Inter coach Pioli targets quick return to Champions League

Inter Milan's new coach Stefano Pioli. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

MILAN — Speaking for the first time as coach of Inter Milan, Stefano Pioli said Thursday he is targeting a quick return to the Champions League.

Inter is ninth in Serie A, eight points behind third-place AC Milan and the final Champions League spot.

"We need to have a winning mentality," Pioli said. "The squad has the right values to play in a concrete and winning way. The aim is to get them to play with passion, that’s how we’ll become a strong team.

"I would be happy if we get to the Champions League. Last year at this time Inter was first and (eventual champion Juventus) was way down, we all know how it finished. I don’t want anyone to be under any illusions. It won’t be easy but there is time to do it."

The last time Inter was in the Champions League was in 2011-12, when it was knocked out by Marseille on away goals in the round of 16.

Pioli replaced Frank de Boer, who was fired last week after Inter lost seven of 14 matches in all competitions. He is Inter’s ninth coach since Jose Mourinho led the club to a treble in 2010.

Pioli, who has said he’s always been an Inter fan, faces rival AC Milan in his first match on Nov. 20, after the international break.

"We have a very important month coming up," Pioli said. "We will have eight matches in a month, we will need everyone. I will make sure everyone is ready. Above all, I want everyone to have the right attitude."

Pioli spent nearly two seasons in charge of Lazio. He led the Rome club to a third-place finish in his first campaign, but was fired last April after a 4-1 derby loss to Roma.

Besides Lazio, the 51-year-old Pioli previously coached his hometown club Parma plus Chievo Verona, Palermo and Bologna in Serie A. In 218 matches as a Serie A coach, his teams have a record of 73 wins, 62 draws and 83 losses.

He has been given an 18-month contract at Inter.

"I’m not worried about my future," Pioli said. "I’m just focused and motivated. I’m coaching Inter, I can’t think about anything else but that. I will give everything. My contract doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is the good of Inter."

De Boer was hired less than two weeks before the season began following the unexpected resignation of Roberto Mancini, who reportedly wanted more control over the transfer market and clashed with Suning, the Chinese retail giant that took control of 70 per cent of Inter in June.

Inter’s youth squad coach, Stefano Vecchi, was given temporary control of the senior team for a 2-1 loss at Southampton in the Europa League on Thursday — leaving the Nerazzurri last in their group — and a 3-0 win over last-place Crotone on Sunday in Serie A.

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