From a practical standpoint, such a motor need two different types of protection; overcurrent as well as overload.
Overcurrent protection is what you get from fuses and breakers. Overload protection is what you get from the heaters in the starter. It's quite possible for a VFD to provide this secondary protection.
As for the disconnect ... I wish folks would forget the fine print of the code, and look at the application from a servicing standpoint. Do you want to shut it off before you work on it - or not? If so, doesn't it make sense to have some disconnecting means at the site of the motor? Why make / expect the guy to run up and down ladders multiple times, hope his LOTO is adequate, worry about automatic controls, etc?