The sun's out, the season's over and 'insider' accounts are buzzing around Twitter like infuriatingly persistent wasps that civilised society would be better off without: mercato-mania is well and truly upon us, folks. Along with these telltale signs, though, there is also the sudden proliferation of preposterous stories pedalled by news outlets who probably just want a bit of attention. You start getting a lot of those around this time as well. (Although one might argue that you get that kind of nonsense all year round...)
Which brings us nicely to the news that Sportitalia broke to viewers during their transfer show late on Thursday evening. According to them, Inter are 'one step away' - a fabulously ambiguous phrase that every Italian news outlet uses throughout the summer (how long is that 'one step' exactly?) - from securing the services of two Real Madrid players in one fell swoop; Pepe and James Rodriguez. The former is out of contract with the Spanish giants in the summer and has reportedly agreed personal terms over a two-year deal with the Nerazzurri, while the two clubs are said to have "virtually reached" an agreement to sign the latter. Michele Criscitello says that we will have to wait until after the Champions League Final on 3 June for everything to be sorted out officially, but for him the bulk of the deal is already in place.
And that's it. That's all the information they've given. No transfer fees, no wage details, no explanation as to who's orchestrating the deal - nothing. They just shouted it out at the beginning of their transmission and left us to deal with the aftermath. That, Sportitalia's patchy record when it comes to Inter transfer dealings* and the fact that literally nobody else is reporting anything similar (at least not as of Thursday evening) - leads me to believe that the story may not quite be accurate. Forgive the scepticism.
Having said that, what we can say with a reasonable degree of certainty is that Pepe and James are two players Inter are interested in. The Portuguese defender has been getting linked to us for the past fortnight already - as we reported back on 13 May - and many sources have made similar noises about him having been offered a two-year deal. Gazzetta dello Sport, for instance, reported back then that Inter had offered him a salary of €4m plus bonuses, while other sites spoke of €5m. Before Inter's match against Sassuolo Piero Ausilio said Pepe was 'an idea' but that nothing had been agreed yet, while the player himself dodged questions regarding his future a week later. "It would be disrespectful to talk about my future now with the Champions League Final around the corner", he told Spanish radio Deportes Cope; "I'll wait until the very last day to see what happens, but a part of my heart will always be Madridista. I owe this club a lot for what they have given me." It's something to keep an eye on, nonetheless - the fact Jorge Mendes is his agent might be a decisive factor any negotiations (Suning are said to be close to him.)
As for James, it seems very unlikely indeed that any deal has been struck yet between Inter and Real Madrid to enable him to come to Italy. However it is no secret that Suning are enticed by the prospect of signing the Colombian - had it not been for the player himself saying no, he could well have joined as early as last summer. In October Gazzetta reported that Inter had had a bid of €85m (!) accepted by Real during the off-season, but that the move didn't happen because James wanted to stay in Madrid and fight for his place in the team. A year on and things may have changed - James has been playing second fiddle to people like Gareth Bale, Isco and Lucas Vazquez all season (not to mention CR7) and once again failed to play as much as he'd have wished. He should, therefore, be more open to a move this time around - the question then becomes about whether he would want to come to a club that's just finished 7th in Serie A and has no European football to offer. Maybe not. But that won't stop Suning from trying - if
Conclusion: we probably aren't about to sign either of them, but that doesn't mean we won't sometime during the next three months. Watch this space. Ah, isn't the mercato fun...