As Inter Milan head into another summer looking back on a dismal season, the question is how the club are going to be able to cut the 30-plus points between themselves and Serie A champions Juventus. While the Inter squad will now be jetting off on their summer holidays, Roberto Mancini and the rest of the club’s management will be busy putting together plans in order to ensure they bounce back next season and start the process of returning Inter to the top of the Italian game. With no European football on the schedule next year, Inter will be able to throw their full focus into the domestic campaign, with the return of Champions League football also a massive priority for a club that had grown accustomed to competing in European football’s premier competition on a regular basis.
After a slow start, Inter were always playing catch-up last season, and fans won’t be looking back on the 2014/15 campaign with fond memories. Having won just four games from the opening 11 of the season, head coach Walter Mazzarri was given his marching orders last November, with Mancini making a shock return to the club he led to three Serie A titles during his first spell as manager. While things picked up a little under the former Manchester City boss, the club still ended the season way down in eighth in the table, their fourth year outside the top-three and further evidence of just how far they are away from challenging the likes of Juventus and Roma for the title. Things weren’t much better in the cup competitions, losing in the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia – a tournament Inter won twice during Mancini’s first spell – and falling at the last-16 stage in the Europa League after losing both legs to Bundesliga side Wolfsburg.
While this was clearly a season of few highlights for Inter fans, there were some noticeable stand-out performances, not least the form of in-demand striker Mauro Icardi. The forward scored 22 league goals to finish as Serie A’s joint leading scorer alongside Verona’s Luca Toni, and Mancini will know he has a player capable of scoring the goals that Inter will need if they are going to have any chance of challenging next year. Currently set to start next season at around 14/1 with bookmakers such as betfair and 32Red to win the title in 2015-16, it’s clear that Inter have some work to do this summer if people are going to start believing Mancini has turned this ship around.
There might be some comfort for fans knowing despite Inter being at one of the lowest points in their history, they are still ahead of bitter rivals AC Milan, who themselves are going through some significant issues both on and off the field. But Inter fans aren’t happy unless they are winning trophies, and Mancini will be well aware that he set the bar fairly high during his first tenure. So what do Inter need to do this summer if they are going to begin the new season with a chance of doing anything next year other than watching on as their rivals wage battle at the top of the table?
Hang onto Icardi
On the back of such an impressive season, it’s no surprise to see Inter’s star striker being linked with a number of clubs throughout Europe. With Champions League football still looking some way away, Inter know they could face a real battle if Icardi decides he needs to be playing in club football’s premier competition over the next couple of years. As it stands, though, the 22-year-old has shunned the likes of Chelsea after signing a new contract to commit himself to Inter until 2019. Whether the new contract is a sign of the club’s desire to build a side around the Argentinean or if the deal has been put in place to ensure they get top dollar for the striker if he does leave the San Siro over the next 18 months, all remains to be seen. But it’s definitely good news for Inter fans who had been concerned about losing their hero to the Premier League.
Despite breaking into the Argentina squad in 2013, Icardi has so far failed to add to his solitary international cap despite his impressive form over the past couple of years. But his national team’s loss is his club’s gain, and Mancini won’t be overly upset if the striker is overlooked by Gerardo Martino next season if it means Icardi can focus on matching his goalscoring achievements from this season. After a relatively modest first year at the San Siro following his switch from Sampdoria, the youngster’s lethal form in front of goal last year came as something of a surprise to many Italian football fans. It didn’t take long for the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool to begin sniffing around the in-form front-man, and while Icardi did admit to being flattered by the interest shown in him, Inter look to have won the battle to hang onto their man, or at least for the time being.
Give Icardi a helping hand
There is little doubt Inter won’t be able to just rely on Icardi scoring goals next season if they are going to have any hope of challenging for honours. The Argentinean was the only Internazionale player to reach double figures in Serie A last season and Mancini will be well aware that he needs to add more goals to this squad. Lukas Podolski may have proved to be a popular player in the team following his loan move from Arsenal, but his goal return proved he’s probably not the man to solve Inter’s striker issues. Rodrigo Palacio was the next top scorer for the club last season, but the Argentinean’s eight league goals haven’t strengthened his case for a more central role next year. Mancini’s hunt for another goalscorer to play alongside Icardi will continue this summer.
A number of forwards have been linked with Inter since the end of the season and it looks as though Inter will sign at least one new forward. A move for Manchester City striker Stevan Jovetic looks to be on the cards, with Mancini set to raid his former club for a player who has struggled to nail down a regular first-team spot since his move to the Premier League side from Fiorentina two years ago. A string of injuries have plagued the Montenegro international since his arrival at the Etihad, and City’s signing of Wilfried Bony from Swansea all but spelled the end of Jovetic’s City career. Inter may have competition for the 25-year-old’s signature from Liverpool, but a return to Italy appears to be Jovetic’s preference. He may not be the most prolific striker in European football but he would be a perfect fit for what Inter need to add to their front-line.
Convince Handanovic to stay
After yet another impressive season in the Inter goal, Samir Handanovic currently finds himself as one of European football’s most in-demand goalkeepers. Entering the final year of his contract at the San Siro, the Slovenian international has been linked with a number of clubs over the past few months, and Inter face a real battle on their hands to convince the 30-year-old to sign a new deal. Handanovic has made no secret of the fact he needs to be playing in European competitions, especially the Champions League, at this stage of his career. With European football not on the schedule for Inter next season, Mancini will know he doesn’t have a great case to convince Handanovic to commit the best years of his career to the club. Mancini will know replacing Handanovic would be no easy task, and the Inter boss will be desperate for the goalkeeper to agree a new contract.
Having arrived at the San Siro in 2012 from Udinese, Handanovic has been one of Inter’s most consistent players during his time at the club, but last year’s disappointments could spell the end of his time in Italy and with Inter. With Manchester United reportedly set to be in the market for a new shot-stopper should David de Gea make the expected move to Real Madrid, Handanovic is rumoured to be alongside Petr Cech on Louis van Gaal’s wish-list. The fact he is three years younger than the Czech international, not to mention Chelsea’s unwillingness to sell Cech to one of their main rivals, means the Inter star is believed to be leading the race to replace the Spaniard at Old Trafford.
Add some creativity and flair
Among the many things wrong with Inter last season, a lack of flair, creativity and width was definitely one of them. While Fredy Guarin and Mateo Kovacic are both very capable creative players, neither has that explosive turn of pace and special something that can turn a game on its head. And with Kovacic rumoured to be attracting interest from the Premier League with Liverpool and Arsenal reportedly set to make a move, Mancini’s need for some attacking midfielders this summer might not stop with just one or two players. Podolski had been expected to be the man who could add some drive and a goal threat from deeper last year, but the German’s loan deal from Arsenal is unlikely to be turned into a permanent one after scoring just one goal in Serie A all season.
Manchester United winger Nani appears to be at the top of Mancini’s list of targets this summer, and the Portugal international could be just what Inter have been missing last season. After spending last year on loan with former club Sporting Lisbon, where he scored four times in the Champions League and seven times in the league, Nani is preparing to return to Old Trafford, where he has another three years left on his current contract. While Sporting are keen to sign the 28-year-old on a permanent deal this summer, Nani is expected to have another option in Inter after Mancini reportedly made the winger one of his main transfer targets. Available at around £7.8 million, Nani wouldn’t break the bank but would give Inter a real attacking threat and someone who has all the tools to be a real success in Italy.
Strengthen the midfield
Having made a very public attempt at convincing Yaya Toure to swap Manchester City for Inter Milan over the past few months, it looks as though the Serie A side have given up hope of signing the midfielder. The Ivorian has finally come out to reveal he will stay at the Etihad this summer, meaning Mancini will have to look elsewhere to sign a player capable of adding some leadership and metal to the midfield before next season. The former City boss had been confident of being reunited with Toure this summer, and the midfielder’s agent had even claimed his client was 90% certain to leave the Premier League at the end of the season. The change in stance might be a blow to Inter but Mancini will have a number of other options out there that he will now turn to following Toure’s U-turn.
Felipe Melo is a player who has been linked with a move to the San Siro over the next few months and would fit the bill for what Inter need to add to their midfield. The Brazilian, who is capable of playing at centre-back as well as in a deep-sitting midfielder, is entering the final year of his contract with Turkish giants Galatasaray and Inter could find the door open to sign the experienced 31-year-old. Another player who has been attracting a lot of interest over the past couple of months is Monaco midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, and Inter are one of a number of clubs fighting it out to sign the combative Frenchman. The youngster was been one of the Ligue 1 club’s best players last season and Monaco could be tempted to cash in on Kondogbia at a time when they need to raise funds.