APPIANO GENTILE – On the eve of the final league game of the season at 18:00 CEST against Marco Giampaolo’s Sampdoria at the Meazza, Simone Inzaghi took some time out to answer questions from journalists.
The fans have really enjoyed Inter’s football this season. What’s been the best aspect of your first campaign here? Which snap-shot would you choose?
“I’d choose a colour snap-shot rather than a black and white one, which is how many people thought it would go at the start. We’ve won cups, played our brand of football, got back into the last 16 of the Champions League and we’re here competing for the Scudetto on the final day. I’d say it’s been a successful season full of colour.”
What’s the mood like on the eve of the final? How much belief is there?
“This week has been just like any other in terms of match preparations. We know we have to turn in a strong performance for the 90 minutes so that we don’t have any regrets, while knowing that our fate isn’t in our hands. We know we need to get up to 84 points and give 100% in the last 90 minutes.”
What have you taken from your own experience to help the players prepare for the game mentally?
“The fact that we have to focus on what’s in our hands, which is the game against Sampdoria. We saw their performance against Fiorentina. They’d already clinched safety and played with freedom. Our fate lies with Sampdoria. We’ve prepared for the game as well as we can with a serious approach, just as we’ve done with the other 51 matches we’ve played since 21 August.”
How important is it for the future that a leader like Samir Handanovic is staying and do you hope it’ll be the same story with Ivan Perisic?
“That’s what I’d like and the club knows that. Handanovic makes such a big contribution here. He’s a player who’s done so well, as has Perisic, who’s had an extraordinary season. This is why I have a meeting with the club next week about next season in terms of growth, targets and the rest. Up until now we had the Coppa Italia and other league games to play. We have a great relationship with the club and once the league campaign is over next week, we’ll take stock of everything.”
What mark would you give Inter?
“I can’t give the team a number. I can tell you about where we’ve come from and which goals we’d set ourselves. From day one, I sensed that we could achieve something big. We’ve done well to lift two trophies and to be in the Scudetto race knowing that there’s still hope, although it’s out of our hands. The Sampdoria game is the priority now. We want to approach it in the best possible way as we’ve done with other matches, such as against Udinese and Cagliari, when we were facing a side in top form and another one battling for survival. I’m lucky to have a serious team that’s produced some outstanding performances.”
How are you finding the build-up?
“I’m staying calm about it, both on the pitch with the players and at home with my family. I can only say that we’ve had a brilliant year and I’m so pleased with what we’ve achieved. Of course, it would be extraordinary if it happens tomorrow, but we know we’ve given it everything and we’ve made the fans happy, which is what they deserve. They’ve never abandoned us and have always got behind the team. I still get goosebumps now when there’s talk of the Super Cup success at San Siro and the Coppa Italia final at the Olimpico.”
Have you planned anything in case you win the Scudetto? Do you feel the initial scepticism has completely disappeared and you’re pleased with the season?
“As coaches, we’re always under the spotlight, and rightly so. I know all about the journey that I’ve been on alongside my staff and what our targets were initially. As we headed down that path, the way the team played increased the level of responsibility among the staff and players as we surpassed expectations. We still have the game tomorrow. We want it to go as well as it can and the team is up for it.”
If Inter don’t win the title tomorrow, some people might say, “if Antonio Conte had still been there”. Does that sort of thing wind you up?
“Not much. I have a great relationship with Conte. There’s mutual respect there. He did a great job here and it’s normal for there to be comparisons, but I’ve never paid attention to them. I just focus on my path and what this team and this club have given me. They’ve always been behind me in the difficult moments and also while lifting trophies. I think it’s been a wonderful year. I’m pleased with the club, the fans and the players. I’m coaching a fantastic group of lads with so much desire to win and to improve every day.”
Which coach has impressed you?
“So many coaches have done really well. At the moment Davide Nicola comes to mind because he took over during a difficult period. There are 90 minutes to decide the Scudetto, the European places and the relegation zone. It’s all up for grabs.”
Milan Skriniar has been one of the standout players this season. He’s been brilliant. Does he have the qualities to become club captain in the future?
“He’s had a fantastic season and he’s been performing at the same high level for a few years now. He’s also a player who always wants to improve. I’m pleased with him and the others. You don’t win two trophies and get to face Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League with just 12 players. I’d like to give credit to the whole squad, from those who’ve played over 50 games to those who’ve played less. They’ve all shown huge commitment to the cause.”
Will Sampdoria and Sassuolo be motivated to play for pride?
“I think that Inter and Milan need to worry more about Sampdoria and Sassuolo than each other. Both teams can improve their league positions at the moment. They don’t have a specific target in mind, but they’ll take it seriously and be well organised. We’ll need to give everything over the 90 minutes.”
Why did you recently say that you’d replay the game against Liverpool rather than the one against Bologna, for example?
“That was based on how the game was played and how the team took to the pitch. I have regrets over the first leg against Liverpool because it ended 2-0 but we didn’t deserve that. Along with the players and the staff, we analysed everything in depth and left no stone unturned. We played in the Coppa Italia to win it, while we wanted to reach that stage of the Champions League for the first time in 11 years. We know that the two legs against Liverpool probably cost us some points in the league as well as some injuries, but ifs and buts don’t help you move forward. I’m pleased with the path that we’ve been down and lifting the Super Cup and the Coppa Italia, which had eluded the club for so long.”
Could Joaquin Correa start tomorrow?
“He’s a player with so much quality and he’s shown us glimpses of his potential. He’s a serious player who’s been unlucky to have had two big injuries that have slowed him down. I’ll wait until after training today to decide about the best line-up for tomorrow against Sampdoria.”
Has Ivan Perisic reinforced the ideas that you had about him when you faced him previously as an opponent?
“He’s gone beyond that. Until you coach him, you can’t get a clear idea of how good he is. I faced him many times as an opponent and he was always a player to watch for my teams. He has real quality and also puts in a shift. He’s gone above and beyond this year and has had a brilliant season. I know there’s a meeting with the club and I hope it goes well because he’s a player that I have confidence in for Inter’s future.”