Javier Zanetti says Inter have full faith in Simone Inzaghi and believes they can mount a strong challenge to regain the Serie A title.

The Nerazzurri were dethroned by city rivals Milan in Inzaghi's first season in charge after the head coach was lured from Lazio on a two-year deal.

Inter are seventh in the table after losing 3-1 at Udinese in their final game before the international break.

That was their third Serie A loss in seven games this season and they were also beaten 2-0 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League at San Siro.

Inter vice-president Zanetti says the hierarchy have never had any doubts that Inzaghi is the right man for the job.

He told Tuttomercatoweb.com: "There has always been confidence in Inzaghi, the merits are never of just one person.

"There is a group that has very clear objectives and we are all going in the same direction."

Former Argentina captain Zanetti expects Inter to be a force this season despite an unconvincing start.

He added: "We must be a resilient, humble team, and then it will depend on our ability to be protagonists because I am convinced that there are the conditions to be able to do so."

Inter return to action with a Serie A encounter against Roma next Saturday.

Bayern Munich and Barcelona await Inter in the Champions League group stage, but Nerazzurri vice-president Javier Zanetti insists his side are "not afraid" of the challenge.

UEFA's flagship club competition has provided a headline reunion with new Barca arrival Robert Lewandowski returning to his former side Bayern in Group C.

The draw of the Poland talisman revisiting the Allianz Arena remains the standout pick of the group-stage clashes, with Inter and Viktoria Plzen the other two sides to compete alongside the European giants.

Simone Inzaghi's side pushed Liverpool close in the round-of-16 clash last season and, despite falling to the Reds, Zanetti insists the Nerazzurri will take a no-fear approach to their draw alongside Bayern and Barca.

"It is a difficult, complicated group, with two teams that know how to play very well in this competition," Zanetti told Sky Sport Italia when asked about facing the two European heavyweights. 

"The Champions League is a competition of details, with the best in the world. We are there and we will play it.

"It is a challenge to face these teams now. Bayern is a team that has consolidated, Barca has found balance with Xavi, we want to give continuity to last year's progress.

"We are not afraid, only respect, I believe that Inter will be ready and prepared."

While the prospect of locking horns with Barca and Bayern may prove daunting, Inter and Zanetti have fond memories of facing both sides in Europe's premier club competition.

Indeed the Nerazzurri, then managed by Jose Mourinho, overcame the Blaugrana 3-2 on aggregate in the semi-finals, before seeing off the German giants 2-0 to lift the trophy in 2009-10 – a feat that Zanetti hopes his side can repeat.

"Yes, it's a good memory that came to mind," the Argentine said as he discussed that victorious campaign.

"This is another story, football has changed. We will prepare our matches in the best possible way; we are growing and we proved it last season. We will try again this year."

Inter vice president Javier Zanetti is unsure whether Alexis Sanchez will remain a Nerazzurri player amid reports of interest from Saudi Arabia.

The Chilean 33-year-old arrived from Manchester United in 2019, initially joining on a season-long loan before signing a permanent deal in 2020.

He was part of the 2020-21 Inter side which delivered their first Serie A title since the 2009-10 season, while he also scored a 121st minute winner to help his team lift the 2022 Supercoppa Italiana in January.

Sanchez only scored five goals in 27 Serie A appearances for Inter last season, though he was either substituted on or off in 25 of those matches, and there has subsequently been talk of a move away from San Siro.

It has been reported that Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr have made an offer for Sanchez, but Zanetti was coy when asked about the forward's situation.

Zanetti told En Cancha: "He has started training with the team and is training with the whole squad.

"The transfer market is open, but today he is still one of our players."

Having already signed Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea, Inter had looked set to further strengthen their attacking options with the acquisition of Paulo Dybala, who left Juventus at the end of his contract in June.

The 19-time Serie A champions appeared to be frontrunners to sign Dybala, but the Argentine has instead joined Jose Mourinho's Europa Conference League winners Roma ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.

Inter may also lose Milan Skriniar, who has been strongly linked with a move to French giants Paris Saint-Germain, although Nerazzurri goalkeeper Samir Handanovic said it was "essential" to keep the defender on Thursday.

 

Inter vice president Javier Zanetti expressed his admiration for Paulo Dybala as he confirmed the Nerazzurri are in continued talks with the striker.

Dybala will depart Juventus when his contract expires at the end of June, ending a seven-season stay with the Bianconeri, and Inter are among the frontrunners for the forward.

A host of Premier League clubs, including Manchester United and Tottenham, are also said to be interested in the Argentina international.

Reports in Italy suggest Dybala has already agreed terms with Simone Inzaghi's side, with the Juve star trading Turin for rivals Inter, who narrowly missed out on Scudetto success to neighbours Milan.

The 28-year-old would join – or replace – Argentina team-mate Lautaro Martinez, with Chelsea reportedly interested in signing the Inter striker.

While Nerazzurri great Zanetti would not confirm whether an agreement was already in place, he suggested talks are ongoing as he hailed Dybala.

"We are in talks," he told D-Sports Radio, as quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I admire Paulo and I wish him the best for his career.

"Dybala is a great player and will surely represent us [Argentina] at the World Cup.

"Inter have always had a lot of South Americans in their team, especially Argentineans. Now we have Lautaro Martinez and Joaquin Correa. The club have faith in the Argentineans."

Inter announced the exit of another key figure behind their Scudetto success as influential technical chief Gabriele Oriali was "relieved of his duties".

Oriali, who has been working in the same role with Euro 2020 champions Italy, departs Inter three months after head coach Antonio Conte walked away from the Serie A winners.

Former Italy midfielder Oriali, 68, who was a World Cup winner in 1982, returned for a second spell on the Inter backroom staff when Conte was appointed two years ago.

At the time, Inter said Oriali was "back where he belongs", yet the two parties will now go their separate ways.

There have been reports in Italy that Oriali may follow Conte to his next job and serve again on his staff.

Conte was linked with Tottenham soon after his Inter exit, which came just weeks after the Nerazzurri won the Scudetto for the first time in 11 years, but he has yet to take up a new appointment.

Inter said in a statement on Friday: "FC Internazionale Milano can confirm that as of today Gabriele Oriali has been relieved of his duties as first team technical manager. The club would like to thank him for his work and wishes him all the best for his future endeavours."

The brevity of that announcement offered no explanation for Oriali's departure, yet with a new coach coming in, in Simone Inzaghi, it was perhaps inevitable that changes behind the scenes would follow.

Inter vice-president Javier Zanetti, who was a player at the club when Oriali previously served from 1999 to 2010, separately issued a glowing tribute, striking a different tone to Inter's statement.

 

On Instagram, Zanetti described Oriali as "one of us" and said: "Inter fans do not forget those who leave a mark in the history of this club, just as I cannot forget the days, the work, the moments shared with Lele [Oriali] and Antonio Conte in a long, tiring ride, full of obstacles but extraordinarily successful.

"All this with one goal every day: the good of Inter, ahead of anything else. Do not forget the days at work with Antonio Conte for a group that will remain in the history of Inter with an indelible championship.

"The story of Lele Oriali tells it: with great regret we lose a winner, a real man and above all a great Inter fan. A huge hug to Lele and a huge 'good luck' for the next challenges, the new goals. Inter is and will always be your home."

Inter vice-president Javier Zanetti said the Serie A champions have "serious financial problems" amid ongoing uncertainty over their ownership.

Atalanta's 1-1 draw with Sassuolo last week meant Inter were crowned champions of Italy for the first time since Jose Mourinho's treble-winning side in 2009-10, ending Juventus' run of nine consecutive Scudetti.

Despite leading Inter to glory, head coach Antonio Conte's future remains uncertain due to the Nerazzurri's financial situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic as owners Suning Holdings Group reportedly consider selling the team.

Reports of a possible sale first emerged in the middle of the season and rumours regarding the Chinese owners – who acquired a majority stake in 2016 – persist amid the COVID-19 crisis.

"It's true that the club could've been sold mid-season," former Inter star and captain Zanetti told La Nacion.

"We were going through serious financial problems, even if we weren't the only ones in such a difficult moment.

"I saw that as a club we can still improve. The coach has done something extraordinary over two years, now it's up to us to improve the internal mechanism and aspire to something more.

"The financial problems remain and it could take a couple of years to rediscover that balance. We need people back in the stadium to make the sponsors happy. Basically, a return to normality.

"We mustn't hide, it is a delicate moment, but we want this so we can take a bigger step forward. What we need is an over-reaching strategy that guarantees sustainability in the long-term."

Conte earned his fourth Serie A title this season – only five other coaches in league history have managed at least four.

The former Italy boss is only the second coach in Serie A history to win a Scudetto with both Inter and Juve, joining Giovanni Trapattoni.

"Conte has brought a work ethic and mentality first and foremost," Zanetti said. "He convinced even the youngest players that his project could really work. Since the day he arrived, not a day has gone by without him thinking how to improve this team. He convinced the club to follow him.

"There was some initial scepticism about his past at Juventus, but they learned to love him. He has been focused since the first day and accepted this challenge like a real Interista."

Inter vice-president Javier Zanetti "can't say" the Serie A leaders want Lionel Messi as he believes the Barcelona superstar will remain at Camp Nou.

Messi's future has dominated headlines, with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner tipped to join Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain or Premier League leaders Manchester City on a free transfer at the end of the season.

Inter have also emerged as a possible destination for Messi, who tried to leave embattled LaLiga giants Barca ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

Argentina and Inter great Zanetti, though, feels his 33-year-old countryman will continue playing for Barca beyond this season.

"We can't say that, he is a Barcelona player and he's spent the whole career there. I think he will continue there," Zanetti told ONTime Sports.

"We are focused on the group of players we have. We must be focused on ourselves, we are focused on the next game. Everyone is doing very well."

Asked to compare Messi to legendary football Diego Maradona – who died in November – Zanetti added: "I can't make comparisons, they are both great champions.

"It's always good when big players move to Serie A. When Cristiano Ronaldo arrived, it was good for the league."

Messi has scored a league-high 19 goals and supplied six assists in 24 LaLiga appearances for Ronald Koeman's second-placed Barca this season, and 25 across all competitions.

Barca are six points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid ahead of Monday's match against Huesca.

Messi has been involved in five goals in two games against Huesca in LaLiga (two goals and three assists), including two goals and two assists in his only league appearance against them at Camp Nou.

Barcelona have gone 16 games without losing in LaLiga (W13 D3) – the best current unbeaten streak of any team in the five major leagues in Europe.

Lionel Messi is free to negotiate a move to clubs outside LaLiga and Juan Sebastian Veron thinks Javier Zanetti will be key to Inter's hopes of signing the Barcelona superstar.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi is in the final six months of his contract at Camp Nou, having failed to engineer a move away during the close season.

The 33-year-old has long been linked with a switch to Serie A giants Inter, where his former Argentina team-mate Zanetti – the Albiceleste's most-capped player of all time – is vice-president.

Former Nerazzurri and Argentina midfielder Veron does not expect Messi to be at Inter next season, but believes it will be down to Zanetti if he does complete a move to San Siro.

"I don't think he can go to Italy. If he will, it is because of Javier Zanetti, who knows him and will try to talk to him, making him feel important again and to explaining the future projects of the club," Veron told Stats Perform News.

"At the end of the day it is purely Messi's decision. But if Inter want to make an attempt, they have to use seduction and get to his heart to draw him near. 

"I don't know how many more years Messi wants to play at this level, but if you want to sign him, Inter have to make Messi their flagship and make clear they want to be at the top level."

After a 2-0 victory over Juventus on Sunday, Inter sit second in Serie A three points behind leaders Milan.

Antonio Conte's side have not been lacking in attack this term, though, with Romelu Lukaku (12 goals, three assists) and Lautaro Martinez (nine goals, three assists) developing a potent partnership in the league.

No forward in Serie A to have played at least 10 games this season has had more Opta-defined 'big chances' than Lukaku, whose tally of 20 is only matched by Edin Dzeko and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Belgium international has the best conversion rate of the trio, scoring from 12 such openings for a 60 per cent success ratio. Ronaldo is second on 55 per cent, while Dzeko is third on 35 per cent.

Messi has scored 11 goals and assisted two more in LaLiga this term, while converting 58.3 per cent (seven out of 12) of his big chances.

The Barca captain's 35 key passes are only bettered by Iago Aspas (37), and his 100 attempts on goal in the Spanish top flight this season are almost twice as many as Karim Benzema (51) in second.

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