Milan: Inter Milan captain Mauro Icardi has refuted suggestions a player revolt forced Frank de Boer out of the club but admitted the Dutchman's lack of Italian language skills caused bewilderment.
New Inter coach Stefano Pioli will lead the Nerazzurri into the first city derby of the season at AC Milan on Sunday looking to cut into their 13-point deficit behind leaders and champions Juventus.
But the fallout from De Boer's recent sacking has yet to settle amid speculation frustrated players deliberately downed tools in a bid to force change.
Inter's early season woes became apparent when they were stunned 2-0 in their league opener at Chievo.
Although De Boer rallied Inter for a stirring 2-1 win over Juventus in September, when Icardi hit a 68th-minute opener for the hosts, his record stood at four wins from their opening 11 games.
Icardi, who was caught up in a bitter row with fans last month that forced him to re-print allegedly false passages in his autobiography, admitted the players struggled to deal with De Boer's methods.
The Dutchman's lack of Italian skills, which he was actively trying to improve after replacing Roberto Mancini two weeks before the start of the season, also made adapting more difficult, claimed the Argentine.
"Coming to a club at the start of the season is never easy, but he (De Boer) tried to change a lot of things and create a big squad," said Icardi.
"He was relaying things to us that we didn't know."
He added: "I said an Italian coach was needed because we couldn't work alongside a foreigner, we needed an Italian with knowledge of our squad and of the others (in the league)."
'Mood has changed'
De Boer, parachuted in two weeks before the start of the season after the club's Chinese owners allowed Mancini to leave by mutual consent, lamented his sacking following an away defeat to Sampdoria last month.
"Too bad it ended like this. This project needed more time to be carried out," he said in a message on Twitter.
Icardi said the mood since De Boer's departure has changed considerably and that he is ready to end his Rossoneri goal drought.
"With a new coach here, the mood has already changed," he said. "Before, some players were unhappy, but now we have no excuses."
Icardi, currently tied with Roma's Edin Dzeko on 10 goals from 12 games at the top of the Serie A scoring chart, has yet to score against AC Milan in a league derby.
He added: "It's true, I haven't scored against Milan or Sampdoria. Obviously, it's one of my objectives."
A win on Sunday would give Inter the bragging rights over Vincenzo Montella's youth-filled Rossoneri, who are only five points off Juve's lead in third place.
It would also boost Inter's hopes of ending a five-year wait to qualify again for the group stages of the Champions League.
Inter, Italy's last winners of the competition in 2010, were eliminated in the round of 16 by Marseille in April 2012.
"The Champions League will be an objective of ours in two or three years' time," said Icardi.
"The derby is an important step on the way."