24 December 2025
Previously on "Inter is coming": Ángel Bastardo was ready to emerge from the Shadow Of Herrera.
The Wall / Il Muro
These are the end times.
Ángel Bastardo is into the last 6 months of his Inter journey. On the 09 August 2025 he became Inter's most decorated manager in terms of silverware (winning the Italian Super Cup 1-0 Vs Juventus) taking him to a total of 8 Inter trophies. But in order to completely step out from the shadow of Herrera, one trophy remains to be won: the UEFA Champions League (UCL). It's become a bit of a Holy Grail for me in FM17, as other FMers have run ahead winning this trophy several times...I am languished with just a solitary Runners Up medal. But instead of rushing through the playthrough towards those UCL knockout games, I've been keen to place short term aims into my 5th and final season.
We entered the 2025/26 Serie A season on a 35 game unbeaten run. So it only seems fair to aim in surpassing AC Milan's record of 58 games unbeaten in Serie A. A record the old enemy achieved from 26 May 1991 to 21 March 1993, built from the foundations of a stellar back line of Mauro Tassotti & Paolo Maldini (the fullbacks who also had the grounding of Centre Backs) and the central duo of Franco Baresi & Alessandro Costacurta...guys who guaranteed clean sheets.
A trophyless 2023/24 season was the impetus Bastardo needed to recruit experienced heads, à la José Mourinho of 2009. During the last two years we've been busy buying established professionals, older legs but wiser heads. In Bastardo's 5th and final season, we perhaps have our most complete squad. A squad capable of finding the consistency to push on from the 35 unbeaten matches and get close to AC MIlan's record of 58:
I discussed my engine room two seasons ago, and this remains central to our play. In fact, with the acquisition of long term target Amadou Diawara (28 years) for €30m...I finally have the defensive midfielder to compete and interchange with the likes of Santiago Ascacíbar & Fabinho. Amadou is another guy who can easily play all three midfield roles, as discussed in the engine room post.
But if I am really going to push for an unbeaten run, I need to form The Wall...and in Aymeric Laporte & José Giménez I hope I have this wall. Laporte is beautifully composed on the ball and technically one of the best centre backs in FM17...and Giménez is no nonsense, commanding and rugged. It really is a Beauty & The Beast fairy tale and I believe they rival the legendary pairing of Walter Samuel aka 'Il Muro' & Lúcio - the last UCL winning CBs for Inter MIlan.
"Defending is what The Team does when no one is looking”
So how are we going to do this?
The above quote is credited to myself, as I made it up. But what I want to convey is that our defensive unit is established when we don't have the ball. When the eyes of the spectator are squarely focused on the man in possession, my boys are tucking into a defensive shape: narrow & deep. "Form The Wall" screams Bastardo from the touchline.
For the first time since my Estudiantes de La Plata days, I've gone back to the Defensive mentality on a regular basis to see out games. I usually take the lead and then drop deep and decide to Time Waste Whenever Possible (something only achievable in the Contain and Defensive mentalities). Retaining the ball and lowering the tempo also seem to work really well for this Inter team.
In addition, we've been training the boys to work on their defensive positioning during team sessions. I am noticing some lovely compact shapes when we've sat deep and soaked up the pressure. As shown by 1st half and 2nd half comparisons without the ball in the Milan Derby. It's only subtle, but the closer positions make a huge difference in retaining possesion and not getting caught out:
The Engine Room and The Wall have combined to give us a lovely run of cleansheets, 15 to be precise in all competitions. 1,387 minutes of tranquility in Sergio Gomes' goal eventually ended in the Milan Derby when The Wall was breached:
The Serie A unbeaten run continues to 53 games as we enter the Winter Break. 6 more to surpass AC Milan's record. The teams standing in the way of immortality are: Sassuolo (A), Verona (A), Sampdoria (H), Napoli (A), Roma (H) & Atalanta (A). FM is a cruel game, so I wouldn't be surprised if we do not do it...but I will continue to field a 1st choice XI in each of these games. No rest yet for Laporte & Giménez - who have featured in 16 of the 18 Serie A games (88.8%) this season. The Wall needs to stand firm a little longer.
Despite the little side quest I have going with the unbeaten run of games domestically, the obsession IS the Champions League. We topped our group meaning I was hoping for a 'lesser' team in the Last 16, but luck pairs us with last year's Runner Up: Real Madrid. In the last 5 years, no team has been in the Last 4 more times than Inter Milan & Real Madrid. So it guarantees to be a cracking Last 16 match.
Appearances in the Semi Finals 2021-2025 (5 seasons):
Bastardo's final Champions League Group Stage featured big wins Vs Celtic and a dominant performance Vs Dortmund at home:
Join the last 6 months of my journey via my Twitter feed (@FM_Grasshopper) or Slack channel (#fmgrasshopper), where I will be putting out frequent updates during the next couple of weeks. My next blog will summarise whatever goes down during the final 6 months and the whole Inter is coming journey in general.
It's been a great ride, and I am sure there's a few more twists and turns left...
Inter is coming & thank you for reading,