It's that time again. Whereas most normal human beings at this stage of the year have just finished counting down the days to Christmas, there are also a handful of weird football fans that are now getting equally, if not more excited about the upcoming January transfer window. These people are weird - why do so many people seem to prefer this festival of disingenuous nonsense to actual football? - and hopefully you don't have them misfortune of knowing any of them, but we do need to at least acknowledge the existence of the mid-season mercato, as this year's instalment could play an important role in defining how successful Inter are this season (and besides, it's a good distraction from all the needless drama of the last couple of days). So here's a quick summary of what I reckon Messrs Mancini, Thohir and Ausilio might get up to over the next five weeks.
Firstly, we ought to take a peek at the departure lounge, because only through people leaving the club this January will people joining the club be possible. Indeed, Mancini stated in a recent press conference that unless somebody comes to him asking to be sold, Inter will not be doing anything in this transfer window (make of that what you will). Everyone by now is aware of the financially delicate spot Inter are currently in, thanks to UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations, while on top of that there is also a numerical issue to deal with too (in other words, our squad is massive as it is), which means a few players are going to have to pack their bags in the best interests of everyone. In total, I make it eight men who could potentially be on their way, be it permanently or impermanently.
The area most likely to be trimmed is the defence, and heading this particular list is Andrea Ranocchia, who already has a deal in place to join Bologna on loan until the end of the season (as Brett has discussed here). Froggy is aware that he will need to play regularly between now and May to stand a chance of making Italy's Euro 2016 squad in the summer, so it's thought to be unlikely he will refuse this offer, which indeed is the only thing that could still scupper the transfer. In other centre-back news, Nemanja Vidic may decide to rescind his contract with Inter and head elsewhere - perhaps back to his old club Spartak Moscow, if unconfirmed reports are to be believed (and why wouldn't they?).
Aside from these two players, there is nobody at the moment who looks a dead cert to leave, but nevertheless we should keep an eye on what happens in the full-back department. It remains possible that Martin Montoya's two-year loan deal from Barcelona will be cut short, while Juan Jesus and Davide Santon have a smattering of interest from other clubs and could represent a chance to earn some money (not that I personally would agree with selling either). Yuto Nagatomo and Danilo D'Ambrosio were both close to leaving at the end of the summer, while there is also Dodo, who could also be asked to find a new club after finally regaining something approaching full fitness, although I'm not sure there will be many suitors for him given how long he's spent out.
That and the fact he's not very good. Further forward, Assane Gnoukouri and Rey Manaj could both be sent out on loan to gain some first-team experience, but other than that I can't see much else happening in terms of departures. I don't believe the rumours linking Arsenal to Marcelo Brozovic, for instance, because I don't think Mancini and Thohir are that silly.
As far as players coming in are concerned, I also don't expect much to happen given our limited amount of financial wiggle room (unless we did sell a big player such as Brozovic, which would give us a lot more money to spend). For this reason I'm not convinced that Lucas Biglia or Antonio Candreva are realistic targets, while a pricey full-back such as Torino's Bruno Peres would be very, well, pricey. But this is Mancini, so we can't expect the club to do nothing. Javier Zanetti said before the Lazio game that they are only willing to sign players who could make an immediate impact, but there are some cheaper options out there that could fit that bill - such as Andrea Pirlo perhaps, who could join on loan for a few months, or Valencia's Sofiane Feghouli, who has recently rejected a contract renewal and would quench Mancio's thirst for a right winger. There is even the possibility that we could make a move for Verona's Jacopo Sala, who can play both at right-back and in central midfield and is a low-cost idea, while Marseille midfielder Lassana Diarra has also had his name linked to us. A right-back, a right-sided forward and a central midfielder are reportedly the three areas in which we would most like to strengthen, so perhaps we'll take a look at those names should others be kind enough to move on. As far as attack is concerned, Jonathan Calleri's move from Boca Juniors appears to be all but done, but that is a move that regards next season instead of now, so I'm not counting that.
In summary, I think this mercato will be significantly more low-key than the last one, where everyone got carried away with themselves and we ended up signing 11 players. Something is bound to happen, because things can change incredibly quickly during the transfer window, but at this moment in time I believe that is where we stand. The above could all be proved wrong though. Watch this space.