The winter transfer window has come and gone. The mercato (market) – as the Italians call it – had its fair share of rumours, speculations, truth and of course, there were some news that were obviously published just to cause a bit of confusion or to force a buying club’s hand into meeting the demands of the selling club; a clear example can been seen in the Balotelli to Juventus news, it turned out to be a ploy by Balotelli’s agent, Mino Raiola to force Milan’s hand into meeting Manchester City’s demands and it worked. Having said all that, I don’t intend to look into the transfer dealings of Serie a clubs, instead, I want to take a quick look at Inter’s winter transfer dealings and how it might or might not help them in achieving their season’s objective of a top three finish.
A few days ago, I wrote about inter’s need for a ball playing midfielder, I wrote about the reasons why players like Coutinho, Guarin and Ricky Alvarez are not suitable for that role mainly because they play their best football when playing in advanced roles, further up the field. I also mentioned that the role in which Inter desperately needs to fill is that of a deep lying playmaker – a regista as the Italians call it – someone that can operate from central midfield or even deep in Inter’s half of the field and dictate the tempo of the game. Well, after looking at the sales and purchases made by the club, I think it is fair to say that the Inter management and I are thinking in the same direction. I am going to take a brief look at Strammacioni’s formation and the way he sets his team up to play. Andrea Stramaccioni has played with 3-man defense in most of Inter’s games this season, the use of a 3-man backline means that a lot of running has to be done by the wing backs as they have to support the attack and the defense, however, these are not the positions that I am mainly concerned about. In midfield, Stramaccioni has mixed it up a number of times by opting to play with four men in midfield and in some other cases, a five-man midfield, his use of a 4-man midfield allows him to either play three forwards or play a tranquartista (attacking midfielder) behind to forwards. The use of a 4-man midfield with wing backs means that a the middle of the park must possess a hard tackler and a regista that would serve as a link between attack and defense while the use of a 5-man midfield with wing backs requires the use of a hard tackler, a regista and a box-to-box midfielder. Now I’m sure that some people would be wondering why a team would need a regista (deep lying playmaker) when it already has a tranquartista (attacking midfielder), the answer is simple, a tranquartista only provides a link between midfield and attack while a regista provides a link between defense and attack, a regista also dictates his team’s tempo when in possession of the ball.
Back to the transfer dealings, Inter made a total of five purchases and two sales. Some youngsters were also sent on loan to gain first team experience while there was also a co-ownership deal at one point. Let’s take a look at the transfer deals made by Inter during the winter transfer window.
SALESAfter the news about Wesley Sneijder’s rejection of a new contract with reduced wages, it was inevitable that he would leave the club; it was just a matter of when. After a lot of speculation as to where he would end up, he was eventually sold to Galatassaray for 7.5 million Euros plus bonuses. The other sale was that of Phillippe Coutinho to Liverpool for 12.5 million Euros plus bonuses. Coutinho (20) was seen as a key part of Inter’s project and it came as a shock to some fans after hearing of his departure.
PURCHASESFour purchases were made by the team, Tomassao Rocchi (35), was signed on a six month deal from Lazio for a fee believed to be in the region of fifty thousand Euros, Ezequiel Schelotto (23), was signed from Atalanta for 3.5 million Euros plus half of Marko Livaja’s rights, the deal has seen Livaja move to Atalanta while Inter still own fifty percent of his right. Inter also bought Zdravko Kuzmanovic (25) – who had six months left on his deal – from Stuttgart for a fee believed to be around 1.2 million Euros while Mateo Kovacic (19), who is dubbed as the next Luca Modric was acquired from Dinamo Zagreb for about 15 million Euros (11 million plus 4 million in bonuses). Inter also bought the other half of Benassi from Modena for 1 million Euros which means that Inter own the youngster completely now.
LOANS AND CO-OWNERSHIP DEALSThere were a few loan deals for some of the Inter youngsters, because they could not contribute to the team immediately and they need to play with continuity, the club decided that it was best to send them out on loan to teams where they would get enough playing time. Alfred Duncan joined Livorno for the remainder of the season; Matteo Bianchetti, Andrea Romano, Lorenzo Crisetig and Daniel Bessa were also loaned out to Hellas Verona, Prato, Crotone and Vicenza respectively. Yago Del Piero and Marko Livaja moved to Cesena and Atalanta respectively on co-ownership deals. Those are the notable ones.
Inter’s winter transfer market gets a rating of 6 out 10. Yes, Inter were able to get players like Kovacic and Kuzmanovic who can play centrally and provide the link between defense and attack, the club also got Schelotto who is a considerable upgrade when compared to Jonathan at the right wing back position. However, the club failed to realize the need for another back up striker after letting Livaja leave. The club knows better than to rely on a 35-year old striker as back up for Milito while Palacio and Cassano play better as supporting strikers. The club could have gotten more from the sale of Sneijder if it had handled the issue in a different way but Sneijder’s departure was inevitable. The sale of Coutinho made some fans very upset but the club needed to sell in order to buy and had to sell one of its players, since there were no offers for the outright purchase of Alvarez, the club had no choice than to sell Coutinho. Apart from Kovacic, the club was able to acquire decent players – that can immediately contribute to the team – for cheap prices. As for Kovacic, I would love to see just how much of a contribution he would make to the team before the end of the season as he is just 19 years old. Inter’s decision to hand over the number 10 jersey to him indicates that he might have a role to play but time will tell.
Regardless of the rating, I think Inter would achieve its objective of qualifying for next season’s European Champions League; the team has filled the area that needed to be filled the most and considering its current position on the league table, all that the team needs is consistency and a bit of luck with injuries.