How the Croatian Duo Reignited Inter Scudetto Hopes

Once upon a time, Inter were considered to be Argentina’s unofficial ambassador in Serie A. When the Nerazzurri became Italian football’s ultimate dominant force in the post-Calciopoli era, Roberto Mancini and his successor José Mourinho were always able to rely on a solid Argentine block led by Javier Zanetti and featuring the likes of Walter Samuel, Esteban Cambiasso and Julio Cruz.

But that was a long time ago. Nowadays, the Albiceleste stars are no longer crowding the Beneamata’s locker room, despite the influential presence of Lautaro Martinez and his compatriot Joaquin Correa.

Loyal to its full name, Internazionale’s squad is currently composed from a mosaic of worldwide nationalities who combine together to form a formidable side. But if we’re going to pick one nationality that stood out above the rest this season, Croatia would be our choice.

Even though Inter only possess two “Checkered Stars” among their roster, the impacts of Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic have arguably made all the difference this season, tipping the scale in favor of Simone Inzaghi’s side in the ever-so-thrilling Scudetto race.

The Menacing Winger

We begin with the older Croatian. Perisic celebrated his 33th birthday last February, but one wouldn’t tell it while witnessing his energetic performances up and down the left flank.

The former Wolfsburg man endured incredible highs and lows at the Giuseppe Meazza. After serving the club for more than four years, Antonio Conte decided upon his arrival that the winger was unsuited to his famous 3-5-2 lineup.

But after being shown the door, Perisic surprisingly found himself a spot at Bayern Munich, spending a season on loan with the Bavarian giants. Twelve months later, the Croatia international made his triumphant return to Milano, with a Champions League medal in his pocket.

Perhaps his exploits in Germany convinced Conte to reinstate him into his squad. While things were slow at first, Perisic gradually cemented himself as the first choice left wingback at Inter, proving his willingness to sacrifice to the cause and contributing on both ends of the pitch.

If last season’s theme was redemption, this time it’s about excellence. Under Inzaghi’s tutelage, the 33-year-old is enjoying a late-career resurgence, and is once again one of the club’s main sources of creativity.

Between scoring significant goals and delivering sublime assists, Perisic is leading the Nerazzurri’s charge towards a second league title in row, and has even took his game up a notch in the last few weeks as we entered the final and decisive stretch of the campaign.

The Ultimate Architect

In a previous article on The Cult of Calcio, we explained why Brozovic is the most indispensable player at Inter. Nonetheless, it’s enough to compare the club’s results during his presence and the ones registered in his absence to rest our case.

The Croatian is simply the linchpin that holds all the lines together. He helps his team in moving the ball forward, breaking the opponent’s high pressure, defending the backline and anything in-between. Moreover, Inter don’t possess any other deep-lying playmaker who can imitate his role on the pitch.

This partially explains how in the last three Serie A matches that Brozovic missed, Inter dropped points to Torino and Fiorentina and succumbed to defeat at the hands of Sassuolo.

These results left the Beneamata’s title hopes on the brink of total collapse. However, the Regista’s timely return completely turned the club’s fortunes, and in the matter of weeks, Inter suddenly reclaimed their status as the Scudetto favorites.

If Inzaghi’s men manage to pip their rivals Milan and Napoli to the title, black and blue ribbons will engulf the golden trophy for the second year in a row, and the Nerazzurri supporters will owe it first and foremost to their two red and white soldiers.