Monday's defeat to Sampdoria appears to have convinced many Interisti to start looking ahead to next season. With all hopes of a top three finish this year having been dashed by that disastrous second-half performance at the beginning of the week, attention amongst the fan base is slowly turning to the upcoming summer transfer window, as rumors begin to circle on whom Suning wish to trust with opening a new winning cycle at San Siro. However Inter themselves have been planning for next season for quite a while already, and there are two players in particular who are being linked with us on a very consistent, almost daily basis.
The first of these is Domenico Berardi, who we wrote a piece about last week and who should, in all likelihood, become the next Italian youngster to walk through the doors at Appiano Gentile once the mercato officially opens. Friday's Corriere dello Sport once again led with the story on their front page by claiming that the Sassuolo forward has agreed personal terms with Inter - although in reality that had kind of already happened as early as last summer - with Suning now weighing up what kind offer to give his parent club, in a deal that could potentially involve Gianluca Caprari. On that subject, Alfredo Pedulla is reporting this evening that Inter and Sassuolo will formally meet for the first time next week, when they will start negotiating properly over Berardi from a base figure of €30m + bonuses.
The second of these, and who at the moment appears to be just as close to Inter as Berardi, is Kostas Manolas. The 26 year-old's contract with Roma is set to expire in 2019, and without any moves having been made in the direction of renewing that contract - neither by player nor club - Sky Sport reported last week that he will almost certainly be sold to the highest bidder this summer. And, having moved quicker and more decisively than anybody else so far (and it's worth underlining 'so far'), Inter are in pole position to sign the Greek center-back. Like with Berardi, it is no secret that the Nerazzurri have identified Manolas as their no. 1 target to reinforce our defensive ranks ahead of next season, with rumors first emerging during the January window and intensifying ever since; in fact, Sky reported at the time that we would have tried to sign him there and then had it not been for the Financial Fair Play restrictions that we are still subject to. And they are not the only source to have acknowledged our interest; pretty much every single news outlet in Italy has long since done that.
In other words, there can be no doubt when everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet: Inter want Manolas. What is less clear at the moment is just how advanced negotiations are, although the mere fact that they've already started is something in itself. According to Davide Russo de Cerame from Milan-based TV network Telelombardia, a fee has already been agreed in principle between Inter and Roma in the region of €43m plus bonuses, although this in all honesty seems unlikely at such an early stage. Mediaset Premium are probably closer to the mark when they reported on on Friday that Inter are willing to offer between €38-40m for the Greek centre-back, but have not actually sealed any kind of deal with Roma yet, while offering Manolas himself wages of around €3-3.5m per year (he currently earns €1.9m in wages at Roma). Fabrizio Biasin (who is normally pretty reliable, as he has direct contacts at Inter) is also towing this kind of line, stating on Wednesday afternoon that there is still 'no type of agreement with Roma' as things stand.
Having said that, some sources don't think that Inter are completely sure yet if Manolas is the defender they want. Gazzetta dello Sport, for instance, have been pushing two other names in recent weeks, or rather Stefan de Vrij and Antonio Rudiger. The pink paper believe that Rudiger might actually be ahead in Inter's pecking order at the moment, which is down to the increasing probability of Jeison Murillo leaving Inter in the summer; the German would guarantee more tactical flexibility than his Roma teammate according to them, as he is capable of playing both in a back three and at right-back if necessary (which would make him a logical replacement for Murillo should he be sold).
As far as De Vrij is concerned, it was reported by the same source one month ago that personal terms had been agreed on the basis of a four-year contract and wages worth €3m per season, with no indications that the Dutchman will renew his contract at Lazio (currently set to expire in the summer of 2018). However Inter haven't made any attempt to start negotiating with Biancoceleste President Claudio Lotito, who is said to want a fee in the region of €30-35m, and we know how much of a pain dealing with that man can be. Elsewhere, Il Mattino reported a couple of weeks ago that Inter had reached an agreement to sign Fiorentina center-back Gonzalo Rodriguez (who will be a free agent in the summer), but Alfredo Pedulla has since dismissed that and underlined how Suning only wish to pursue younger targets. (And on that note, it ought to be mentioned that Gazzetta believe Inter are close to securing the services of 17 year-old Atalanta centre-back Alessandro Bastoni, whom Mattia Caldara described recently as being 'better than me' - although in any case, he would be left in Bergamo for another couple of seasons should a deal be agreed).
At the moment, therefore, we cannot say with complete certainty that Manolas will be an Inter player next season, but he is certainly in pole position to become our principle defensive reinforcement. The competition will not be lacking should Suning decide to go all out to sign him - Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Barcelona have all been linked alongside Inter - but our new owners have already demonstrated in their first year at San Siro that they can beat off tough opponents if necessary. "Only God knows what my future holds" was the player's take on events during the international break; pretty soon that information will be more readily available to the general public.