While we were all busy trying to find the cheapest bottle of bourbon at the liquor store to kill the pain of yesterday’s entirely deserved loss to Juventus in the Coppa, Roberto Mancini dropped an interesting little tidbit into his post-match presser. Basically, he confirmed that Eder is all but on his way to Inter, with only the final details left to negotiate. Other reports – not from Mancini – put the agreement at a half-season loan with option to buy for 12 million. If that’s true, it seems like a pretty stellar deal. We need goals desperately, we wanted Eder back in the summer, and 12 million is considerably less than Massimo Ferrero was crazily ranting about Eder being worth.
But the signing of Eder would prompt two big questions:
1. Will he have the capacity to be successful here without us also finding a creative midfielder?
2. Who will be leaving to make room for him?
To tackle the second question first, there’s no saying for sure that we’ll have to lose any forwards to bring him in, but it would seem logical. We currently have Icardi, Perisic, Jovetic, Palacio, Ljajic, and Biabiany filling out that part of the roster. I think we can assume Icardi is safe. But here’s what’s scary: If you take Icardi out of that equation, Eder has outscored all our remaining five strikers, combined – 12 goals (Eder) to 10 goals (Jo-Lja-Bia-Pal-Per). Only Ljajic has more assists than him. For a late-bloomer type of dude who cost Sampdoria 3 million just a couple years ago to be outperforming so many highly-rated, better-known players by such a large margin is a bit startling.
Palacio just signed an extension and has no real resale value. Biabiany earns relative peanuts, and actually plays just fine when he’s called upon. Perisic hasn’t done a whole lot since arriving, but this club moved heaven and earth to bring him here, so his abrupt exit would be a surprise. That leaves Ljajic and Jovetic. Jovetic would seem to be the obvious sacrifice – he plays in a very similar role to what Eder would play, he doesn’t seem to have any chemistry with Icardi, and there has pretty obviously been some friction between him and Mancini. Ljajic has also been hit-and-miss, though at his best, he provides the thing this club misses the most: creativity, unpredictability, and actual link-up play in attack. (His pass success rate is substantially higher than our other forwards.) But even with Ljajic, he hardly sees enough of the ball to really set much up.
Which brings us to the first point. Without figuring out a real solution to our flaccid midfield and build-up-play, who’s to say Eder will do any better here than our current strikeforce? At Samp, Eder has guys like Soriano, Muriel, Carbonero and even Cassano keeping up a steady flow of service to the opponent’s third. Here, our strikers are forced to feed on scraps. Mancini might not value the old Rivera-style artsy-farsty playmaker role, getting rid of Kovacic and Hernanes as he did, but there’s got to be someone to hit those transitions. Medel and Melo are just destroyers; and right now Kondogbia and Brozovic look pretty destroyed themselves. Guarin, ironically, was the one guy who could play this role on occasion, and he’s gone too.
Bringing in Eder would be the start of a very good winter market for Inter, but if that’s all we’ve got planned, I foresee a second half of the season that’s just as nervy as the first. Imagine Eder comes in, flying high on 12 goals in the first half of the season, then sees his scoring rate dry up as soon as he hits the San Siro. It would be pretty clear where the real problem lies.