Now that the 2015-16 season has concluded, we thought it was time to look back and assess the individual performances of Inter's players across the year. On Thursday Baraka cast his eye over the goalkeepers and defenders that have made a contribution over the last nine months, which you can read here, and today it's my turn to grade the midfielders.
Three quick bits of housekeeping before we get to those grades though:
1) Only those lucky enough to have made more than three appearances this season are being considered in this exercise, which makes both Hernanes and Assane Gnoukouri ineligible for a rating. Sorry guys, if either of you are reading this.
2) Baraka, Luca and myself all have slightly different standards when it comes to the 1-10 system, so some of the ratings we've given might look strange if you try to compare the marks of two players who play in different positions. Put simply, Luca and I are harsher markers than Baraka is.
3) Adem Ljajic is not really a midfielder, but he's been crowbarred into this section so that Luca and I had roughly the same number of players to grade. Nothing more important than that.
So then, without further ado...
Marcelo Brozovic - 7
With 7 goals scored and 5 assists provided across all competitions, Epic Brozo is top of this particular class. From pretty much the moment he arrived in Italy Mancini has been telling anyone who will listen that Brozovic is destined to become one of the best midfielders on the continent, and in fits and starts this season we have seen just why he rates him so highly. There is no single outstanding quality with which he has impressed - perhaps his (quite literally) breathtaking stamina is the closest we get to that - but his ability to do a bit of everything in the centre of the pitch has been very useful indeed, enabling him to turn in three monstrous performances against Juventus (in the Coppa Italia), Roma and Napoli. Having said that, he has received particular praise this year for being by far the most technically gifted midfielder in the squad, although that probably says more about the structural deficiencies we have experienced in that area (he's been the only guy who can pass well, in other words).
The problem with Brozovic is his inconsistency, and it really is a problem. One week he can play like a world-beater, and then the next he can give a convincing impression of a man who's wandered in off the street to have a kickabout with his mates. I hate this kind of comment normally, because it's almost always unfair and simplistic, but there really do seem to be some games where he just doesn't look particularly bothered, and fails to 'turn up' as they say (such as against Frosinone and Genoa in April, where almost everything he did was a hindrance to the team). It's frustrating, but perhaps it's to be expected of a player his age.
Fredy Guarin - 5
If you wiped Fredy Guarin from your mind the instant he left for China, like me, then there is only one thing you need to remember him for. That one thing is the decisive goal he scored in the derby back in September, which gave us one last glimpse of the sublime talent he possesses but has never figured out how to channel correctly. That night of joy in September earns him half a point, otherwise he would have been limited to a 4.5. His sale in January was a very pleasant surprise indeed and, despite the problems we've been suffering in midfield all season, nobody has missed him being here even one iota (except perhaps himself and Mancini). Guarin contributed absolutely nothing else to the team after his Madonnina match-winner, turning in a series of unspeakably bad performances that summed up his four years at the club.
Geoffrey Kondogbia - 6.5
Kondogbia is the hardest midfielder to find a rating for, because to evaluate him fairly you need to find a happy medium between his objective qualities, the extortionately high price tag he arrived with and your own personal expectations last summer. As far as I'm concerned, the fact Inter spent in excess of €30m to sign him is not his fault and should not be held against him, although it is true that we expected a little more from him in the first half of the season.
Overall this has been a positive first season in Italy for Kondo, who took a while to get used to life in a new league but has demonstrated a very encouraging improvement since January, underlining just why we were so keen to bring him to Inter in the first place. When playing in a two-man midfield he looks very much at home, as opposed to the three-man solution Mancini messed around with initially, which is where he should be allowed to play with consistency next year if we wish to maximize his potential. In that position he has been consistently one of our best players of late, and with a little bit more confidence in his own abilities he could really take off for us. Often he struggles to see a forward pass, and often he holds onto the ball too long and slows attacks down, but there is a reason Interisti have always offered him so much support and encouragement on social media. This guy has a big part to play in our future.
Adem Ljajic - 6
His signed contract was handed into the Lega Calcio with one minute to spare at the end of last summer's transfer window, but it is not going to take us quite so long to discover Adem Ljajic's future this year. There were a few weeks just before Christmas when it looked as if the music was finally changing around him, when he appeared to making the definitive and overdue leap from promising talent to serious elite-level footballer, but six months on the final verdict tells a different story. He was making all the right noises earlier in the year, vowing to work just as hard as the members of our treble-winning side when they didn't have possession, but sadly he didn't maintain that promise for long enough. If only someone could get through to him and explain just how great he could be, with a bit more humility and self-sacrifice during training and the games themselves.
Ljajic has put in some excellent performances for Inter this season - at times our attack would not have had any logic to it whatsoever had it not been for him - and therein lies his greatest defect, which threatens to place a very low ceiling on his career. It's only ever 'some' excellent performances with him.
Gary Medel - 6
Gary Medel does what Gary Medel does, and at the start of the season in particular he did it very well indeed. He does not offer you quality in any sense of the word, but he does guarantee you quantity, so he's a player that deserves to be respected by Interisti at least. During our series of 1-0 wins he offered a fundamental contribution to our rock-solid defensive record, providing the kind of grinta and cunning that this team has been missing for so many years, and that musn't be forgotten when judging Medel.
Ultimately though, if we want to make another step up then he doesn't really have a role in this team, except perhaps at centre-back where he has occasionally put in good performances. He acts like a handbrake when we're on the ball due to his lack of attacking invention, and has been partly responsible for the difficulties we've faced in breaking down organised opponents. He should probably be moved on if we can find another club for him, but his professionalism and commitment to the cause shouldn't be forgotten nonetheless.
Felipe Melo - 4.5
He arrived with the task of adding leadership and fighting spirit to what had previously been a fairly gutless midfield, and for a few glorious weeks it looked as if Mancini might actually have been right to insist on us signing him after all. Things were looking so promising at one point that Sky Italia's Fabio Caressa even felt justified in comparing him to Lothar Matthaus (I know, that really happened), with his determined derby performance appearing to win over some of the doubters that had overshadowed him throughout the summer transfer window.
Unfortunately, Felipe Melo's Inter career peaked in his very first game here and has gone rapidly downhill ever since. You can't fault him for effort, of that there can be no question, but you can for pretty much everything else. He is not the player we need in midfield if we wish to return to the top of Italian football, and if the club can't see that then they're a lot dumber than I've previously given them credit for. I don't think any Interista will ever forget that five-minute spell he had at the end of the match with Lazio, although it wouldn't be for the want of trying.