Antonio Cassano believes the only way Simone Inzaghi can keep his job is if Inter win the Champions League this season. The former Nerazzurri forward was speaking at length with La Gazzetta dello Sport on the various coaches in Serie A this season, singling out Luciano Spalletti and Maurizio Sarri for praise, while once again taking aim at Jose Mourinho and Max Allegri:
Moving on to the Italian stars in the Champions League: Inzaghi’s Inter…
“First let me say one more thing. Mou brought up the Marko Livaja story making believe that I took a beating from him in a fight. In my 18-year career I’ve done everything, quarreled, insulted, even thrown a TV at a manager, broken many people’s balls, but I’ve never come to blows with anyone. Never. The sycophants who inform Mou, made him look bad again. What do you want to ask me about Inter?”
Did you expect Inter like this with Benfica? Can the Champions League change Inzaghi’s future?
“Organized, strong, convincing, Inter surprised me, they deserved to win and credit must be given to Inzaghi, but to be reappointed it is not enough to get to the semifinals, he has to win the Champions League. Otherwise, he has to be changed. A team with that squad, capable of playing super games like with Milan in Riyadh or Benfica in Lisbon cannot be fifth in Serie A, out of the Champions League places, 23 points behind Napoli and 10 behind Lazio. They have lost 10 games in the league, a disaster. Only if they win the Champions League, then he deserves to stay. Although I’m convinced that in certain dry and important Cup games, the player doesn’t need motivation: just as long as the coach doesn’t do any damage. Then, by the way, with Porto the round before Benfica he was lucky because he deserved to go out. It’s in the course of the league that you have to keep the team on its toes and avoid dips. There you have to manage people like Lukaku, whom I never considered a champion but whom Conte had put in the physical condition to be decisive, at least in Italy. Inzaghi’s only apt choice was Calhanoglu in front of the defense, but I was already saying that three years ago when he was at Milan. I consider Inzaghi a good coach, but not a top coach for teams like Inter. I don’t know if he will ever become one. I wish him that.”
Does Pioli convince you more than Inzaghi?
“Even with Pioli I had the same doubt, but last year with Milan he showed me that he made the leap because with a team lacking ‘phenomena’ he was able to play a good game, form a group and take advantage of Inter’s suicide. Pioli deserves to stay, even if he does not go ahead in the Champions League, because he gave Milan an identity and a Scudetto. Inzaghi threw away the Scudetto last year and this year with the strongest squad he had an obscene domestic season.”
Napoli-Milan, who goes to the semifinals?
“If I have to bet a euro, I say Napoli, who has shown wonderful football so far in Italy and in Europe. And I don’t understand those who claim that the team has entered a negative space, just because of a lost game at home with Milan. If they had Osimhen at San Siro, in the Champions League there would have been no need even for the return leg. In the first 4 minutes, Napoli shot six times on goal. They played the game in 11 against 11 and even in 10 men, if Maignan did not come up with a super save it would have ended 1-1. Spalletti is the best Italian coach, a real top coach: last year six great players left Napoli and they got an unknown, Kvara, thanks to Giuntoli, and Kim who had only played in China and Turkey. In a few weeks, Luciano created a perfect team. Napoli has courage, does not speculate, plays to win, on the attack. I enjoy watching him play. I don’t see any negative things about Napoli. It’s just that to technicians like Mourinho and Allegri the media justify everything, and to Spalletti at the first opportunity they break his balls.”
The Juve chapter. Troubled season: more shadow than light?
“Only shadows. Very bad, negative year. In July Allegri had said: in March-April we must be in every competition. Result: went out in the Champions round in a shameful way, in November was out of the Scudetto fight. Coppa Italia and Europa League do not save anything. Juve has to fight for the Scudetto. The roster has been devalued: Vlahovic above all. Di Maria, who remains a genius, is badly exploited 50 yards from goal. The team is always under the ball, always degending. He has 20 players from national teams and plays horrendously. Sporting the other night took them to the ball. I saw Juve play disorganized pressing, everyone on their own. Starting over with Allegri next year would be suicide: the mistake was to give him a long contract at those figures, but if to err is human, to persevere is diabolical.”
Making so many enemies doesn’t scare you….
“I don’t judge anyone on a personal level, I don’t dare, I don’t know other people’s lives, I only analyze football aspects. The difference between me and others is that if you suck, I tell you….”
The team you are most excited about in Europe?
“I start from an assumption: the best team for me will always be the one that deploys Lionel Messi, the strongest player in the world, even if it is my friend Lele Adani’s Sanmartinese. Excluding Messi, the most beautiful and ever-evolving football is that of Pep Guardiola, a genius. This year he came up with low centre-back John Stones, a defensive midfielder. Mourinho and Allegri will never be even distant relatives of Guardiola. But to say Pep is almost a given, among the technicians I also like Nagelsmann, Tuchel who impressed me last year, among the Italians De Zerbi and Italiano. Then I would immediately take Will Still from Reims, Belgian, 30 years old, eighth in Ligue 1: a phenomenon. I love football, I watch it, I study it.”
Why have you not become a sporting director?
“Because first someone has to give me the opportunity and trust. I’m afraid they are afraid of Cassano. But they are wrong. I don’t care about the money and the contract. You give me a chance to build the team and choose the coach. If I fail, I leave. I accept the confrontation with the president, but you don’t have to break my balls about every choice.”
Who gets into the Champions League zone?
“Napoli, Lazio, Inter and Milan. I believed in Atalanta but the drubbing with Bologna I think definitively excludes them from the fight. Thiago Motta is a fabulous guy and another coach who makes his team play well and added his style to the outstanding work Mihajlovic had prepared over the years.”
How much is Sinisa the man and the technician missing from our football?
“Very much. I could not call myself a close friend of his, but I valued him a lot. A real man, outspoken, brave, tough without ever losing his smile. Sinisa had huge balls. We need many like him, unfortunately there are very few.”
How much does it hurt you to see Samp reduced like this?
“Like crazy. I was born an Inter fan but Samp is the team of my heart because I played there and I live in Genoa. Unfortunately, I see no light at the end of the tunnel. There is a general chaos. I would like to see a real Sampdorian president, like Antonio Gozzi.”
Do you still have the famous fur jacket from the presentation in Madrid, or did your wife throw it away?
“They stole it from me, for fu**’s sake. I remember that the day before the presentation at Real, Butragueno comes up to me and says: take care, Antonio, tomorrow, dress up. I show up with the fur coat, two watches, four rings, three necklaces, two bracelets, two earrings…. I looked like I had come from the third world. To go to Madrid like that, though, you had to have balls. Or maybe looking back on it now that I have a wife and kids, having been a bit of an asshole….”