Internazionale entered the 2019/20 transfer marketplace with targets set and guns blazing. Their raid began by hiring Antonio Conte as manager and culminated with $156.6 million invested in new players, with Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Diego Godin topping the list. The Italian has been hired to break Juventus’ vice-like grip on the Serie A title. Question is, what happens when he doesn’t deliver this year? And if he doesn’t, what odds will the leading sports betting platform offer on him being there next season?
Pros are hired to offer immediate results. Conte should take a bow. Inter are a vastly improved squad under his advice. But the 50-year-old long since proved he’s an expert at winning titles after bagging three together with the Old Lady and another with Chelsea in the toughest league whatsoever. In 2011, he began the Bianconeri’s current eight-year Scudetti run. Following two Serie A titles, he took on the challenge of leading the national team before winning the Premier League in his introductory campaign at Stamford Bridge. Victory may be a double-edged sword, impressive as his CV is. What if Conte fails to win the Scudetto in his initial season at the Giuseppe Meazza? He has never stumbled at the very first hurdle before. Would second or third position be good enough, despite all the visible improvement? Almost every vodds punter would say no.
Conte was heavily backed financially. Unlike at Chelsea, the Inter board has obliged his every whim. From the winter window, they dipped into their reserves again, spending an additional $21.5 million on Christian Eriksen, Ashley Young and, on loan from Chelsea, Victor Moses. Inter’s pursuit for the Scudetto isn’t just about usurping Juve. They’re locked with city rivals Milan on 18 titles. Anyone who understands the ingrained jealousy between the two clubs can comprehend the true root of the Beneamata’s desperation. Bragging rights mean plenty in Lombardy. But there’s a little problem. Inter have flattered to deceive this year. Perhaps that’s harsh, given they’ve led Lega Calcio on 12 matchdays. Nonetheless, it’s ominous that the Nerazzurri have dropped to third in the title race. After losing to Lazio in the Stadio Olimpico, Conte’s side watched Juventus open a lead on top, albeit with an excess game under their belts. It’s not an unsalvageable situation however, the Old Lady habitually runs away and hides in the season’s second half.
The squad of Conte is not throwing in the towel. They’re only a piece or two short despite the extensive investment. Beaten only twice so far this term, they have drawn six times to drop another 12 points. All of it adds up. With nine points separating third from fourth, it’s definitely a three-horse race for the Scudetto. Their destiny is in the hands of Juve although Inter remain in contention. If the Nerazzurri don’t win against their Turin rivals, Conte is going to be questioned. Together with the Italian’s poor continental record, it’s easy to overlook that the club is still in with a Europa League shout. Even if he comes up short in the two competitions and fails to advance from the Coppa d’Italia, getting sacked would be unjust. He’s lifted the team in almost no time at all.
Next season should be Conte’s defining moment. If Inter stutters in the league for extended periods during the 2020/21 effort, it’s hard to see him retaining his job. Not with managers like Mauricio Pochettino available.