SERIE A

Conte: "The Inter I leave will be better than the one I found"

Inter have been less convincing in 2020-21 than last season, but boss Antonio Conte says the Nerazzurri are much stronger than 18 months ago.

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Conte adamant he'll leave Inter in better shape than he found them

Inter head coach Antonio Conte has downplayed the side's struggles this season as a natural consequence of Serie A being tougher, though he remains adamant the club will be in better shape when he eventually leaves than it was when he arrived.

Inter seventh in Serie A after run of one win in five

Inter finished Conte's first season at the helm second in Italy's top tier and just a point adrift of champions Juventus.

Conte feels their ultimate proximity to Juve was accentuated by the fact the Turin giants lost their final two matches, having wrapped up the title with games to spare, though the improvement from a fourth-placed finish the season before was not lost on the former Chelsea boss.

Inter have not been as fluent at the start of this season and sit seventh with 12 points from seven matches, winning only three.

Inter heading in better direction under me - Conte

In their five matches prior to the international break, just one ended with a victory, yet despite their recent problems, Conte has no doubt Inter have made progress during his reign.

"I am a hammer," he told Gazzetta dello Sport, explaining his uncompromising approach and attitude. "But this is the only way to grow. Without a culture of victory, you can never get to success, but this comes through work, organisation.

"When one day – I hope long from now – I leave, of one thing I am sure: the Inter I leave will be better than the one I found, from all points of view, as has always happened in every club I have been to."

Addressing Inter finishing just behind his former club, Conte continued: "We ended up at one point behind Juve also because they, after winning the title, gave up a bit in the last few matches.

"Paradoxically, I am prouder to have ended in front of Napoli, who started [the 2019-20 season with the goal] to win the Scudetto.

"I don't just remember Juve finishing one ahead, but also the match they played and won against us pre-lockdown. In that game they showed that they still have intact malice and hunger for success."

Opponents approach Inter matches differently now - Conte

Conte believes Inter's improvement last season has prompted teams to take a different approach when facing them.

"Inter's image in the minds of opponents has changed," he said. "And that means we have done well, but the matches against us are prepared differently: they all play to the death and with the utmost concentration. This season is harder than to the last one."