Well, it was the first time in months that I decided to go offline for a whole weekend, and then this happens…
Inter’s signing of Geoffrey Kondogbia has given fans a cause for the sort of celebrations and gloating that we haven’t be able to do much of lately, and the summer transfer window is heating up faster than any of us expected. On the whole, I’m as happy as anyone, though my jubilation is tempered by a few nagging doubts. Here are my thoughts.
1. Get yer Yayas out
Back when the transfer of Yaya Toure seemed a foregone conclusion, several of us here (including yours truly) noted that what the team needed wasn’t Toure, per se, but rather Toure as he was ten years ago.
Though he’s exactly ten years younger – and exactly the same height – Kondogbia is hardly Toure 2.0. For one, I can’t really see him knocking in double-digit goals every season any time soon. But as far as being a physical, imposing, defensively-solid midfielder who is also quite skilled and intelligent with the ball, he ticks a number of the same boxes as Toure, while also having considerably more room to grow. At 32, Toure is the kind of luxury player you sign when you already have a good team, but need some extra oomph to really get you to the top of the hill. Kondogbia is the kind of player you sign to help build a team around for years. This is certainly the smarter move for us.
2. Do believe the hype
So far, all three of our signings have seemed to target precisely the areas where the team is weakest, which is a pleasant surprise from this club. Two strong centerbacks are onboard, and now we have the kind of clever all-action midfielder that we haven’t really seen since Cambiasso was at his peak. (Medel does what he does very well, but he’s more of a blunt object type of defensive mid – Kondogbia is much more versatile.) A young player is always a risk, and except for one CL tie against Juventus (pictured above), we have no idea how he'll adjust to Italy. But he's hardly put a foot wrong in his career so far.
3. Bills, bills, bills
Whatever the final transfer sum turns out to be, there’s no doubt that we just paid a metric butt-load of money* for a single player. (I’m tempted to say "too much," but hey, in the modern transfer market we’re often competing against clubs who seem to enjoy spending money more than they enjoy actually playing football.) In a way, this is promising – clearly the club recognizes that unless we get unreasonably lucky over and over and over again, our strategy of lurking around the bargain bins and sweeping up outcasts was just going to see us continue to wallow in mediocrity. We needed investment, and we needed some dramatic moves. This is both.
But where is this investment coming from? Right now we have the following midfielders on staff: Kovacic, Hernanes, Kondogbia, Medel, Brozovic, Guarin, Gnoukouri, Kuzmanovic and Obi. (And that’s not including the reams of midfielders we have on loan elsewhere.) If we were still being funded by Moratti’s blank-checks and still playing in Europe, that would still be a slightly overstuffed roster. But since we’re not playing in Europe and have UEFA watching the ledgers over our shoulder, that’s a ludicrously overstuffed roster. Ideally, we would just start cutting players from the end of that list until we got things under control, but I fear that won’t be the case. The other shoe will drop at some point, and it might not be pretty.
4. #savekovacic (and others)
I read a report today that Inter was no longer pursuing Imbula because Mancini decided he’d rather keep Kovacic. I have absolutely no idea if this is true, though I’d certainly like to believe it is. Assuming we manage to limit our sales to expendable players (a few of our CBs, Nagatomo, Guarin, Kuz, Obi, maybe Hernanes if the price is right), we could theoretically be looking at something like this**:
D’Ambrosio – Ranocchia/Murillo – Miranda/Vidic – Santon/Dodo
Kondogbia – Medel/Brozovic
Shaqiri – Kovacic/Hernanes – Palacio
As long as none of our new players flop disastrously, that’s gotta be the strongest squad we’ve fielded in years, not to mention one of the youngest. Sure, making Milan look silly in the transfer window is always great fun, but more importantly, this is a lineup that ought to make Roma-Napoli-Lazio-etc. pretty damn nervous for the season ahead. Hell, if we can’t challenge for the CL places with this kind of talent and no European distraction, we should just blow up the club completely and start over with Gnoukouri and Puscas as co-captains.
But keeping all those key players might be impossible. And if we do go for broke and make it back into Europe next season only to have fresh FFP penalties waiting for us, then what? I’m not exactly an economist, and I trust Thohir knows what he’s doing here. But considering we just watched Parma officially go bankrupt earlier today, there are stark reminders that irresponsibility can have harsh consequences.
It’s a very fine line we’re trying to tread – rejecting the penny-pinching pragmatism of recent seasons, without getting ourselves into trouble with extravagance. I hope we can pull it off.
*For Anglo-American readers who are unfamiliar with the metric system, a butt-load of Euros is roughly equivalent to a fuck-ton of Dollars, or a right stonker of Pounds Sterling.
**Mancini probably has other ideas, but no matter what the formation, we would still have some serious firepower to shuffle around.