Could Diego Simeone or Antonio Conte have success with Inter Milan?
With Inter earning a mere point in a month and being completely schooled by Napoli at the weekend, the talk of the Nerazzurri hiring Diego Simeone or Antonio Conte has intensified once again.
The idea is that either one of these candidates is exactly what the Milanese side need to return to the promised land of Champions League football and Scudetto titles. After six and a half years' worth of purgatory, the Nerazzurri will, the logic goes, finally have a sergeant major able to instill both an iron discipline and a winning spirit.
There are, however, downsides to this line of thinking. For starters, why exactly would either Conte or Simeone want to choose Inter? Sure, Simeone has often stated his wish to coach his former club, but why would he choose to do so now, when the Nerazzurri are a shipwreck compared to Atletico Madrid, who are still regular Champions League fixtures and have a new stadium on the way?
As much as both Simeone and Conte like a challenge, why move to a complete mess of a situation now and risk tarnishing (or at least staining) their records? The point of being a world-beating coach is that you get to cherry pick your next job. Why not wait until Suning's money and presumed organisational skills have put the club on a better footing?
Even assuming that one of the magic duo were to arrive this summer (Conte left Juventus under a cloud, after all), we need to consider why these names are being flagged more than any other. It's simple: Both provided quick fixes in difficult situations. Conte took Juventus from laughingstock to Scudetto winners in his maiden season, before cementing their role as Calcio's undisputed leaders by years two and three.
Simeone, for his part, needed less than 30 months to lead a perennial headache of a club from mediocrity to a power share with traditional giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, not to mention the Champions League final.
Can either one of these two do the same with Inter? It's at best uncertain. This kind of progress takes time, especially with a squad that seems randomly assembled, with no genuine full-backs or even an alternative to Jeison Murillo, who will miss this weekend's Genoa tie through suspension.
Remember, Simeone had to lead Atletico to third before winning the Liga in 2014, while Conte found a weak Serie A in 2011 -- Udinese would come third behind Milan -- and drew a massive 15 games on his way to the title.
Expecting an immediate turnaround could easily blow up in the acclaimed saviour's face if things start to go wrong, anyway. Remember when Conte looked close to the sack only a few games into his fledgling Chelsea career? If Roman Abramovich has anything in common with Inter, it's his trigger-happy tendencies, the Nerazzurri fan base increasingly resembling Torino's in the ease with which pent-up frustration can suddenly bubble to the surface.
Moreover, giving either Conte or Simeone full decisional powers flies in the face of the new deal recently signed by sporting director Piero Ausilio -- who is now set to remain at the San Siro until 2020.
Even then, Inter still appear to have plenty of colonels but no general in charge, a plight best summed up by this tweet from a Eurosport journalist:
The situation at Inter is very typical for the club. Suning wants Conte, Zanetti is working to get Simeone & Ausilio considers Spalletti.- Siavoush Fallahi (@SiavoushF) May 2, 2017
Remember, this is the same team that allowed Erick Thohir to pick Frank de Boer a mere 12 days before the start of the season, only for the likes of Javier Zanetti and Ausilio himself to leave the manager to face the music when push came to shove last autumn.
Would bringing back Gabriele Oriali -- in a role which he himself is unclear on -- be a solution or just add to the confusion?
It's quite possible that Roberto Mancini's and Jose Mourinho's tenures at Inter between 2004 and 2010 are proof that the Milanese side work best with an overbearing coach. Inter duly reverted to type once the "Special One" left. Would someone like Conte or Simeone want to stay here that long or simply move to a bigger club once Inter let them down? Where would that leave the Nerazzurri?
To make matters worse, a lot of the hiring talk seems to revolve around blank cheques being offered to either one of the club's ideal candidates -- despite the fact that Inter have until next summer to balance the books, having only partially met UEFA's requirements this year in matters of Financial Fair Play.
Would either one of these coaches be able (or even wish) to work with "a lavish squad built on clay foundations," as the Gazzetta dello Sport put it? Why would Conte -- who left Juventus because they wouldn't buy his ambitious transfer plans, which included notorious bust Juan Iturbe -- be tempted to join, exactly?
A lifetime of supporting Inter has made cynics out of many of us -- the kind who hope to bag Simeone or Conte, fear deep down that another messy slash and burn will be attempted with Luciano Spalletti instead. It's going to be a long summer.
Edoardo Dalmonte covers Inter Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @EdoDalmonte.