Inter Milan ditch Pioli as European dream fades

AFP , Wednesday 10 May 2017

Inter Milan
Inter Milan's Italian coach Stefano Pioli (AFP)

Inter Milan have sacked coach Stefano Pioli and his technical staff three games before the end of the season, the Serie A giants announced on Tuesday.

Pioli took over from Dutchman Frank De Boer two months into the campaign but the club, after initially targeting a Champions League spot, risk falling short of even qualifying for the Europa League.

A statement by the club said: "Inter Milan announces it has parted ways with head coach Stefano Pioli and his coaching staff.

"Inter thanks Stefano and his team for the dedication and hard work carried out at the club over the last six months in what has proven to be a difficult season."

The news came minutes after Serie A champions and leaders Juventus booked their place in the final of the Champions League following a 2-1 defeat of Monaco that secured a 4-1 aggregate win.

While the Italian champions celebrated booking their second final in three seasons, having succumbed 3-1 to Barcelona in Berlin in 2015, Inter go back to the drawing board.

"The club will begin planning now for the next season," added the statement.

According to recent reports, Inter -- Italy's last Champions League winners in 2010 when Jose Mourinho led the Nerazzurri to an historic treble -- are hoping to lure Chelsea manager Antonio Conte to the club.

In the meantime, youth team coach Stefano Vecchi will take charge of the first team "immediately and for the remaining three games of the season".

Inter, owned by the Chinese group Suning, began the season hoping to secure a top three finish and a return to the Champions League for the first time since 2012 when they were eliminated by Marseille in the last 16.

But De Boer lasted only 85 days of a tenure that was plagued by reports of player unrest.

Pioli was appointed in November, but despite beginning his spell with a comeback draw away to AC Milan in the city derby, he too failed to spark a revival.

A 1-0 defeat to Genoa last weekend in which Pioli substituted club captain and striker Mauro Icardi left Inter in seventh place -- three points behind sixth-placed city rivals AC Milan and a Europa League spot.

It was their fifth defeat in a seven-game winless run that includes a stunning 5-4 defeat to Fiorentina and a humiliating 2-1 loss at Crotone, who are battling to top flight survival.

Inter had raced to a 2-1 lead at Fiorentina on April 22 only to see La Viola score four goals in 15, second-half minutes.

"This isn't the kind of end to the season worthy of a club like Inter, and we won't accept it," Inter manager Piero Ausilio raged at the players.

"It is you who are responsible for this situation and it is you who must get us out of it. Start showing this jersey some respect."

Pioli indicated after that defeat he had lost control of the dressing room.

"This time, we've really hit rock bottom. We've stopped being a team," Pioli said after the game.

"There's no explanation for what happened. After a great first half, we suffered a complete blackout in the second half."

A day later Italian media reports claimed Inter had given Chelsea manager Conte and former player Diego Simeone, coach of Atletico Madrid, three weeks to consider a lucrative offer to take over from next season.

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