He was by some margin the most eagerly-anticipated signing of Inter’s summer transfer campaign, but Dalbert Henrique’s first three months in Italian football have not exactly been as successful or spectacular as most would have hoped (and expected).
The Brazilian was supposed to be the man who resolved the Nerazzurri’s long-standing problems in the left-back department once and for all, but so far he has been little more than a privileged spectator as Luciano Spalletti’s side have taken the 2017-18 Serie A season by storm, sitting just two points off the top of the table as November draws to a close.
Having been signed for a fee that could rise as high as €26m, Dalbert has made just six appearances in 14 games this season with a combined total of 283 minutes played, remaining an unused substitute in each of Inter’s last seven outings. His last game-time of any sort came all the way back on 1 October, when he came on for the final 5 minutes of Inter’s match away to Benevento.
Despite this, the 24 year-old does not regret the move he made in the summer and remains optimistic that he can make a success of his time at Inter, while also harbouring ambitions of breaking into the Brazilian national team in the near future.
Those were some of the subject matters that he discussed in an interview with France Football this week, which you can have a read of below.
Until very recently you were working in a supermarket, and now you’re playing in one of the best leagues in the world. Do you ever stop to think about that?
“It’s all happened very quickly. I’m fulfilling the dream that I had as a child. At the moment I’m playing in a very important club, but I have no intention of taking things slowly: I want to make a mark in Inter’s history and I also want to play for the Brazilian national team.”
Why did you decide to come to blows with Nice this summer [to force through a transfer to Inter against their will]?
“There are certain opportunities that only come along once. When I received Inter’s offer this summer my first thought was for my family; I wanted to guarantee them a safe and prosperous future. Then I started thinking about myself. I said to myself that this would have been an extraordinary experience for me, which could give me more visibility.
When I arrived at Nice the first thing I told the club was that I wanted to play for the Seleçao; playing for Inter gives you a better chance of being noticed and being called up. It’s a shame not everybody at Nice understood my decision.”
How did your team-mates at Nice react to what was going on?
“They were on my side. Had they been in my position they would have done the same as me. Some of them didn’t understand, but I had no choice, it was the only way I could succeed in getting my move. Nice didn’t respect my will and they didn’t show any sign that they were counting on me; it was because of these conditions that we ended up at loggerheads. At times I felt guilty about it but it was a necessary act. My conscience is clear.”
Did President [Jean-Pierre] Rivère disappoint you?
“The President is an understanding man. He understood where I was coming from but he also wanted to protect the interests of the club, which is normal. What disappointed me most was the lack of consideration the club gave me. They didn’t want to sell me, they wanted me to stay, but in that case they needed to nurture me, or at least entertain the possibility of improving the terms of my contract.
Instead they just told me: ‘you’ll come back from your holidays, you’ll train as normal and everything will be fine.’ They didn’t want to talk to other clubs but at the same time they didn’t offer me anything - that’s what convinced me to leave Nice.”
How did the supporters take your departure?
“Badly. In their eyes I’d been a traitor and they booed me in the match against Ajax [Nice’s Champions League qualifying tie that Dalbert played in before leaving]. That really got to me. I wouldn’t mind going back to Nice in the future, but I don’t think it’ll be possible. I gave everything for that shirt and I didn’t like seeing the fans get so annoyed.
Before I left for Inter I received a lot of threatening messages from them. They told me they wanted to break my legs, while some wanted to see me die. They even wrote to my wife on social networks. I saw all of their anger and it really struck me; it hurt me, and I hope it passes eventually.”
Are you still following Nice this season?
“I watch their matches whenever I can. I have a lot of friends there, such as Dante, and I hope they can do well.”
For sure the most revealing part of this interview is the part about his desire to establish a place in the Brazil squad, and how playing for Inter will hopefully give him enough visibility to achieve that.
While nobody can reproach Dalbert for wanting to represent his country - especially when the national team he is hoping to break into is the most prestigious national team of them all - I can’t exactly say that he has endeared himself to me with these comments.
What doesn’t sit entirely comfortably is that they give the impression that Dalbert has come to Inter for Brazil more than he has come to Inter for Inter. He’s excited at the thought of playing for this club, but when push comes to shove what interests him is nailing down a place in the Seleçao, which he believes can be achieved more easily by being here, because more people watch Inter than Nice.
We’re being used, basically.
Call me quixotic, but I’d like to think that the no. 1 priority of all of our players is Inter. We all know how much pride South American footballers in particular take in representing their country, but I don’t think the likes of Miranda, Matias Vecino or Mauro Icardi see us as a vessel through which to gain international recognition. Players should want to come to Inter because, well, it’s Inter; not because the club’s name can help you generate publicity for yourself back at home.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into Dalbert’s comments, but they do make you wonder if he’s willing to die for the cause in the same way that everybody else has been so far this season. The only way to earn international call-ups is by giving 100% for your club, staying humble and constantly looking to improve yourself in training; they’re not going to arrive just because you play for Inter.
#Spalletti: "Santon has played for Italy in the past, let's not forget that. Dalbert? Dalbert will turn up tomorrow and train even harder than he has already because evidently what he's done so far hasn't been enough. and then we'll see"— Serpents of Madonnina (@SerpentsOfInter) November 19, 2017
Spalletti’s comments after Inter’s game with Atalanta last Sunday hinted at a potential lack of determination or commitment from Dalbert, which is preventing him from making his way back into the starting XI. This interview would seem to fit nicely with what he said.
Whatever the issue has been so far, let’s hope Dalbert can force his way to the front of the queue soon, because it’s in everybody’s interests for him to do so.