22 May 2022
This post brings readers up-to-date with saved game's date...and what a season we've had! The 'Domestic Double' should never be frowned upon in any league, and we did it: the 'Scudetto' and a Coppa Italia 'at a canter'. But there's challenges ahead: we were outclassed in Europe and the younger players will need to step up as 'golden oldies' fizzle out due to age.
But for now, settle back and bask in some long overdue success for Ángel Bastardo. Inter is coming and trophies come with it...
1 city, 2 clubs, 3 managers
The fight for the Milanese throne has seen some of the greatest managers face off in the Derby della Madonnina:
Nereo Rocco Vs Helenio Herrera 1961-1963
Arrigo Sachi Vs Giovanni Trappatoni 1987-1991
Carlo Ancelloti Vs Roberto Mancini 2004-2008
Yet it feels a little underwhelming in 2021, when we have the battle between Gordon Strachan Vs Ángel Bastardo. Yes, you read that right, Scotland’s greatest ever national team manager is with A.C. Milan. I say greatest, because he took Scotland to the brink of a Euro Championship win in 2020. Losing out to Switzerland in the London final.
Both Bastardo and Strachan joined within a weeks of each other during the final months of the 2020/21 season. But sadly for Milan, Strachan was definitely the wrong appointment. Being sacked 255 days later in the December of the same year, with A.C. Milan languished in 11th place…just as Bastardo’s Inter were occupying 1st place for the seventh consecutive week.
Barstardo’s record against Stratchan is a 1-1 draw and 1-0 win…hardly dominating. But it was time for Milan to appoint a new manager…and once again they turned to another ex-Celtic boss: Northern Irishman Brendan Rodgers. Incredible. From there the Inter-Milan rivalry became more competitive (with Rodgers besting Bastardo in a 1-0 win)…Milan subsequently pushed for European football under Rodgers…playing good football and were 4th with 10 games to go. But in those 10 remaining games they crumbled: 2 wins/3 draws and 5 defeats, resulting in Milan finishing the 2021/22 season in 9th place. Bastardo rubbed his hands with glee…his cross-city foe humiliated and a Serie A title resting in the darker part of Milan once more…trophies have cometh!
Walking in a Candreva Wonderland
One of my ex-managers of an 11-a-side team once told me that "football was a young man's game, and 'the winger' was an even younger man's position". He isn't wrong, the need to run the channels box-to-box for 90 minutes takes copious amounts of fitness and stamina. Think Ryan Giggs in his heyday and then think of him again at 35...he was an entirely different player, fulfilling a different role and position in his team. The winger role was too young for him, he had outgrown it. Yet 35 year old Antonio Candreva in 2022 has defied this footballing status-quo, he played 31 matches in either the AMR and AML slots. He was my Winger on Attack duty or my Advanced Playmaker on Attack/Support when the roles suited. The results were incredible:
Antonio was the driver of our success, Inter's top scorer and top assister in a truly remarkable season. His best EVER:
I am a firm believer that the Advanced Playmaker role helped get the best out of him in 2022...physically his powers may be waning, but his Mental and Technical attributes are still top quality...something the Advanced Playmaker requires. Candreva's best game was Vs Bologna in the Coppa Italia final. Two goals topped off a wonderful performance whereby as an Advanced Playmaker he was able to get a good feel of the ball, receiving the ball (80 times!) in central areas and generally wrecking havoc:
So next time you see a 34/35 year old winger in your squad, do not discard him without any thought. The results of a suited role within your tactical set-up can be devastating, as the case of Candreva shows. I certainly wouldn't be sitting here writing about a Serie A and Coppa Italia double if it was not for him. Thank you Antonio.
So domestic success went hand-in-hand with Candreva's exploits, an incredible 27 consecutive gameweeks at 1st position. 25 wins, 8 draws and 5 losses brought the title home:
The Coppa Italia Gods were with Bastardo too, who permitted a penalty shootout win against Roma and some favourable matches en route to a final with Bologna:
Europe didn't quite go to plan, although we cruised into the groups with a big win Vs CSKA in the Qualifiers. From there we were always going to be second best to Paris Saint Germain...who boast the four most valuable players in the World: Coman, Dybala, Iheanacho & Martial:
We needed just a little more luck in that home leg Vs Tottenham. 4 Clear Cut Chances to their 0...yet it was 2-1 and Spurs went back to London with that vital away goal. We did well in the away leg, only conceding in the 80th minute. But I have regrets, I sat on the 2-1 lead and decided against pursuing the away goal in London, which may have changed the tie. Tottenham went on to win the Champions League, so I can't complain too much about pushing them all the way. Oh well, we reinforce in the Summer of 2022 and we go again...which leads me to transfer planning...
Squad building for 2022/23
In FM, I always aim to have two players per position and then a 3rd youth option. At Inter, I am lucky that some of the Academy players are already good enough to step up and compete into both the 1st and 2nd XI (those in yellow below). The likes of Belfoire, Dimarco, Marcheggani & Zanini are already pushing their more experienced team members for starts. A homegrown back four is certainly a possibility from 2022/23 onwards.
If we assume nobody leaves (which may be difficult as Gomes & Luchkevych are already targets for top clubs), then I can see that we need another central midfielder, as we wave goodbye to fibra God Gary Medel. Ivan Perisic has also departed for the MLS, so it wouldn't hurt to bring in another versatile winger...whilst questions remain over Kasper Dolberg's fitness and Leandro Bazan's ability (who is relatively young and inexperienced). Despite my growing attachment to Antonio Candreva, we also need to address his role in the team longer term.
Luckily for me, Mexican club Tigres have the two perfect players I am looking for: midfielder Andrés Cubas and versatile winger Cristian Pavón who graduated from Boca Juniors a few seasons ago. Both are 26 years of age, fit the Argentine profile that suits Inter Milan and have enough fibra. It's too early to say whether we'd be able to do a deal...but I am sitting in excess of €50m disposable transfer cash. We will do our best to fill our two non-EU quotas on this Argentine duo.
We also say good riddance to Karim Benzema, who never scored a goal in his 10 Inter appearances, he was seriously poor. I have also misused Mauro Icardi...who couldn't oust the young talents of Eduardo Colautti and Facundo Colidio from the team. Saying 'addio' to these two forwards probably means I need another striker. Meet: Adam Trojan...Jan Koller reincarnate...
Adam Trojan joins in the Summer of 2022 for a BIG deal which is likely to rise to €23m. At 18 years of age he already looks monstrous, and I can only imagine what a few years of Bastardo can do to him!
Thanks for taking the time to read my latest piece, any RTs/Favs/Comments are appreciated. I will keep followers updated via my Twitter and Slack channels as we move forward into Season 2022/23 with the aim of winning more trophies. Speak soon.