ROME (AP) — His playing career was overshadowed by the exploits of his big brother.
His coaching career has hitherto been marked by near misses.
Now — finally — Simone Inzaghi appears destined to have his moment in the spotlight.
Approaching the midpoint of Serie A, Inzaghi’s Inter Milan leads the league and is the favorite to win the title.
After routing city rival AC Milan 5-1 in the derby in September, Inter drew at second-placed Juventus and put on a convincing performance in a 3-0 victory at defending champion Napoli in successive matches over the last two weeks.
“It was a show of force,” Inzaghi said after the win at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. “But we have a lot of work ahead, and we’re going to approach it in the same manner that we did over these last three-and-a-half months.”
While Inzaghi played on the star-studded Lazio team that won Serie A in 2000, it was Filippo “Superpippo” Inzaghi who gained the bigger headlines by helping Juventus and Milan to a series of domestic and European titles and Italy to the 2006 World Cup trophy.
Now Filippo is on the other end of Serie A, having recently been hired to coach last-placed Salernitana. The brothers are scheduled to meet in February.
While Simone had a successful start to his coaching career at Lazio by winning an Italian Cup and two Italian Super Cups with the Roman club, he was thrust into a difficult position at Inter when Antonio Conte left unexpectedly after guiding the Nerazzurri to the 2021 Serie A title.
In his first season, Inzaghi’s Inter finished two points behind Serie A champion AC Milan after a season-long duel.
Then last season, Inter beat Milan in the Champions League semifinals before falling to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, albeit by a respectable 1-0 in the final.
Now, all of a sudden, Inzaghi is being compared to Inter’s most successful coaches — Helenio Herrera, Giovanni Trapattoni, Roberto Mancini, Jose Mourinho and Conte — even though his biggest achievements with the Nerazzurri remain two Italian Cups and two Italian Super Cups.
The reasons behind the praise are not just the results. It’s also about Inter’s attacking style and flair with Inzaghi’s preferred 3-5-2 formation, which has produced the most goals (33) in Serie A and the least goals conceded (7).
Lautaro Martinez leads the league with 13 goals; Marcus Thuram has added a new dimension after replacing the departed Romelu Lukaku as Martinez's strike partner; Nicolò Barella has been a force in midfield; the defense hasn’t missed a beat despite injuries; and goalkeeper Yann Sommer has made Inter fans quickly forget Andre Onana's move to Manchester United.
“It’s still early and anything can happen — there are so many matches this time of the year that you could have two or three injuries and it could turn everything around instantly — but Inter is a squad that plays physical, technical and rational football,” said Italy coach Luciano Spalletti, who guided Napoli to the title last season and previously was in charge at Inter.
Up next for Inter is Udinese on Saturday. Then Real Sociedad visits the San Siro on Tuesday in a game that will decide which team wins their Champions League group. Both sides have already secured passage to the knockout stages.
“Finally, everyone is recognizing Simone’s talents,” Inzaghi’s father, Giancarlo, told the Gazzetta dello Sport. “He’s changed. He’s more thoughtful and focused on the club’s goals. Whereas before he was more easygoing and joked around more, now he's always thinking about Inter.”
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer
Andrew Dampf, The Associated Press