MILAN (Reuters) – Few coaches would have dared challenge the club leadership as Antonio Conte did this season when he complained that Inter Milan had made “important mistakes” in planning, leaving him with a wafer-thin squad.
But not only did the famously combative Conte – who had only been in charge for five months at the time – get away with his public criticism, he was also given what he wanted with several reinforcements arriving in the January transfer window.
After watching his side win 2-0 at Udinese on Sunday to maintain their Serie A title challenge, Conte said his haranguing of the Inter board had paid off.
“A club like Inter must also have a strong substitutes’ bench,” said Conte, whose side stayed three points behind leaders Juventus as they bid to end the Turin side’s run of eight consecutive titles.
“When you have more quality within the squad, it allows you to find more solutions.”
Playing away to teams such as Udinese was exactly the sort of match in which he needed more options, Conte added.
“You always find difficulties here in Udine, where they are good at closing down and then breaking. Putting more quality in the squad helps unravel these situations. The victory was deserved, even if it was complicated.”
Inter have spent around 180 million euros ($199 million) in the transfer market since Conte arrived, including a reported club record 80 million euros on striker Romelu Lukaku who has repaid the investment with 16 Serie A goals.
However, a series of injuries and suspensions, plus a crowded fixture list, left Conte short of options between September and December. The coach also complained he lacked proven winners.
But the arrival in January of Victor Moses, Christian Eriksen and Ashley Young, all from Premier League clubs, has taken a weight off his mind.
Moses and Eriksen made their Serie A debuts against Udinese and, although the Dane struggled to make an impact, Conte was not concerned.
“Eriksen arrived five days ago and we were forced to rush him into the team,” said Conte.
“I think he’s entered in a positive way, it’s a new way of playing for him but he’s still got to get into our idea of playing. He’s a great player, he has to find the right pace, but I’m satisfied with his performance.
Conte said he now had the right blend of youth and experience.
“In our staring line-up, we had a lad of 20 years old (central defender Alessadnro Bastoni) and one of 17 (forward Sebastiano Esposito),” said Conte. “We are working for the present and the future.”
($1 = 0.9033 euros)
(Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond)
All copyrights for this article are reserved to The Star