With only Serie A and the Coppa Italia to play for, much of Inter’s recent transfer talk centers around narrowing the size the of squad. While Sporting Director Piero Ausilio has hinted at more departures than arrivals in January, Inter are within striking distance of a top-three finish and a Champions League place. Reinforcing the squad with a key singing or two during the transfer window could help make the Nerazzurri’s Champions League dream a reality.
While Inter have more than enough players vying for playing time in attack and midfield, improving Stefano Pioli’s defensive options should be a priority for Ausilio.
Here are four defenders that Inter could target in January:
1. Ricardo Rodriguez – Wolfsburg
This opinion will come as no surprise to Inter fans, but arguably the most glaring deficiency in the squad is the lack of a high-quality fullback. If Inter are looking to improve the team with just one key signing in January, the 24-year-old Wolfsburg left back is the player they should target.
Rodriguez is likely a familiar name, as he’s been linked with moves to high-profile clubs for a few seasons now. To this point, Wolfsburg have been able to resist offers for their prized asset, but that may no longer be the case this January.
The German club has had a dreadful season thus far, sitting 13th in the Bundesliga, earning just 16 points from 16 matches. Wolfsburg are reportedly close to sacking Valérien Ismaël—their second manager of the season—and have recently agreed to sell star attacking midfielder Julian Draxler to PSG for around €35 million. Wolfsburg could look to cash in, and use the sales of Draxler and Rodriguez to rebuild their squad.
While Rodriguez would likely cost Inter over €30 million, he would have an immediate impact in the side, replacing Cristian Ansaldi in the Starting XI. Technically, Rodriguez is one of the most gifted left backs in Europe, is excellent from set-pieces, and has directly contributed to a quarter of Wolfsburg’s offensive output this season with two goals and two assists.
Although expensive, Rodriguez would add significant quality to the Inter side, and finally solidify what’s been a revolving door at the left back position. Simply put, if the Suning owners are willing to spend and Ausilio wants to improve Inter with just one signing, Ricardo Rodriguez should be the main target.
If Inter is not committed to spending that much in January, the next two featured players could serve as lower-cost alternatives.
2. Sead Kolašinac – Schalke
Schalke’s Bosnian fullback has been recently linked with a potential move to Premier League, and if the German club is willing to sell, Ausilio should consider making a bid.
While Kolašinac is naturally a left back, his size and ability to play multiple positions make him a valuable player. At 6’0”, Kolašinac is both tall and strong enough to play as a center back when needed, and quick enough to be deployed as a traditional fullback. This season, Kolašinac has started matches at left back and right back in a four-man defense, and has also operated as a left and right center back in a three-man defensive setup.
Since his arrival, Pioli has experimented with both a three and four-man defense. Inter adding Kolašinac to the squad would give Pioli the freedom and personnel to utilize whichever formation he feels is best for a particular match.
3. Adam Masina – Bologna
Masina, Bologna’s 22-year-old Italian left back, is 6’2” and has the pace and energy needed to play as either a traditional left back or as a left wingback.
Masina would be unlikely to unseat Cristian Ansaldi in Inter’s current starting XI, but targeting him in January could be a prudent move for the future of the position. Masina’s addition would give Pioli a viable alternative to Yuto Nagatomo—whose San Siro exit seems long overdue—with more experience than prospect Senna Miangue.
While his signing wouldn’t be a big splash, Masina has the potential to become a high-quality fullback. Inter should consider snatching him up before another Serie A rival does.
4. Mamadou Sakho – Liverpool
In the 2015/16 season, Mamadou Sakho made 33 appearances for Liverpool and seemed to be a key player for Jurgen Klopp. However, this preseason, Sakho was sent home and demoted from Liverpool’s senior squad after being late to the team’s flight to the United States and missing a training session.
Sakho has only appeared for Liverpool’s reserve team since, and is clearly in need of a fresh start. Given that Klopp has preferred to start Emre Can and Lucas Leiva as out-of-position center backs rather than give Sakho playing time this season, Liverpool might be looking to cut their losses and offload the Frenchman for pennies on the dollar.
While Inter would justifiably be concerned about Sakho’s professionalism and commitment, he could be a player worth giving a second chance to if the price were small enough. At the very least, Sakho would certainly be better option than Andrea Ranocchia and Marco Andreolli.
His demotion at Liverpool, and a potential move to the San Siro, could serve as the wakeup call the 26-year-old needs to restart his career. With Liverpool in a position of almost no leverage, Inter taking a chance on Sakho could just be the low risk, high reward decision that adds considerable defensive talent to the team.