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Inter fans' 5 stages of grief for the Kovacic sale

Mateo Kovacic has officially been sold to Real Madrid and I have accepted that, but it took a while to get to that point.

Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

It's official, Mateo Kovacic is now a Real Madrid player. While there is still uncertainty as to the exact price the figure is looking to be anywhere from €30-35m. He signed a 6-year deal and was presented at the Spanish capital on Wednesday.

He leaves the city of Milan after 97 appearances in all competitions and 6 goals since his arrival in January 2013. During that time he showed his incredible talent but it always seemed like he had a lot more potential inside him that none of the many managers he had to deal with were able to unlock. Despite this, he was proclaimed as one of the jewels in the Inter crown and a player this team would be built around; which is why so many were stunned at the news of this sale.

I've seen a wide range of reactions to this deal, both from myself and from other Inter fans. So I decided to look at the comment sections of other Inter related sites, talk to some of my friends who follow the team, and reflect on how I've been handling this move and it kind of mirrored the stages of grief, which really shouldn't have surprised me. So here's what I saw.


When news of a potential deal first broke, it was fairly easy to dismiss it. After all Liverpool had been after Kovacic before and the club rejected a move, also the player and management had both said that he would be sticking around next season. Plus it's Real Madrid, every good player is linked to that club at some point. But as more and more sources began to report on the negotiations and of Inter's acceptance of an offer, it quickly became apparent that this deal was happening, which brought us to the next stage.


Boy was there anger. It was generally along the lines of profanity-laced tirades directed at Mancini and Thohir, but I'd have to say some people were very creative. Here's the strange thing though, and maybe somebody can explain this to me, but I'd have to say 85% of the anger was directed towards Mancini, maybe 13% towards Thohir, and arguably 2% of the rage was focused on Ausilio. And I'll admit my anger at first was very much directed towards the manager, but then I stopped and thought about it for a second and realized that didn't make much sense.

Mancini is not in charge of bringing in or selling players. He makes recommendations and Ausilio handles the transfers (with the blessing of Thohir).  And after the AEK Athens friendly Mancini spoke about how sorry he was that Kovacic had to leave, which gives the impression that he really did not want the young Croatian to be sold in the first place. In fact, under Mancini's time as manager Kovacic was arguably playing in his best form so far at Inter. He would not have wanted to sell his most creative player unless he had to, which it honestly looks like the case. So if there is anyone fans should have been angry with it is Ausilio for not selling other players in the team, or those players who had transfers lined up yet rejected those moves. This realization brought me to the next stage.


The bargaining phase was kind of weird, the versions that I saw generally took on two forms. The first saw fans becoming pseudo-accountants, estimating how much other players would bring in if they were sold and computing those amounts to prove that it was entirely unnecessary to sell Kovacic. The problem with this is the same one that the club has been trying to deal with all summer: it's been remarkable difficult to sell players so far this transfer window. Whether it has just been a lack of teams submitting offers, players rejecting moves, or teams backing out of prearranged deals (Yes Sunderland I'm talking to you. You agreed to a contract, now follow through with it and buy Alvarez) a good portion of the dead-weight on the team is still around.

The other type was fans that wanted Inter to wait, give Kovacic another year to improve and then maybe sell him next season when his value was even higher. Here's the thing, there is no guarantee that Kovacic's value would have increased this campaign. He could've got injured for a large portion of the season, or he could've simply not had a good year. We don't know. But when a club like Real Madrid comes calling most players don't say no. And when Real Madrid offers anywhere from a €19-24m profit on a player that, while very talented, has been pretty inconsistent if we're being honest here, most clubs don't say no. And while on the surface of things that sounds okay, it let some fans into the next phase.


There have been some people who have already given up on Thohir, Mancini, and even the entire upcoming season in the aftermath of this sale. They say that Inter is becoming a selling club without ambition, and that they have already lost all joy and optimism for the 15/16 campaign. After selling both Kovacic and Shaqiri in such a short period of time, they think it proves that this club does not have what it takes to challenge at the top of the table.

I didn't get the full on "the sky is falling" version of this phase, but when I realized that this sale was really happening, I started to think back on Kovacic's style of play and how much fun it could be to watch and how we wouldn't get to see that anymore. I started to think that this season would not be all that fun to watch, that the team would end up playing without any creativity.  But then something happened...


I remembered that I'm an Inter fan, and that means two things. First, it means that this club is going to do things that will frustrate the hell out of it's fans. We've dealt with selling Coutinho, signing Rocchi, not revamping the squad post-treble, the list goes on and on. And you know what, the world didn't come to an end (aka we didn't end up in Serie B unlike every other team in Italy...)

But the thing is, even if for some godforsaken reason this team was to end up in Serie B (and I know this is a big if that will most likely never occur but bear with me) we'd still stand by this club. Because that's the second part, we're Inter fans which means we stick with our team through thick and thin. They may do things that make us want to scream, cry, and never watch another game of soccer ever again, but at the end of the day, we are still going to love this team no matter what.

Yes, Inter sold Kovacic. Yes, he was one of the most promising players on the team and arguably one of the most promising young midfielders in Europe. But like I said in the bargaining phase, most teams do not turn down that offer. And while we lost a promising young midfielder we also start this season with 2 others. Gnoukouri proved to be a revelation last season and we're all looking forward to what he can do now that he is officially with the first team, and while we have already seen Kondogbia tearing up and down the pitch in preseason matches, now we get to see how he plays when it really counts (plus with Kovacic gone he will most likely have a more creative license to go forward and I'm excited to see what that looks like).

Finally I believe, I have to believe, that Mancini, Ausilio, and Thohir know what they are doing. Because I love this team, and even if they are steering towards the rocks and we crash, I'm going down with the ship.

So goodbye Kovacic, thanks for the memories, and I hope we see each other soon in the Champions League.