Spalletti claims he sat De Vrij due to Lazio ‘atmosphere’

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Luciano Spalletti has guided Inter to 2nd in the Italian top flight, and after a roaring 3-0 road victory over Lazio at Stadio Olimpico, there’s talk that the former Serie A giant is back.

Spalletti’s tactical abilities have not just milked every last goal out of bellcow Mauro Icardi, who has been a constant on the scoresheet for Inter the last three seasons, but also out of the supporting cast. Marcelo Brozovic has followed up his fantastic World Cup with a great start to the club campaign, Matias Vecino has transformed into a vital part of the midfield, and Stefan de Vrij has matured to help lead Serie A’s most stout defense to this point.

So, there was some surprise when Spalletti left de Vrij off the teamsheet in a massive game against his former club on Monday.

Spalletti has gone on to explain his decision following the 3-0 victory, saying he wanted to protect the Dutch defender from the potentially hostile crowd. “It’s a question of the atmosphere,” Spalletti said after the match. “There was no need to have him whistled by the entire stadium. He is an infinitely mature and sensible lad, if he made a few mistakes he would not be in an optimal condition to play.”

The move is notable given de Vrij’s history between the two clubs. The 26-year-old’s last appearance for his old club at Stadio Olimpico came against Inter on the final day of the season, and his mistake put Mauro Icardi at the penalty spot in the 78th minute. Icardi would level the match, and Inter would go on to win and snatch a Champions League spot from Lazio on the final day of the season. His subsequent decision to leave Lazio and join Inter over the summer caused many Lazio fans to turn on the Dutchman.

Add another notch in Spalletti’s man management cap, although it was a risky one. Had things gone wrong at the back, it would have likely come back to Spalletti’s decision to sit de Vrij in favor of 34-year-old Brazilian center-back Miranda. Yet here we are, talking about a rousing victory that sent Inter above Napoli into second place on goal differential.