Inter President Steven Zhang explains why he had to let Antonio Conte go to ‘think of the solidity of this club’ and their target for next season is Champions League qualification.
The patron gave a lengthy interview to La Gazzetta dello Sport, as well as another to Sky Sport Italia that will air over the next few days.
Following the Scudetto success, coach Conte terminated his contract by mutual consent and they brought in Simone Inzaghi from Lazio, while the club secured a loan from investment fund Oaktree.
“COVID created enormous financial difficulties and in 2019-20 the losses for big European clubs, including Inter, reached almost €2 billion. All these factors forced us to reconsider our plans and look elsewhere for new resources. There were many rumours and speculation that weren’t true, but we couldn’t deny them every day.
“In January, Inter were very clear on the necessities. We evaluated the options and chose the one that was best suited to our financial strategy for the club in the medium-long term. There was never an offer to purchase the club and we were looking for something else too. Our objective now is to rediscover a financial equilibrium by lowering costs, otherwise we could never find new investors.”
Zhang was asked about Conte’s rather sudden departure and confirms it was a disagreement over transfers and investments that caused the split.
“From the first moment we took over at Inter, we thought Conte would be the best coach for our project and two years ago, we finally managed to bring him to the Nerazzurri. I remain convinced Conte is a winning coach and that’s the reason we invested so much on him and the team over the last two years.
“The pandemic had already hit our revenue streams hard last summer, but we continued with him, concentrated on a season we were convinced we could win. It was the right decision. But now the cost of the pandemic is so great that we cannot help but reconsider the situation and try to cut costs. Obviously, that also influences our transfer strategy.
“Our different points of view on that situation led us to this separation. What was not fundamental for him, was for the club. And vice versa. Conte is a top coach, but as a President, I have to think of the solidity of this club.
“Simone Inzaghi has shown over the years that he is a quality coach with experience and can keep our club competitive, which is what we want, but also co-operate with us to ensure Inter remains a solid club that is not at risk. He knows our project, he embraced it and we are very happy to have him here, hoping we can win together.”
Does that mean retaining the Scudetto is the Inter target for next season?
“We have already stated our economic targets, we need a strong profit margin from this transfer window, but we also want to maintain a competitive team so we can do well in the Champions League and obviously qualify for it again next season, because we want to be a stable presence among Europe’s big clubs.
“It won’t be easy to win the Scudetto again, because six or seven clubs dream of winning it every season. Let us enjoy the title we earned.”