Inter Milan’s false start in the Champions League with a home draw against Slavia Prague has only strengthened the idea that coach Antonio Conte is good in Serie A but less so in Europe, which the Italian had dismissed as a cliché before the match.
After winning their first three domestic league matches under Conte, Inter might have expected to cruise past the Czech champions whose close season transfer spending of around eight million euros (7.1 million pounds) was around one eighth of what the Italian side spent on forward Romelu Lukaku alone.
Instead, Inter — eliminated in the Champions League group stage last season — needed a stoppage-time equaliser to draw 1-1, dropping two points they could ill afford to lose in a group that also includes Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona.
Conte then offered the curious explanation that, basically, Inter’s opponents played the wrong kind of football.
“This is not the kind of football we train for,” he said.
“I’m the one to blame because I didn’t make the right choices before the game and I didn’t correctly understand the type of match I was going to play.
“Slavia Prague certainly played the European way, attacking and playing with high intensity and pressing.
“In other matches, we have played teams who have waited in their half of the pitch, but Slavia attacked us and we should have found different solutions.”
Conte made his name by winning three successive Serie A titles with Juventus but his two European campaigns with the Turin side ended in a quarter-final and group stage elimination.
It was a similar story at Chelsea where he won the Premier League in his first season but saw his side knocked out of the Champions League in the round of 16.
On the eve of Tuesday’s match, Conte was asked about his reputation of being a domestic, rather than European, coach.
“People live by cliches,” he said. “As soon as someone says something on the television, everyone else starts copying it.”
Conte noted that every time he was in the Champions League it was with a team still being put together, a claim he could also make about the current Inter side on which over 150 million euros in transfers was spent in the summer window alone.
“You have to work in the Champions League,” he said. “So far, I have always taken part with new creations while the other (teams) are solid realities. That is what needs to be explained to the pundits. It’s not that I simply win everything I touch.”
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