Since 2011 managers have came and went, young stars have came and went, deadweight players have came and went, yet Yuto Nagatomo has remained. The Japanese international has the most appearances for Inter out of all the club’s current fullbacks, and has even worn the captain’s armband in a couple of situations. He has had seasons where he was a regular starter and others where he spent a good portion of the campaign coming off the bench but no matter what an Inter coach always knows he has the 30 year old as an option.
The problem is he usually isn’t a good option, Sunday's match saw him get ripped to shreds by Arjen Robben. Wait sorry that was wrong he got torn apart by Marco Reus. Huh that still doesn’t look right was it Dominico Berardi or Mohamed Salah? Nope the player who made Nagatomo look like a fool was Atalanta’s 31 year old leftback/ Gasperini-turned-wingback Boukary Dramé. That wasn’t the first, second, or even 15th time we’ve seen this happen though. Put Nagatomo against a tricky winger and he looks bamboozled. Put him against a fast and tricky winger and any watching Inter fans are going to need a drink. Or five.
At first Nagatomo was able to somewhat offset his defensive liabilities by producing offensively. During the 13/14 season he scored 5 goals and picked up 6 assists, specializing in making late angled runs into the box to wreak havoc off a deep cross. Those goals and assists dried up though. His crosses quickly became predictable (feint a cross [optional], run to the byline and try to drive it in at the last second) and he couldn’t make those runs into the box because if it failed he would leave acres of space for the opposition to attack on the counter. As he got older the amount of times he would sprint from one end of the pitch to another declined, so he stopped going forward as much to try to provide more stability defensively (hint: it didn’t help that much).
I’m sorry this was supposed to be a news article, I just got distracted by Nagatomo’s...ability. So anyways Japanese news outlet Sports Hochi stated that Jiangsu Suning was interested in taking Nagatomo to China during the winter transfer market. Almost immediately though the club which shares Inter’s owners released an adamant statement denying any offer being prepared for Nagatomo and stating in no uncertain terms that he will not be bought during that transfer window.
If this club has any serious aspirations for reaching the Champions League, Yuto Nagatomo should not be starting a match. Honestly the argument could be made that a club with those aspirations shouldn’t have a player like that as a backup option either. But if the club that shares our owners, the club that plays in the Chinese Super League (which no offense to the CSL is at a lower level than Serie A) doesn’t want him, who will take him?