Inter coach Luciano Spalletti has been hailed by many as the club’s best signing of the summer, though he was keen to play this down prior to his side’s opening match of the new Serie A season against Fiorentina.
If the Nerazzurri’s performance on Sunday night was a sign of things to come, then Interisti have every reason to hold their latest manager in such high regard.
The former Udinese and Roma boss has already brought a noticeable aura of professionalism and authority to San Siro, the kind of which has been lacking since the José Mourinho era. The 58-year-old quickly earned the players’ trust by giving each of them a chance to prove themselves in pre-season training, before taking a final decision on their respective futures along with Walter Sabatini and Piero Ausilio.
Club captain Mauro Icardi believes Spalletti has increased his side’s desire to win, which is different to anything he has experienced before. From this, it is abundantly clear he has the players on side, and has so far managed to create a perfect blend of intensity on the pitch and calmness off it. With the additions of Borja Valero and Matías Vecino, the Beneamata’s midfield looks more balanced than it has in many years. There is now sufficient technique and guile to combine with an already impressive physical presence.
One of Spalletti’s most impressive moves during his tenure so far was to convince Ivan Perišić to stay in Milan, shunning interest from English Premier League giants Manchester United in the process. By stamping his authority on this situation so early on, the Tuscan coach immediately earned the respect of the fans and media. Perhaps more importantly, he helped owners Suning make a clear statement of their own: Inter is now a strong club, in charge of its own destiny, which will not allow itself to be bullied or pressured into conducting business it does not want to.
Since his crucial discussion with the Croatian in early July, Spalletti has repeatedly praised his impressive work rate and exemplary attitude in training, as well as his desire to help Inter have a great season. Come next May, Inter fans might look back on that as one of the defining moments of their season. And Perišić may well end up considering his own decision as the best he ever made in his professional life.
So impressive was Perišić’s performance against Stefano Pioli’s new-look Viola side, that he even made the much-maligned Yuto Nagatomo look like a very decent left-back. The Croat willingly tracked back, providing cover for the man whose performances can vary from inconsistent to almost totally inept. There were several occasions where Nagatomo could have been left woefully exposed were it not for vital interventions from Perišić.
In an attacking sense, Perišić looked very sharp indeed. His combination play with Nagatomo, as well as Borja Valero and Marcelo Brozović was impressive throughout the 90 minutes. He provided a constant threat to Nenad Tomović and Vitor Hugo on the right-hand side of a Fiorentina rearguard which struggled to contain his powerful running at times.
With such a fantastic all-round performance, it is no wonder the aforementioned Mourinho has been so desperate to add Perišić to his Red Devils squad. The fact that the Portuguese coach has taken such a clear stance with his board of directors attests to this: he wants Perišić, or he will go with what he’s got. Fortunately for Inter fans, the latter scenario now seems more likely to unfold.
Looking ahead, this Saturday’s Stadio Olimpico showdown against Roma provides Inter with the perfect opportunity to make a statement to the rest of Serie A. If Inter really is coming, then they must prove it against one of their direct rivals, which the Giallorossi undoubtedly will be as the season progresses.