Inter’s not-so-well-kept secret is out in the open and Antonio Conte has left the club by mutual consent despite ending an 11-year wait for Serie A glory this term.
Conte became the first coach in the three-points-for-a-win era to secure the title with 90-plus points with two different teams, having also done so as Juventus head coach.
But Conte’s long-term future has often been shrouded in doubt and he was tipped to leave after defeat in last term’s Europa League final to Sevilla.
Though he stayed put and brought the title to the Nerazzurri, things really began to escalate when owner Steven Zhang reportedly told Conte Inter’s wage bill would need to be slashed and around €100million raised in player sales.
Conte has already headed for the exit door but there are plenty of others who may follow. Here are five players who would certainly draw interest from elsewhere.
With Inter seemingly in need of quick funds, the most obvious saleable asset in their ranks is Romelu Lukaku, a player who has flourished under Conte. This season, the Belgium star scored 24 goals and supplied 11 assists in Serie A – making him the first player to have 20-plus goals and 10-plus assists in a single top-flight campaign in Italy since Opta began collecting this kind of data in 2004-05.
Lukaku has been heavily linked to a return to the Premier League, with both former club Chelsea or Manchester City (the forward having signed from the Citizens’ rivals Manchester United). He has 64 goals and 17 assists across all competitions for Inter, and could feasibly raise the money his club are looking for in one hit.
24 & 11 – Romelu Lukaku scored 24 goals and made 11 assists in the current league campaign: he is the first player with 20+ goals and 10+ assists in a single Serie A season since 2004/05 (since Opta collected this kind of data). Big.
It was not so long ago Lukaku’s strike partner Lautaro Martinez was tipped to join Barcelona. That move failed to materialise and, with Barcelona’s own financial problems well documented, it would seem unlikely such a deal would be revisited in the near future. That being said, the Argentina striker is another who would be sure to attract several suitors for his signature. With 49 goals and 14 assists since joining Inter in 2018, Martinez is among the Nerazzurri’s most prized assets.
It was only six months ago that Christian Eriksen appeared certain to depart Inter after a disappointing stint since joining from Tottenham in January 2020. But the Denmark playmaker enjoyed a renaissance since the turn of the year and was influential in Inter’s success. There were no assists last term, but Eriksen did manage four goals, as well as creating 39 chances – five of which are defined as ‘big chances’ by Opta.
A return to Spurs was previously mooted, while Borussia Dortmund were also said to be interested. There are seemingly others more likely to leave but Eriksen may come on to a few radars and would take a decent chunk out of the wage bill.
One of the brightest prospects in Italian football, Nicolo Barella recently made the Serie A Team of the Season for the second straight campaign and Inter would certainly look to sell others before their brilliant midfield maestro. Chelsea have been linked with a big-money move for the Italy international, but he would likely command a huge fee and Inter are said to be reluctant to sacrifice Barella.
The 24-year-old had 10 assists, created 11 big chances, 62 chances in total and had a passing accuracy of 84.58 per cent across all competitions in 2020-21.
Achraf Hakimi joining from Real Madrid in July 2020, after spending two seasons on loan with Borussia Dortmund, represented a real coup for Conte. Arsenal have been tentatively linked with the attacking full-back, while his talents will be sure to draw interest from Europe’s big hitters, even if Inter look to cash in on players elsewhere first. In 45 games across all competitions, Hakimi had seven goals, nine assists and 46 chances created. Twelve of those were big chances.
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