Stefano Pioli’s arrival as Inter Milan coach has given a new lease of life to midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia who has regained his place after being dropped and publicly criticised by former manager Frank de Boer.
Kondogbia, who has struggled to live up to his 31 million euros ($33 million) price tag since arriving at Inter last year, said Pioli had given the team new heart which shone through in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with neighbours AC Milan.
The French midfielder also took the unusual step of telling reporters to ignore his agent who said in an interview on Sunday that Kondogbia merely regarded Inter as a stepping stone to a bigger club.
“I’m a footballer and you should take note of what I say publicly, not my agent’s comments,” he said.
Kondogbia was persuaded to join Inter from AS Monaco by former coach Roberto Mancini who described him at the time as the club’s future.
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Mancini repeatedly backed Kondogbia as he struggled to settle in.
“Geoffrey is a fantastic player and we hold high hopes for him,” Mancini said. “He’s young and just needs a bit of time.”
Kondogbia was left out France’s Euro 2016 squad and Mancini resigned two weeks before the start of this season and was replaced by De Boer.
Although he initially kept his place in the team, it all went wrong for the 23-year-old when his mistake cost Inter a goal in the 1-1 draw with Bologna. Kondogbia was substituted after only 28 minutes and chastised by a furious De Boer.
“I told him he needs to play simple balls, particularly with his back to goal, in the most dangerous areas, but he just doesn’t want to listen,” De Boer said.
“He had the chance to play the ball away safely with two team mates free close by. It’s not a problem that you make mistakes in a match, but what I cannot accept is when you make them because you don’t want to listen.”
Pioli’s arrival has given new hope to Kondogbia, whose combination of physical strength and good technique has led to comparisons with compatriot Paul Pogba.
Inter dominated Sunday’s match, although they twice had to come from behind and only snatched a point thanks to Ivan Perisic’s stoppage-time goal.
“We tried to play by keeping the ball and overloading the middle of the park,” Kondogbia said.
“That helped us and I think we put in a good performance. It’s a good start for the coach.”
“We all know we’ve got ability and we have to play like we did tonight with a good approach and build-up play. Now we must push on. De Boer? I don’t want to talk about that.”