I assumed the rumors were more posturing by Conte’s camp. I didn’t really foresee a way where there was actually a split after winning the league. However, like most things, money transcends what we want. In this case, it actually makes logical sense for the two to part ways. Conte enjoys winning, and Inter need to make some money. Those two can’t exist from Conte’s perspective. I can’t blame him.

Mario: I took it as a bunch of nonsense. How many times have we seen the “reputable sources” report some kind of BS right after Inter loses a big game? I pay no mind to all these reports until Inter posted it. Now it’s on and I’m seriously at a loss for words. Inter looks to be going down the wrong path... again.

Michael: It seemed possible that he would go, but with winning the title I expected him to stay. When the news came out, it felt like something that we were lucky not to have happened last season. It is very disappointing, to say the least. The future manager question is very murky, so it is hard to tell what will come in the next few months and next season.

InterPool: It confirmed that our financial situation really is dire... Suning and Marotta had consistently backed Conte fully, and JUST saw it pay off completely with the Scudetto — money is the ONLY possible reason why either party wouldn’t want to build on this Conte-nuity of success.

Luca: It was a bit of a shock given the news about Oaktree coming through just a few days prior. I’m happy to ignore most Italian papers, but once Di Marzio said it I was definitely taking it seriously. The official announcement just confirmed those fears. Big picture, it means we are back to Year 0 which is not where you want to be after winning the league.

FC Internazionale Milano v Udinese Calcio - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli - Inter/Inter via Getty Images

How does this change your perception of Suning?

David: Suning is painted in a very ugly light by this whole mess and while it's thanks to them Inter won in the first place, I don’t have much faith in them for the future. Perhaps most importantly, Suning has to find a way to pay off the loan to Oaktree and keep the club from being repossessed. With that in mind, I don’t think we’ll see much investment of any kind for the next few years. Cheap coaches and even cheaper players could be the new normal. It’s a mystery to me why Suning didn’t sell the club completely back in January when it knew the finances were this bad. Maybe they were relying on the Super League that much. Again, not a good look to have so much stock in something that wasn't even certain to become reality. Suning obviously was blind-sided by the pandemic, but they have to take the blame for allowing Inter to fall apart this much so soon after winning the league.

Josh: I didn’t think highly of Suning in the first place. So trying to fit things in the budget over keeping the guy who played a massive part in a Scudetto fits the bill. This just really sucks because now it's a reset instead of building upon a great season heading into the Champions League and a chance for a league repeat.

Mario: If Suning doesn’t figure this out soon... at least I can look forward to Inter - Palermo matches again.

Michael: To me, it was the culmination of spending while counting on revenue to continue coming in and the ending of that by the pandemic and Chinese sanctions. Suning are caught between a rock and a hard place, but some of it is their fault. The departure of Conte over player sales is probably something that would have come even if they had sold the club. Inter have less debt than they did when Suning got here, but Inter is still not a fully financially healthy club and honestly never really have been. I am probably more lenient on Suning than most. The biggest thing they have done to affect the club now came in the past with bad purchases and the sacking of Luciano Spalletti after extending him, costing the club tons of money in terms of transfer fees and salaries. In that time, no one saw the developments of the past 15 months coming to pass.

InterPool: Barely at all... the Super League changed my perception of their character, but this merely confirmed what we already knew — that the global recession after a full year of pandemic lockdowns and the Chinese government's restrictions on foreign spending have severely restricted Suning’s ability to invest in this Inter “project” the way that they had clearly showed a desire to do previously since buying the club.

Luca: You live by the sword, you die by the sword. Us fans were more than happy for Suning to come in and use Inter to promote their brand, so long as it meant they poured millions into the club and brought us back to where we wanted to be. They did that. We’ve been in the last four CLs and won a Scudetto. It was always a risk, however, and the pandemic hit them hard. In hindsight, I would have been happier if they had sold the club months ago when those offers started coming in. However, we can’t forget that they’re a business and they want a return on their investment.

Football Serie A Lazio-Inter Photo by Massimo Insabato/Archivio Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

How do you think the club moves forward? Who’s your ideal replacement for Conte?

David: The same reports that said Conte would leave also claimed Inter needs at least €70 million in sales this summer. Unfortunately, the odds are heavily leaning towards the latter being proven true. Conte would only leave a project he created from the ground up if the roster was going to be sold left and right. It’s hard to see Inter challenging for trophies anytime soon. The biggest question is probably who gets sold this summer. Hakimi, Lautaro, and Lukaku all have spoken in the press about how important Conte was to them staying at/joining Inter, and I could see players leaving like dominoes falling. As for Conte’s replacement, Simone Inzaghi’s name has been talked about a lot. We know what we’re getting with him from his time at Lazio and he plays a 3-5-2. Allegri or another coach of his caliber would be ideal but I don’t think the project is there to entice anyone major to join. I’d be interested in a foreign option like Fonseca but I doubt Marotta is going to make an outside-of-the-box signing. It’s hard to guess what the goal should be next season without knowing who is sold but top four is probably a success for the foreseeable future.

Josh: It’s too soon. I need time to get Conte’s hair flapping in the wind on the Inter sideline out of my head.

Mario: Mihajlovic or Zenga, I don’t even know who’s realistic and possible... We’re trying to save money but we’re still forced to pay two coaches. Half of Conte is still 6m + new manager probably won’t come cheap. In a time where we are trying to cut our spending, we still have to pay top dollar for the manager. At least make the next guy a fun one I guess.

Michael: I hate to jump to assumptions so fast. Whoever comes, they will probably not be an A-list name, likely an ambitious smaller managerial signing. I have no clue who though in the current market. Let’s just hope the core of the team stays intact and see from there.

InterPool: Conte is one of the very best managers in the entire world... virtually anybody else would be a downgrade, or at least a major gamble. I refused to believe that this news about Conte possibly leaving was even real until it just happened officially, so I haven’t put much thought at all yet into the ideal replacement. Whoever Suning and Marotta end up choosing, it will clearly speak volumes about our current financial reality.

Luca: The ideal replacement is obviously Massimiliano Allegri. I don’t think he’d sign unless he thinks he can win Serie A, so if he joined I think I’d be a bit calmer about the situation. But, as has been said above, the name we attract will say a lot about the kind of state we’re in. If we get Inzaghi, I think the club is confident we can remain in the top 4. If things are really bad and we’re not expecting any success within the next five years, then I would not be opposed to the club seeking out a left-field option like Marcelo Gallardo or even Dejan Stankovic.