Expect overhaul at underachieving Inter Milan this summer
It was only five years ago that Inter Milan were well en route to tasting a historic Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League treble.
As Roberto Mancini’s men struggle to live up to their recent history, they could not have an easier Easter fixture with a home game against financially stricken and basement side Parma. Coral go strongly odds-on at 1/4 for a Nerazzurri victory, which would be their first in seven across all competitions.
Playing a team down on its luck notwithstanding, Inter are 10 points off the European places and 15 shy of a Champions League spot with just a maximum of 30 on offer. This time in 2010, they topped Serie A with the meanest defence and most potent attack:
For all of Erick Thohir’s financial muscle, it will take some spectacular slips from several other Italian outfits to see the San Siro side, or ground-sharers AC Milan for that matter, in continental competition next term.
Mancini may be comforted by the fact the Nerazzurri chief will likely throw money at bridging this clear gap over the summer. Press in both Britain and Italy have linked Inter with Premier League stars to help revive their fortunes.
Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure is one name consistently mentioned in dispatches that Mancini wants. A rumoured fee of £43m for a player who will turn 32 before this season ends is laughable, however, and at that price would be a vanity purchase that is the height of folly.
With wingplay not fashionable in Italy unless coaches operate with a back three, it makes much more sense for Mancini to deploy Nerazzurri winter window signing Xherdan Shaqiri in a central creative role supporting the strikers. On this term’s evidence, Toure’s scoring exploits of last season were a fluke, so younger legs in advanced midfield areas are an asset.
A much more sensible target from Mancini’s old club Manchester City is Montenegro number 10 Stevan Jovetic, who sparkled in Serie A at Fiorentina before moving to the Etihad where he has never really established himself. Overhauling an inadequate Inter strikeforce, top scorer Mauro Icardi apart, is a definite priority.
That may be why the Nerazzurri are also linked with Manchester United-owned Mexico marksman Javier Hernandez, who looks like he will need a new club when his season-long loan at Real Madrid ends.
Inter’s own temporary acquisition Lukas Podolski, a World Cup winner with Germany no less, will be looking to break his duck after a dozen attempts against Parma (6/5 anytime scorer chance). Rodrigo Palacio, complete with ponytail, meanwhile, looks over the hill at 33, as evidenced by a paltry goal average of less than one in three.
Looking at Nerazzurri personnel, a midfield diamond remains the logical tactical nuance, whether it’s a defensive four or back three behind them. Croatian captures Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic are clearly part of the long-term vision, while Colombian counterpart Fredy Guarin gives a box-to-box threat.
It’s the anchorman area that could do with an upgrade, or at least a sense of competition. Chile international Gary Medel definitely possesses the requisite aggression for the holding role, but is playing for his country as a stepping up centre half in the middle of a back three.
Mancini must consider this conversion at club level, especially as three central defenders are out of contract at Inter this summer. Worryingly, Nerazzurri skipper Andrea Ranocchia, now 27 and somewhat finally living up to the hype, is among those, though few will miss fading Argentine presence Hugo Campagnaro at 34.
Moving Medel deeper could be the intention and reason behind reported Inter interest in Atletico Madrid anchorman Mario Suarez. Capped twice for Spain and a La Liga winner last term under Diego Simeone, he fits the international profile that underpins long-standing Nerazzurri philosophy of attracting players from around the globe.
Other engine room options Hernanes, who has fallen out of favour for Brazil and will be 30 before this season ends, and Serbia half centurion Zdravko Kuzmanovic face uncertain futures, alongside academy product Joel Obi.
Assuming Ranocchia has done enough to earn a new deal, some defensive cover is still needed with Campagnaro seemingly on his way out and Brazilian left-footer Felipe only joined on a short-term deal from upcoming opponents and perilous Parma.
Nemanja Vidic has marshalled a Manchester United defence that won several honours, so there is a senior player available to Mancini at the back with a winning mentality. Cover for his ageing legs is important, but there is enough strength in depth, provided the right names are added, for Inter to do better next term without the demands of European football.