Inter’s turbulent summer leaves Serie A crown up for grabs
Inter Milan kick off the new Serie A season on Saturday in the midst of fan protests and money troubles that threaten to derail their title defence before it has even begun.
A dramatic summer for the champions reached its lowest ebb last week when star striker Romelu Lukaku was sold to Chelsea, a transfer that enraged not just supporters but reportedly also CEO Giuseppe Marotta and new coach Simone Inzaghi.
The Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Inter's cash-strapped Chinese owners Suning forced the sale of Belgium forward Lukaku after having already offloaded buccaneering right-back Achraf Hakimi, a key figure in their first Serie A triumph since 2010, to Paris Saint-Germain.
The club's financial problems were clear well before the league crown was claimed, and last month previous coach Antonio Conte left Inter knowing his team could be dismantled. They are still strong in key areas and have one of Italy's Euro 2020 heroes in Nicolo Barella, but the squad has certainly been downgraded.
Lukaku has been replaced with Edin Dzeko, a capable forward familiar with Serie A, but the Bosnia striker is 35 years old and scored just seven league goals last season. Dutch defender Denzel Dumfries however is an intriguing choice for the vacant spot at right-back after his exciting displays at Euro 2020.How he and Dzeko fare will be key to Inzaghi's chances at Inter after doing an excellent job on a small budget at Lazio.
Ready to pounce will be Juventus, who have Massimiliano Allegri back at the controls and added Euro star Manuel Locatelli to a midfield which was the Old Lady's weak point under Andrea Pirlo last season. Rumours of Cristiano Ronaldo's desire to leave Juve have not dampened enthusiasm around the team's chances as the chaos that has enveloped Inter and Allegri's return have boosted hopes in Turin of reclaiming the title from their old enemies.
Also sniffing to overtake Inter is a new cast of managers led by Jose Mourinho at Roma, who on Tuesday celebrated the arrival of Tammy Abraham from Chelsea
Mourinho was welcomed back to Italy this summer, memories of treble glory at Inter over a decade ago leaving Roma fans hoping the once Special One's star has not definitively waned.
Elsewhere Maurizio Sarri will try to bring his brand of passing football to Lazio while Luciano Spalletti has a chance to get a talent-packed Napoli back in the top four on his return to club management after two years away.