With Inter's youth teams doing our club proud, I thought it was time to look back at some of the more famous products of our academy system and where they are plying their trade now. A cut-off date of 2010 was used as a selection criteria - players having an Inter Primavera connection from 2010 to 2016 were considered while those with preceding or succeeding this period were not.
While this date might seem somewhat arbitrary, we all know the fortunes of our first team post-2010 and in that same time, the academy has arguably been as successful as ever. A follow-up article will do a deeper dive on correlation between a club's academy and first team success. In the meantime, this article should help you recollect your favorite Inter Primavera players from the recent past and find out if they have fulfilled their early potential!
Inter has a well-established academy that churns out tens of players from different age groups each year. The number of "famous" academy graduates from 2010-2016 are far too many to do justice in a single article so instead I have created my favorite starting XI of ex-Primavera players and lined them up in a 4-4-2 formation.
For each player in the lineup, I will include the following information:
Current age, Current club, Most famous moment with Inter at the youth level, and a 'Regret Factor' from 1-10 of the player not being with Inter anymore (where a 10 = Leonardo Bonucci level of regret)
Such selections are always highly subjective and I am eager to see what your favorite Primavera players were from the recent past. I really encourage all readers to create their own Inter Primavera formations. The website I used allowed me to pick an Inter-like strip for the players shirts, which I thought was neat but you can use any service you like. Here is my Inter Primavera XI using the criteria described above.
In part one, I will cover the goalkeeper and defenders. Part two will cover midfielders and forwards.
Goalkeeper: Francesco Bardi, 25
Originally a product of the Livorno youth system, Bardi played in the Inter Primavera at the U-19 level, famously winning the 2011 Torneo di Viareggio.
His early performances generated a lot of hype and marked him as a future first team stopper. While he has spent most of his time out on-loan, it would be pleasing to see him return either as a backup or understudy rather than see us sign another veteran keeper on the verge of retirement.
Current club: Frosinone (loan)
Most famous moment with Inter: Winning the 2011 Viareggio Tournament
Regret factor: 6
Reasoning: His current loan deal with Frosinone includes an option to buy but also a counter-option (http://www.inter.it/en/news/53377/francesco-bardi-to-frosinone) which means there is still a possibility we might see him back at Inter some day. If there was no chance of him returning I would probably be a 7 on this one.
Center-Back: Luca Caldirola, 26
Luca Caldirola just about makes this selection as he was still part of the youth setup in 2010. He captained Inter at the U20 level and went on to play a handful of games for the senior team as well, including in the Champions League. Ironically, by playing for Inter in the Champions League, he has tasted something that Samir Handanovic has yet to with Inter.
Current Club: Werder Bremen
Most famous moment with Inter: Winning the 2008 Viareggio Tournament
Regret factor: 5
Reasoning: Inter made €2.5 million on his sale to Werder Bremen but they also paid close to the same amount to bring him back from Cesena so the club probably made net zero on his transfer deals. Having tasted first team football with Inter, it is a pity he could not stick around longer and contribute some more. He has played nearly a full season of games in the Bundesliga in 2013/14 and 2015/16, and has clearly shown he can play at the top level. Perhaps not a starter at Inter but then again, grit and desire can sometimes make up for pure talent.
Center-Back: Matteo Bianchetti, 24
Matteo Bianchetti played for every age group in Inter's academy system. He also played a couple of years as an "overage" player for the U19 team in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Current Club: Hellas Verona
Most famous moment with Inter: Winning the 2011/12 Italian Youth Championship (Campionato Nazionale Primavera)
Regret Factor: 3
Reasoning: Given his track record at Verona and other lower tier clubs, he would probably have struggled to make a mark at Inter but then again our defense has been woeful and who is to say he could not have been a utility squad member.
Left-Back: Cristiano Biraghi, 24
Starting in 2005, Cristiano Biraghi was an Inter academy product from the very start of his footballing career. Originally playing in the midfield, he later made left-back his position. Having represented Inter successfully at the youth level, he made a handful of appearances for the senior team as well. He was a squad member of the 2010/11 Inter team that won the Coppa Italia, Italian Super Cup, as well as the FIFA Club World Cup. Unfortunately he was not able to hold down his position and was shipped out on loan to a number of Serie A and lower division sides.
Current Club: Pescara
Most famous moment with Inter: 2011 Viareggio Tournament
Regret Factor: 5
Reasoning: It is no secret that Inter has really struggled to find a stable solution at full-back. Biraghi has shown that he can play in the top divisions, albeit at lesser sides. However, given the right support structure at Inter, I am left to wonder if he could have provided a better solution than what we have had to endure. Plus he would have been a 'home-grown' player.
Right-Back: Ibrahim Mbaye, 22
Another one of the stars that were part of that famous Inter NextGen winning team from 2011/12. Breaking into the Primavera team under then coach Andrea Stramaccioni (remember him?), he blossomed into an excellent Right-Back. He then got an opportunity to play for the first team under the same manager. Do other Interesti recollect those days when we thought our club management actually had a plan? Mbaye also holds the record for being the youngest player to be capped by the Senegal national team.
Current Club: Bologna
Most famous moment with Inter: 2011/12 Italian Youth Champion (Campianato Nazionale Primavera)
Regret Factor: 7
Reasoning: Mbaye was one of those Primavera players I really wanted to see succeed and I do think if he was in a more stable setup, he would have succeeded in being a first team regular. Inter pocketed around €3 million from his transfer to Bologna.
So that is it for part one, stay tuned for part two where I will cover my selection of midfielders and forwards. As always – Forza Inter!