Inter president Steven Zhang says he respects Champions League opponents Manchester City but believes his team have the quality to face them. The Nerazzurri owner was speaking with La Gazzetta dello Sport about Saturday’s final, and touched on the things he’s learned since taking over the club, what he expects from Man City, and the importance of the coaches he’s hired, Luciano Spalletti, Simone Inzaghi and Antonio Conte:
Back to the coaches: this is Conte.
“Ever since we bought Inter I immediately wished one day to have Conte on the bench. He is a tough coach, with a strong personality, I think I have never seen him happy, fulfilled or smiling. After one victory he immediately thought about the next, never a moment of relaxation or satisfaction. But that’s how he brought the Scudetto back to Inter after 10 years, breaking a Juve cycle that seemed endless.”
And we come to Inzaghi…
“If Conte was the most ‘difficult,’ Simone is the easiest. He has great management skills and instills an incredible calmness. When I see him before competitions, I am more tense than he is. Inzaghi has been a gift to me. And he is the man of the Champions League final. People often ask who is the best coach or the most brilliant. I think those are wrong questions. Every club has a different story, the work of a coach depends on the phase the club is going through, the players available, many things. Football is not an exact science.”
You anticipated my question… But I’ll ask it anyway with the premise that it’s just a game. For a president, isn’t the idea of hiring a top guy like Guardiola fascinating? I promise you we will not headline this story with ‘Zhang dreams of Guardiola’.
“He is a very good coach capable of winning wherever he has been, certainly it would be a pleasure to work with him, but I prefer to choose experienced Serie A coaches.”
At the beginning of the season, before Acerbi’s purchase, a ‘Zhang go away’ banner was displayed under the headquarters. Thinking back today that he is in the Champions League final, what are your feelings? Of revenge?
“No. First of all, it has to be said that the protesters were really a very small group, and then that football like life has ups and downs: there are phases of problems and phases of joy. That’s part of the game. The job of a president or CEO is similar to that of a coach: you are often alone, and it has to be accepted.”
Have you prepared any motivational speeches for the team?
“There is no need. The results of the last month have helped to increase conviction and motivation. Everyone at Inter is focused for this event that we want to enjoy to the fullest.”
City are the strongest team in the world, do they scare you?
“I deeply respect City, a magnificent team. But we have the quality to face them. In recent years, the higher the bar for our opponent, the better we have performed. Inter does well with strong teams, we are less competitive against ones that we have lost points from time to time.”
It showed in the league. Regretful of too many slips that prevented us from fighting for the Scudetto?
“It has been difficult to keep our concentration up in all competitions. Fatigue has taken over, more mental than physical. But we have to play a final, let’s just think about that now.”
Is there any superstition that as a fan you repeat before or during games?
“There is one, but only in the Champions League: before every game I visit the Moncler store.
At the cash register they will be happy that Inter went all the way….
“Out of sympathy and cheering for sure, but not out of interest, because I go in and out without buying…. (smiles, ed)”
You are always very composed, but in the stands at San Siro, when Inter misses a big chance or concedes a goal, do you ever get out an expletive in Italian?
“Yes, I say…vaffanculo!”
Does your father always follow Inter? And will he come to Istanbul for the final?
“Dad is very attached to Inter, he follows all the leagues even the foreign ones and the cups. He’s trying to surprise us and come tomorrow, but it’s not easy to fit in his work schedule.”