Roberto Mancini was asked at the end of last season how many players he believed his club would need to sign over the course of the summer, and he jokingly responded 'eight or nine'. Except, he wasn't joking. After a last-gasp splurge at the end of an action-packed black and blue mercato, Messrs Ausilio and Fassone have supplied Mancio with his eighth acquisition of the summer. Welcome to Inter, Adem Ljajic.
As reported by AS Roma's official website, the Serbian international arrives on a season-long loan deal worth €1.75m, with an option to purchase for a further €11m. It appears at the moment that this is purely an option to buy and not an obligation (and also not, for instance, an option that becomes an obligation after a certain number of appearances).
The 23 year-old was not Inter's first choice, but he certainly was the most easily attainable man on their late August shopping list. Following the unbelievably drawn-out arrival of Ivan Perisic from Wolfsburg, our second arrival in attack needed to be a relatively low-cost affair, which automatically ruled out moves for Ezequiel Lavezzi and Erik Lamela. The pond left for Ausilio and Fassone to fish from contained Eder, Diego Perotti, Fabio Borini and Ljajic, and in the end the latter has won out. Mancini was said to be extremely fond of the first of those four, but as Monday pressed on it became clear Sampdoria were unwilling to part with the Brazilian - particularly after his stellar performance against Napoli the night before. The same problem was encountered with Genoa, who reportedly rejected an offer of around €9m from the Nerazzurri, while Borini earlier today signed officially for his old club Sunderland. So here we are.
This is a deal which appears to be splitting opinion amongst Interisti. Some people will be concerned that Ljajic was not Mancini's first choice, and that he would in all likelihood not have arrived had Eder not played so well on Sunday evening, convincing Sampdoria once and for all of his worth to them (before then, a deal was reported to be extremely close). Some will argue that this is a player whose temperament cannot be trusted, given that infamous incident with Delio Rossi during his time at Fiorentina. Some will also say that he is too much of an individualist, who can be accused of being selfish on the ball. Some will say that this is a guy who has until now failed to live up to his evident potential, who lacks the charisma and personality to make an impact on big games. Some will say that, for a side that wants to push for Champions League qualification, Ljajic just isn't really good enough to make the difference.
Personally, I don't fall into that camp. I like this deal quite a lot. In fact I find it rather odd that Roma are willing to let him go to a direct rival, while deciding to keep hold of players such as Gervinho and Juan Iturbe. Ljajic was Roma's joint top-scorer last season, and already has 29 Serie A goals under his belt spread across four campaigns. He offers width to a side which has been screaming out for it over the past year or so, as well as the ability to produce something out of nothing when we're not playing well (a la Stevan Jovetic in these first two games of the season). He is light of foot and extremely adept in tight spaces, which is something we need our players to be when we come up against the lesser, more defensive teams in Serie A. He also knows JoJo extremely well, having played with him for two seasons at Fiorentina. For a team that is not in European competition this season and already has Mauro Icardi, Rodrigo Palacio, Stevan Jovetic and Ivan Perisic to choose from in attack (and Jonathan Biabiany, of course), I'm quite hopeful of this working out. As are our cousins over at Chiesa di Totti, it seems...
The downside is also not too serious. Should he disappoint or fail to fit in, he turns 24 in September, which means we are not blowing an enormous sum of money on a quasi-pensioner with no resale value. And of course, we could just choose not to purchase him at the end of this season. Let's hope it doesn't come to that though. Benvenuto, Adem. Make yourself at home.