Inter Milan sitting atop the Serie A table is due in large part to coach Simone Inzaghi who has “a big heart” and has superb man management skills said playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu.
The Turkish star will be at the heart of matters when Inter entertain struggling Verona on Saturday with the Milan club seeking to maintain their two point lead over Juventus.
Inzaghi will hope his older brother Filippo can help Inter and cause a mighty shock as his Salernitana side, who are bottom of the table, host Juventus on Sunday.
In hardly the best of omens, Salernitana were thrashed 6-1 by Juventus on Thursday in the Italian Cup.
Whatever Juventus do, though, is of little interest to Calhanoglu.
“I don’t look at them, I only look at Inter and I don’t even listen,” said the 29-year-old, who joined Inter in 2021 on a free transfer from their bitter city rivals AC Milan.
Calhanoglu’s confidence in Inzaghi – who joined at the same time as he did – is exemplified by him turning down a lucrative move to a Saudi club and signing a contract extension instead.
Inzaghi’s personal qualities have sparked a positive response from the players.
Two successive Italian Cup trophies and a surprise run to last season’s Champions League final – losing 1-0 to Manchester City – are testament to the 47-year-old’s skills at motivating the personnel.
’ACHIEVE A FEAT’
“The way he speaks with the players and how he behaves with us, he always wants to win and gets angry when we slow down,” said Calhanoglu of Inzaghi’s greatest characteristic.
“Once the training session finishes, he has a big heart. He is very calm and we can talk about anything with him.
“He is also growing.
“You can’t do everything in one year. We arrived at the club at the same moment and we are all growing on the pitch,” added Calhanoglu, who has scored eight goals in 22 appearances in all competitions this season.
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri refuses to talk about the title, focussing instead on a more humble target.
“We have to get to the top four, the next Champions League will be completely different,” he said following the victory over Salernitana.
“We have to respect the opponents, otherwise it will be a mess.”
Filippo Inzaghi – who enjoyed a far more successful playing career than his younger brother but whose managerial career has been moderate by comparison – is hopeful he can pick his players up for Sunday’s clash.
Inzaghi will bring back his two 36-year-old veterans, former Argentina centre-back Federico Fazio and ex-Italy midfielder Antonio Candreva.
“On Sunday, two captains like Fazio and Candreva will return, they will give us strength,” said Inzaghi.
“We couldn’t ask them to play on Thursday and Sunday, they are too important for us.
“It’s clear that if Juve gets the match right there’s little that can be done but we will have the crowd behind us to push us to try to achieve a feat.”