It took an ex-Juventus man to do it, but finally the Old Lady’s decade dominance of Italian football is over.
It’s now Inter Milan’s moment in the sun. They have an unassailable lead at the top of Serie A with four games to go, winning their first Scudetto since Jose Mourinho’s class of 2010.
So, how did Antonio Conte – who was on the brink of the sack earlier in the campaign – revitalise his squad for a historic title-winning season? Sportsmail takes you through how the Italian coach worked his magic.
Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan were crowned Serie A champions for the first time since 2010
3-5-2 WORKS WONDERS AGAIN…
Conte built this side in exactly the same manner – from a tactical standpoint – as his Juventus side which swept the floor with domestic prizes.
The Italian coach has always had an obsession with defence, with Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni forming a formidable trio.
Persevering with three at the back worked domestically but failed in Europe, seeing Inter eliminated from the Champions League in the group stage.
Yet that helped them come 2021, with fresher legs against ailing opponents.
Conte’s three-at-the-back philosophy worked in a title-winning season at Chelsea too, with his players able to simply rotate when required without changing their fundamental principles on the spot.
Milan Skriniar (left) has been a key figure at the back for a strong Inter defence this season
‘MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY’
When appointed in May 2019, Conte was not popular amongst the Inter faithful, to the point that banners with ‘Not for everyone’ were used.
However, Conte has a knack of doing things his own way, usually with positive results to follow.
The message was stark. Conte considers himself a free spirit, once simply insisting: ‘I’m not an a**-licker.’
That was perhaps Conte’s greatest strength of all – an ability to follow his own beliefs in how to coach his team, unmoved by outside influences. It is a point which should not be overlooked.
Conte has his own methods and he’s not allowed outside influences to cloud his judgement
LUKAKU – THE NEW KING OF MILAN
Romelu Lukaku has become the new king of Milan in two years.
This season in Serie A he has scored 21 goals in 33 games with nine assists – extraordinary statistics – in a team which has formed the second-best attack in the league.
The Belgian’s contract expires in June 2024 and, despite speculation linking him with a move away, the club are desperate to secure Lukaku to become the club’s icon.
Romelu Lukaku has been in lethal form and his goals have powered Inter to the Scudetto
Since he joined from Manchester United for £75million in 2019, he has scored 61 goals in 92 games – a vast improvement on his 42 in 96 at Old Trafford.
Inter are considering a contract renewal this summer, which has obstacles due to the economic problems at the club.
Lukaku is said to want a salary increase to exceed £8.6m a year, which would be an increase of 30 per cent. Time will tell if the 27-year-old decides to commit the best years of his career at the Nerazzurri.
DITCHING ICARDI A MASTERSTROKE
One of Conte’s greatest decisions was to remove Mauro Icardi from Inter in the summer of 2019 – just as Lukaku came in and took his No 9 shirt.
The Argentine, now at PSG, was a turbulent influence at the San Siro and Conte made no secret upon his arrival that summer of his willingness to sell Icardi in order to fund his incoming transfers.
Primarily, that was about signing Lukaku. What a move that has turned out to be – a bold statement, and one Conte got absolutely spot on.
Mauro Icardi was never part of Conte’s plans in 2019 and was offloaded to Paris Saint-Germain
ERIKSEN GAMBLE PAYS OFF
Christian Eriksen’s time in Milan has been far from straightforward.
The playmaker has been in and out of the team since signing from Tottenham in January 2020. However, his influence from midfield has been vital as Inter have totted up the points this season.
Christian Eriksen scored at the weekend from the bench and his influence has also been key
The Dane was actually surplus to requirements in the January transfer window, but didn’t leave the club due to a lack of satisfactory offers.
Now, he is the team’s focal point – even if often from the bench – despite his hefty salary of almost £7.8m.
NOTHING BEATS HARD WORK…
There’s no doubt about it – Inter are the hardest-working team in Serie A.
No team has gained more points – 16 – from losing positions this season, which sums up their never-say-die attitude, a characteristic of Conte’s.
Conte has created a environment where players are committed to working as hard as possible
Of course, they have been able to rest players since the turn of the year. But Inter have done superbly in playing the cards dealt to them exquisitely.
Since the end of January, they went on a winning streak of 11 games, which sealed the Scudetto.
Fresh legs and fresh minds, along with an all-in attitude, have been key components this season.