Antonio Conte held his first press conference of the season today, speaking alongside CEO Giuseppe Marotta on the eve of Inter’s first match of the season against Fiorentina at 20:45 CEST on Saturday.
How are the team doing and how are you approaching this Serie A season? Do you already have an objective in mind?
“We’ve been working really well, I’m pleased with what we’ve done over the past three weeks. We were one of the last teams to finish our campaign last season, with our final match being played on 21 August. We’ve worked well during the recent period, and I’m happy with the team’s attitude and desire. We’re ready to begin our league season. Given how things ended last term and how they’re starting this season, it’ll certainly be difficult. We hope that things can improve. Our ambition is to build on the credibility we earned last year both in Italy and abroad after making it to the Europa League final. We want to build on this and always do our best.”
With new arrivals having come in, do you think the team has grown in terms of technical ability and experience?
“Vidal and Kolarov will bring experience. Hakimi is a young 20-year-old lad that has great potential. In full agreement with the Club, we decided on a strategy that took into account the views of the owners and the delicate circumstances that all clubs are experiencing. We’ve been trying to seize opportunities but keep these aspects in mind. We’re working calmly and harmoniously in the knowledge that we want to build on the credibility that we earned last year. We’ve demonstrated that we’ve made strides forward, this needs to provide us with strength and courage and make us understand that we’re on the right path. We are implementing a strategy that everyone has embraced as we all look to work for the good of Inter.”
At the end of last season, you reflected on your future. A month on, to what extent is this Inter in keeping with your idea about how the Club should be on and off the pitch?
“Last year, we started a journey. During the growth process, you need to make evaluations and try to improve certain situations as you go along. Everyone had and has the desire to try to improve in all aspects, and I’m happy about this. If intelligent people with the same objective are discussing matters, a solution can always be found. I’m happy because I know that we are continuing a journey together and we all want Inter to do well. This is the most important thing for the Club, team and fans. On a personal level, I am highly motivated to work together with the players, and we are ready to begin a new season. We know that it won’t be easy, but we are ready.”
How has Eriksen been doing? Can he become an added asset?
“From Eriksen through to Pirola, all the players who are here are assets, both for me and for Inter. I’m happy that I have these kinds of players at my disposal: they’re excellent footballers, professionals and great guys. They know that a hard year involving 60/65 matches awaits, and they’re all ready to bring added value to the side. This applies to Handanovic, our captain, through to Pirola, our youngest player but someone with great prospects."
Is Vidal available for tomorrow? In what position could he play?
"Vidal is feeling fine and has joined us in a good physical condition. From a tactical point of view, he’s someone that has already played for me, but we’re also doing new thing compared to the past. He’s settling in well and is an intelligent player. He has a great mentality and can cover all the roles in our midfield. We are happy to have him with us.”
At the start of last year, you said that you want there to always be at least a 1% chance that Inter can win something. Given how much this team has improved, how much has this percentage increased?
"It’s difficult to make predictions or state percentages. Last year, I was asked why I became part of the Inter project, and I responded that it was important for me to feel that there was the possibility of winning, even if that possibility was only small. In the end, we came very close to winning something and made our mark in the Coppa Italia, the league and the Europa League. My instincts were right, and the fact that we didn’t win anything shouldn’t detract from what we achieved. When you feel like there’s the possibility of winning, you do everything you can to do so. Our objective is to be involved in all competitions until the very end of the season, this would mean that we’ve done a good job. We did extraordinary things last year.”
Are Inter already well-equipped to win this year or could another arrival be a game-changer?
"I don’t think that any team has an obligation to win because no coach can guarantee trophies. However, teams like Inter have an obligation to be protagonists and manage to remain competitive until the very end. There are also various aspects at play, and a bit of fortune can help you to win. For example, Romelu’s own goal in the Europa League final went against us. We need to always give our all in all situations, just like last year.”
What kind of game will it be against Fiorentina? Could Hakimi start?
“We’ll be coming up against a strong side that has had a good transfer window. They’ve kept a very good and well-prepared coach. We’ll need to be very attentive. Hakimi is a player with great potential. As is the case with all new arrivals, time is required to get used to how we play, and we are an organised side both in defence and attack. He’ll need to put in the hard work, and he’s already demonstrated his potential in the early part of the season. It’ll be important for him and the other newcomers to work in all aspects.”
How has Perisic been getting on after his experience in Germany?
"I’m happy for Ivan because he had a great experience at Bayern Munich and managed to get his hands on three trophies. Now, he’s back to lend us a hand. I’m pleased that he has the desire and enthusiasm to do so because everything becomes easier when this is the case.”
(Photo Getty Images)