Now that all the hullabaloo of the holidays has passed, I can once again begin to think about football. I have been out of the loop for the last week, but with the break, I dont expect much has happened anyway. The winter transfer period is about to open and I expect a couple squad members to look for a transfer. Also, although there are still 2 games yet to play in the first half of the season, the break provides a convenient time for assessment. Ok then, lets get cracking.
First, I thought we would tackle whole mercato question:
The poll is open until midnight, January 2, so get voting.
Personally, I think we may see a little movement. Mourinho has said repeatedly that he thinks the squad is too large and I think it is clear to a few players that there really isn't room for them any more. I think there are seven players that may either leave or go out on loan this winter:
Defenders: Rivas, Burdisso
Midfielders: Jimenez, Dacourt
Forwards: Adriano, Crespo, Obinna
There is some talk about Rivas going to Bologna, I think on loan. According to Calciomercato, there is already some agreement between Inter and Bologna for the deal.
There has been no specific talk of Burdisso leaving, but I think he may be on the way out. We have quite a few full backs on the squad, and he may be the worst of them.
I am a bit on the fence about Jimenez. He has only played a couple games this season but I just dont think that Mourinho is all that enamored with him. I dont necessarily think he should leave - the deeper the squad the better - but it just feels like he may be used as a bargaining chip.
Dacourt has already said he is leaving. The question now is whether he will go to Bologna (along with all the other Inter cast-offs), Genoa, Hull City, or West Brom. I dont think we will make much on him, but his contract expires in June so better to get what we can now than wait and get nothing.
Despite Moratti and Mourinho both saying that Adriano will be back at Inter come January 2, it is possible he will not play for Inter. It is clear he is still battling with addiction and the press in Italy is not helping. Moratti would like him to stay. I hope that Mourinho is able to talk some sense into him, though, as keeping him at Inter may be the worst solution for all parties. One only needs look at Recoba to see what could happen. Italy may just not be the place for Adriano. Adriano's girlfriend thinks he will go to Chelsea in the end. He is cup-tied to Inter, though, so may go to Flamengo on loan for the rest of this season.
Crespo has been on the way out since he was left off the Champions League list at the beginning of the season. Still, he reputedly refused a move to Real Madrid so who knows. Earlier in the month he was linked to both Roma and Palermo, but they have denied interest. He has been getting more play time at Inter, maybe he has decided to stick it out. I think it is time for him to move on.
Obinna may still be going on loan. He says that he would like to stay and fight for a spot, but understands that he will get more play time at a smaller club. Everton may still want him and I think that going out on loan may be the best thing for him to get the experience he needs.
There has been a little gossip about Balotelli possibly going out on loan for the rest of the season and that Inter will recall Acquafresca from Cagliari early.
Suazo will probably stay at Benfica for the rest of the year.
Even though this is not officially the middle of the season, it is a convenient time to look back at the first four months of the season.
Last year I think we went into the break at the top of the table with something like 43 points (anyone?), 7 points ahead of Roma at number 2. This year, we are at the top of the table with 42 points and 6 ahead of Juventus at number 2. Inter have the best offensive and defensive record: 31 goals scored and only 11 allowed. We did loose that one game against Milan, but overall, our Serie A form is not too shabby.
Europe was, once again, not Inter's place to shine. Still, we got through, and, if we actually get past ManU, we will have a pretty good shot at making it to the finals. Lets just say that it is not entirely impossible.
Now lets move on to the players:
Toldo: 7. I think he is the best reserve keeper in Serie A. There is talk that he will extend until 2011 and I would be thrilled were that the case. He only played one game with Inter this season, but he played it well. It is a testament to his loyalty that he stays on. Bravo Toldone!
Julio Cesar: 7. I love Julio Cesar. I cant think of a single keeper I would rather have at Inter. This season, though, he has had a couple of bobbles - nothing major, just not what we have come to expect from him. Hopefully, he was just tired and will be back to his old, exceptional self after the break.
Orlandoni Paolo: no grade. Luckily, Inter has not needed him this season (knocking furiously on wood).
Cordoba: 7. I am constantly amazed at how such a short guy can win so many headers. He has come through with the crucial goal a few times now. He can be a bit fouly (4 yellow cards already), but is fast, and with Mou's penchant for pressing, is able to beat the oncoming strikers back to the ball.
Zanetti: 8. He really should be moved to the midfield section, but I am sticking with how Inter has him classified. What can you say about Zanetti? He is a rock. He has played every minute of every game, and done so with aplomb. What will we ever do without him?
Maxwell: 6. I really wanted to give him a higher score, but, after consideration, I just could not. He is good at intercepting passes has has great passing skills, but sometimes looses concentration when marking a specific player. At the level Inter are playing at, we cannot afford these lapses. He cost us a goal each in the last two games. He did have a beauty of a goal,though.
Maicon: 8.5. He has been the secret to our success. Maicon is one of the best right backs in the world. At 4 goals, he is Inter's second highest scorer and is becoming a real favorite of Mourinho. He is a tireless workhorse and a squad essential. He may rate a 9.
Burdisso: 4. He tries, but that Champions League game was disastrous. I know Mou feels he is more versatile, but I just dont think he can hack it. Of all the defenders, he is the one I would like to replace the most.
Materazzi: 6. Ok, everyone knows that I have a soft spot for Marco. Still, the few games he has played, he played well. He shut down Amauri in the Juventus game, and he even scored against Anorthosis. He may not be a starter but I think he still has a lot to contribute to the team. Plus, I love him.
Rivas: no score. He only started one game and managed to pick up an injury. I think he should finish the season at another club.
Samuel: 8. The wall is back. Without a doubt, Samuel is on the list for the knock-out stage of the Champions League. He has already scored 2 goals (not too shabby for a center back), and can strip a ball from an attacker with the best of them.
Chivu: 6. As I recall, he played well in those first couple CL games. Unfortunately, he has been out for a while which makes it hard to give him a higher score. I like his versatility, though.
Mei: no score. I wonder if he will get to play in the Coppa Italia against Genoa.
Santon: no score. He really should be given a shot, too.
Stankovic: 9. He has been a revelation. Mou said Deki would be a special project, and whatever he has done, I hope he keeps it up. I will say, though, that his high score is due not only to his performance these last few months, but also his improvement over last season.
Figo: 5. He has not played much, but I think his last couple games have actually been pretty good. He has great vision and ball movement skills. He may not be at his best anymore, but he is not bad either.
Jimenez: 5. He really has only started 1 game and come on as a sub in two others. I dont remember thinking he was terrible, but he was not outstanding either. Really, I just think he needs play time. Still, with Juve snapping at our feet, there is not much room for trial and error.
Vieira: 5. He had a great start to the season. He played a few really good games then was injured. Again. I just dont think he can stay healthy for a long enough time to really make an impact for Inter. It is too bad, though, because when he is on, he is great.
Dacourt: no score. He is out, so why bother?
Cambiasso: 9. Inter's unsung hero. He often does not make the press, but he is another one of Inter's essential players. I really would like to say more about him, but I worry that once I start, I will not be able to stop. For me, I think the fact that he has yet to get carded shows how skillful he really is. Manchester City can just step off - he is not for sale!
Muntari: 7. I am very happy with Munatri. He provides much-needed muscle in the midfield, although he can be a little fouly. As ugly as it was, that goal against Juve will always endear him to me.
Mancini: 4. He started well - he had a great partnership with Ibra for a few games there in the beginning - but then we moved away from the 4-3-3 and he lost his place. I think he still has potential, but needs to find his place in the 4-3-1-2 formation.
Bolzoni: no score. Mou has got to let these kids play sooner or later!
Quaresma: 4. He did not live up to the hype, that's for sure. Still, he is talented, he just needs to find his way at Inter. I have not given up on him - the potential still exists.
Ibrahimovic: 9. I got an Ibrahimovic jersey for Christmas and I am thrilled. Some of you may remember that last year, Ibra was not one of my favorite players. Well, he has changed and so has my estimation of him. This season, when he looses the ball, he runs back to get it. He has always been a good, but now I think he is becoming great.
Cruz: 6. What can I say. The dude comes through in a pinch. I dont think he should start, though.
Adriano: 4. He has broken my heart. I thought the Emperor was back - remember the Panathinaikos game? But no, it was just the same old Adriano. How many chances does he get?
Crespo: 4. I can't bring myself to give him a lower score even though he may deserve it. I want him to succeed, but I think his time at Inter is over. He used to be so good, though...
Obinna: 5. The kid has lots of potential but I think he may need to go out on loan to realize it.
Balotelli: 6. I expected more. I think everyone did - which may be his downfall. He is Inter's best corner-taker, and I think he will definitely come along, but he has to learn to pass the ball and stop committing fouls when he is frustrated.
Whew. That was a lot. I am sure many of you disagree, so lets hear it.
And dont forget to vote!
Congratulations MAD on the birth of your daughter!