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What's going on with Ljajic?

Since joining Inter in the summer, Adem Ljajic has seen very little playing time (much to the confusion of some fans).

Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

It's the 71st minute of the match against Sampdoria and Inter is down a goal. Mancini goes to his bench to bring on a creative attacker to help the team score an equalizer. The substitution board goes up and there's bit of shock being displayed by a number of Inter fans. Not because of the player being brought off (Palacio who was not having a very good match) but by the player being brought on; or more specifically the player who was not being brought on. 18 year old forward Rey Manaj was being sent into the match instead of Adem Ljajic. He did get a chance in the match though, except it was for maybe five minutes (including extra time).

Outside of this brief cameo, Ljajic's only other appearance for Inter this season was the match against Hellas Verona where he started but was subbed off in the 56th minute. With one of the main criticisms of Mancini's side so far this season being that the team plays without any creativity, it seems like a natural solution would be to play one of his most creative and unpredictable attackers more often, yet that hasn't happened.

Reports have claimed that the main reason for his exclusion from the side so far has been a lack of effort shown by the Serbian international. It is believed that Mancini has not been impressed by Ljajic's output in training so far, and as a result his place in the pecking order has dropped significantly. Matters might have been made worse by his actions following the Manaj substitution. Ljajic had been warming up, but when he saw that the youngster was going to be sent on instead of himself, he stopped his routine and went over to have a discussion with Brozovic (another player who has seen his playing time limited this season and could also have a reasonable claim to a starting spot over Guarin).

The injury to Jovetic presented Ljajic with a clear opportunity to stake his claim for a place in the starting 11 but it looks like that chance is fading. If this is simply a case of Mancini not seeing how Ljajic fits into his side and wanting to stick with what worked in the first few matches, then the blame needs to fall on the coach. The team's attacking play has been less than inspiring so far and a player like Ljajic could be the necessary creative spark to get the goals flowing. But if it is the case that his attitude is causing him to stay out of the side then he needs to improve that quickly before Mancini loses all faith in him. If that happens, the 24 year old's time at the club will be seen as disappointment, and his loan move from Roma will have amounted to him replacing the bench at the Stadio Olimpico for the bench at the San Siro.