Inter Milan Are Top Of The Table, But Not Serie A
Inter are top of the table, again.
Yet it’s not a table that they’d want to be topping. This month, the club posted 2020-21 losses of €246m ($283m), the highest ever recorded by a Serie A club.
Their debt surpassed Juventus’ recent losses, which amounted to €210m ($242m) for the same period. In the end, breaking Juve’s nine-year hegemony on the Italian game came at a heavy price for Inter.
And the worst may not be over.
A large portion of the Inter fan base was vociferous in their opposition to the sale of Romelu Lukaku during the last summer window. Inter had intended to keep the striker, the club’s most-prized asset, but since his departure, the Belgian has admitted that it was his choice to leave the Nerazzurri, and not the club forcing the sale through out of a desperate need for money.
Achraf Hakimi had been viewed as the sacrifice needed to keep Lukaku at the club, with the swashbuckling full back heading to Paris Saint-Germain. But it seems the financial sacrifices may continue next summer.
According to a recent report from La Gazzetta dello Sport, Inter will need to raise another €100m ($115m) between the start of 2022 and the end of June, in order to improve the balance sheet.
Without club owners Suning being able to inject capital into the club, like Juve owners Exor did recently to the tune of some €400m ($461m), the only alternative is to auction off more players next summer.
Nicolo Barella, Alessandro Bastoni, Milan Skriniar and Lautaro Martinez are the four players who would fetch the most money. Martinez of course was close to leaving Inter last summer, with bids from Tottenham and Atletico Madrid being accepted by the club, but ultimately rejected by the player.
Yet it remains to be seen if the Argentine will follow the same course of action next summer should teams of a higher pedigree come calling. Barella, Bastoni and Skriniar are liked by a multitude of clubs across Europe, and there would be no shortage of suitors for any of them.
In the short term, Inter may try once more to streamline their squad, to shed some of the deadwood that was up for sale last summer. Players like Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal are on big wages, and the Chilean pair have barely featured for Simone Inzaghi in the opening stages of this season.
Inzaghi, who has performed admirably in the post-Antonio Conte landscape at Inter, has the necessary tools to propel the club towards retaining their title and make a decent fist of advancing deep into the Champions League (granted that they learn how to score goals, given their opening two games ended in none), but this may be a one-season deal.
The return of fans to San Siro will undoubtedly help the club claw back some of the debt. With stadia in Italy only operating at 50% total capacity, Inter are easily seeing 30,000 fans attend every home game. When the quota returns to 100% before the end of the year, expect the Nerazzurri to see houses of 50-60,000, which is the norm for their attendances.
But match day revenue won’t come close to solving Inter’s financial instability. Suning’s inability to invest in the club, on orders from the Chinese state, is leaving the club vulnerable to the wolves at the door. The pressure for Suning to sell the club amongst the Inter fan base is increasing by the month. The club simply doesn’t generate enough money through the usual sources to sustain the growing wage bill.
It’s all the more important then that a new stadium is built in place of the much-loved, but antiquated, San Siro. Progress was halted due to the general elections in Italy. But with current Milan major Giuseppe Sala, winning his position for another term, promising to meet with the Milanese clubs soon to finally give the green light to the project, change could be coming.
Yet it won’t do anything for the here and now. Inter need capital, and a return to the dark times of the mid 2010s is a real possibility next summer.