Inzaghi rises to managerial elite after romping to first Scudetto

Inzaghi rises to managerial elite after romping to first Scudetto

April 22, 2024 at 9:12 PM
Inter Milan's Italian coach Simone Inzaghi celebrates winning the 2024 Scudetto
Inter Milan's Italian coach Simone Inzaghi celebrates winning the 2024 Scudetto. Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP
Source: AFP

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Simone Inzaghi claimed his place at football management's top table after sealing the first Serie A title of his coaching career in spectacular fashion in the Milan derby on Monday.

Inter Milan's Scudetto is easily Inzaghi's biggest honour since winning it as a player with Lazio 24 years ago, and comes after three years of off-field turbulence and serious financial problems which he has navigated with aplomb.

Inzaghi, 48, had a lower-key playing career than his elder sibling Filippo, who was a prolific goalscorer for AC Milan and Juventus, a two-time European champion and World Cup winner.

The younger Inzaghi, also a striker, played most of his career for Lazio, where he is loved by fans despite a modest goal record and a single league title.

However in the managerial game it is Simone who is leading the way, at the helm of one of Europe's traditional powerhouses while Filippo struggles to find his place after a stellar playing career.

He had already attracted plaudits, not least from Pep Guardiola, by taking his team to last season's Champions League final, where they were narrowly beaten by mega-rich Manchester City.

Inzaghi had been largely seen as a cup specialist before this season as he had won three Italian Cups and five Italian Super Cups since beginning his senior managerial career at Lazio in 2016.

But he once again made light of close-season strife to push Inter to their 20th league crown, beating local rivals AC Milan to a second star on their jersey.

Inzaghi is also one of just five managers -- two-time European Cup winner Helenio Herrera, Roberto Mancini, Giovanni Trapattoni and Arpad Weisz -- to collect 100 wins or more in the Inter dugout.

Inzaghi took over at Lazio eight years ago after working his way up through the youth ranks and immediately made an impact, taking the Roman club back into Europe and losing the Italian Cup final to all-conquering Juventus.

Lazio are frequently overshadowed by crosstown rivals Roma and hampered by a budget which is dwarfed by Italy's big three of Juve, Inter and Milan, who themselves are relative paupers on the continent.

The 2019 Italian Cup, two Super Cups -- both won against Juve -- and Champions League qualification in 2020 might not sound like much but it was enough to attract cash-strapped Inter following the departure of Serie A title winner Antonio Conte.

Inzaghi arrived at Inter three years ago with the club about to go into full-blown crisis mode following Conte's exit and the sales of Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi, the two stars of that Scudetto-winning campaign -- those departures causing fan protests outside the club's headquarters.

However, used to doing more with less at Lazio and in stark contrast to Conte, he folded in cheap replacements for the departing stars rather than complain about having them sold out from under him.

It is something Inzaghi has made a habit of as Inter's remarkable domestic campaign came after yet another pre-season in which big players left and serious financial problems hampered their summer transfer activity.

Inter were not even sure who their first-choice goalkeeper was going to be until a fortnight before the start of the season after Andre Onana was sold to Manchester United in a 57 million-euro deal.

Yann Sommer, Bayern Munich's reserve 'keeper, was brought in for a relative pittance, while Benjamin Pavard didn't arrive until transfer deadline day but has since slotted perfectly into Inter's three-man defence.

Meanwhile free transfer Marcus Thuram immediately struck up a devastating partnership with Lautaro Martinez, making the loss of Edin Dzeko and Romelu Lukaku almost entirely pain free.

Inzaghi's ability to adapt to and get the best out of a changing cast of players has been a hallmark of his reign in Milan and it has created a special team which will almost certainly be the one to beat come August.

AFP photo