That was as big a statement win that any side could produce in the early stages of a season.
The first Derby della Madonnina of the season saw Inter slaughter their city neighbours Milan in one of the most one-sided derbies in recent memory. The two have battled a lot in 2023: once in Serie A; both contested the SuperCoppa Italiana, and the more memorably, the pair were pitted in the Champions League semi final against each other.
The common theme running through all those fixtures was the same: Inter emerging victorious, and comfortably so. Milan didn’t so much as lay a finger against Inter in any of the games in the first half of the year, losing a combined 7-0 over the four encounters. Simone Inzaghi had Stefano Pioli’s number, and this was crystallised in the Euroderby games, in which Milan were infinitely inferior to the Nerazzurri and the gap between the two looked gargantuan.
This season was supposed to be different. Inter had lost players – key players – and Milan had sacrificed Sandro Tonali to make their overall squad better and deeper than last season. Yet judging by the 90 minutes that unfolded in San Siro, that didn’t seem to be the case. In fact, Inter look stronger than ever.
Inter didn’t so much as blow the Rossoneri away, but eventually outclassed and outpowered them over the course of 90 minutes. Pioli’s side simply had no answer to Inter’s quality all over the pitch: Lautaro Martinez and Marcus Thuram provided the penetrating thrust in attack; the midfield of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Hakan Calhanoglu and Nicolo Barella provided their usual blend of class, guile and dynamism; Federico Dimarco and Denzel Dumfries controlled each flank.
In defence, Inter double teamed Rafael Leao anytime the Portuguese winger received the ball. The one time he wiggled free of his markers, Leao showed his class by scoring Milan’s only goal against Inter this year.
Both sides had looked a cut above any side in Serie A in the opening rounds of the season, yet it was evident here that Inter are still a cut above Milan, and it will be difficult to stop them over the course of the season. Thuram has settled into Serie A and Inter quicker than most thought, with the Frenchman’s goal by far the standout moment of the game. Many thought how Inter would replace both Romelu Lukaku and Edin Dzeko, but they might have the answer in Thuram, son of the legendary Lillian. His combination of speed and technique is an upgrade on both Lukaku and Dzeko, with both lacking either attribute in their own arsenal.
Milan signed a lot of players this summer and, naturally, some are going to take longer to adjust to the rigours of Serie A than others. Milan’s team had the look of a side still getting to know each other. Seven of Milan’s signings featured in the game, and they got a rude awakening to who is now the dominant team in the city, a reminder of how far away they are of usurping the blue-and-black beast.
While Thuram was a constant menace and scored the goal of the game, it was Mkhitaryan who ultimately stole the show. The Armenian seems to be getting better with age, like a fine Tuscan wine. Two goals and an assist makes it difficult for new summer signing Davide Frattesi – himself the beneficiary of Mkhitaryan’s vision in the lead up to Inter’s fifth – to break into the midfield. Such has been the 34-year-old’s impact at Inter, both on the pitch and within the locker room, that a one-year contract extension is being considered even when his current deal doesn’t run out until next summer.
Inter now sit atop the Serie A mountain with four wins from four, and have now slammed 12 goals past Milan in the calendar year. Inzaghi has formed Inter into a great cup side since replacing Antonio Conte in 2021, and having won two Coppa Italias and two Italian Supercups, plus reaching the Champions League final in June, a league title is the only thing missing from his CV.
On the evidence of the latest Derby della Madonnina, stopping Inter could prove a frightening prospect.