Inter’s summer transfer window has not produced the fireworks many supporters wanted or expected.
For three months Interisti read about the biblical amount of cash that owners Suning were preparing to unleash on Europe’s calciomercato, and began to rub their hands together with glee. Superstar after superstar was linked with a move to San Siro, with the Italian media apparently certain that we would be signing at least one ‘top player’, with the specific aim of reviving the enthusiasm of a thoroughly fed-up fan base.
If it wasn’t Marquinhos we were hearing about in defence, it was Kostas Manolas. If it wasn’t Radja Nainggolan that was coming to reinforce our midfield, it was Arturo Vidal. If it wasn’t Alexis Sanchez to complete our stellar attack, it was Angel Di Maria. The list goes on.
Ultimately, this has revealed itself to be unfounded media hype. Instead of throwing money about like we had it bleeding out of our ears, Piero Ausilio and Walter Sabatini have conducted a predominantly functional mercato in which new coach Luciano Spalletti has played an important role. Whatever he’s asked for, we’ve tried to buy, patching up holes wherever we see them in the squad already at our disposal.
And that’s been a bit underwhelming, given the expectations we carried into this summer. The ‘grande colpo’ we were all waiting for has still not arrived, and at this stage is high unlikely to arrive at all.
But if we aren’t going to bring any world class players to San Siro between now and 31 August, there is still one big signing left in us for this summer, if reports are to be believed. He isn’t a superstar yet, but anyone who’s seen him play will have little doubt that he could become one in very short order.
The player in question is Patrik Schick, Sampdoria’s 21 year-old Czech striker who has just finished his first season in Serie A. According to multiple sources, Inter are firmly in pole position to sign him before the transfer window closes for a fee that would make him our most expensive acquisition of the summer. And oh boy would he be worth it (in my own humble opinion).
Here’s a summary of what’s happened to Schick in the last six months. You could probably write a book about it if you wanted.
Inter were the first team to show an interest in the forward all the way back in February, holding a series of meetings with the player’s entourage and expressing their desire to sign him for the following season. At that time he had a release clause of €25m and Inter were considering paying it, and then loaning Schick back to Sampdoria for another season (to spare him a year on the bench).
However despite making their move before anyone else, they were either unwilling or unable to finalise the deal with Sampdoria and thus allowed other clubs into the race. And so while we played for time, got to grips with Walter Sabatini’s sudden arrival and concentrated on sales, Juventus slipped in and beat us to him.
The Bianconeri got their vice-chairman Pavel Nedved, a sort of sporting deity for his much younger compatriot, on the case and he quickly managed to convince Schick and his agent to move to Turin instead, with the clubs agreeing a fee of €30.5m. PSG tried to hijack the deal but by that stage the player had made his decision. Schick flew back from the UEFA European Under-21 Championships he was taking part in, completed a medical, posed for a few photos and then flew off again. Deal done.
Yet after that almost a month passed without any official announcement of the transfer from either club, and eventually it transpired that Juve would not be signing the player after all. Schick’s medical tests had apparently revealed a peculiar cardiac problem that would prevent him from being able to play or train for a certain period of time, and so he was asked to undergo further examinations to obtain more information.
Those ulterior tests certified that, while he would only have to cease sporting activity for a few weeks, the problem (reportedly uncovered in his ‘cardiac stability’ test) was not serious and would be fully resolved in the space of a month.
However despite this, Juve decided that they were no longer willing to pay the €30.5m they had previously offered, and the deal collapsed. Apparently they now wanted to change the terms of the agreement that had already been reached, whereas Samp were unwilling to renegotiate. Who knows what really happened; it’s all academic now.
Juventus and @sampdoria_en confirm that they have agreed not to finalise the transfer of Patrik Schick.— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) July 18, 2017
With that, Inter were granted an unexpected reprieve. And they were in no mood to waste their second chance. The moment Samp and Juve announced officially that Schick wouldn’t be joining the Old Lady, Ausilio and Sabatini met with executives from Samp to see if they could have him instead. Essentially they offered to take Juve’s place at the negotiating table, agreeing to pay exactly what the Bianconeri had initially agreed to pay: €30.5m in several instalments.
Three weeks after that meeting in Milan, Schick underwent further medical tests after completing his enforced rest period. As expected, his cardiac problem had disappeared and he was given the green light to return to training at Sampdoria.
Upon hearing that news, Inter sprung straight back into action and held another maxi summit in a Milanese restaurant last week. A whole host of people were present, amongst whom Schick’s agent Pavel Paska and Head Coach Luciano Spalletti, as the Nerazzurri tried to thrash out some finer details of the deal they had set up with Samp as well as to explain to Schick’s agent what kind of technical project they had in mind for his client.
Some sources reported we agreed personal terms with the player in that meeting (a five-year contract with €2m in wages), whilst others denied this. Nothing was finalised, but it seemed to go well.
And here is the proof. According to most Italian news outlets (Gianluca Di Marzio, Alfredo Pedulla, Gazzetta dello Sport and Mediaset Premium, to name but four), despite a whole host of top European clubs having expressed an interest in the player since the move to Juventus was officially called off - PSG, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Roma and most of all Monaco - Schick at the moment wants to go to Inter and Inter alone.
Last weekend, Alfredo Pedulla explained on his site exactly why this was. He says that Schick had greatly appreciated the way Inter swooped in the minute they had heard he was back on the market - twice - as it had made him feel wanted. In addition to that, he supposedly received assurance from the club that he was their no. 1 priority for the remainder of the summer and that he had a central role in Luciano Spalletti’s plans for the coming season.
Moving quickly and making him feel wanted in by far the most emotionally difficult period of his career so far - that’s how we’ve managed to jump the queue.
So if Inter and Sampdoria have an agreement and the player has chosen Inter over everyone else, what’s left now? By the sound of it, a couple of things.
First of all, Samp want to sign a replacement, as they don’t want to repeat the mistake they made earlier in the summer with Milan Skriniar (selling him and then encountering enormous difficulties in finding a replacement). Luciano Vietto is the man they want, and Sky Sport reported on Wednesday that the Blucerchiati have reached an agreement with Atletico Madrid for around €20m - although they haven’t agreed personal terms with the player yet, who wants slightly higher wages. If they can secure him they will free up Schick to come to Inter.
Secondly, we ourselves have other priorities: namely signing a defender. Any defender. Eliaquim Mangala is supposedly close to signing on a straight loan (Di Marzio), while Ausilio and Sabatini have been busy in the last few days with the swap deal that will soon see Geoffrey Kondogbia and Valencia’s Joao Cancelo trade clubs.
On top of that, Suning may need to get creative with the kind of payment structure they offer to Samp, in order to circumnavigate the Financial Fair Play regulations that they still have to abide by. (No, we didn’t break free of those at the end of June.) According to Fabrizio Biasin however (a close friend of Ausilio’s, among other things), there is ‘growing optimism’ that they will find the right solution soon - and getting rid of Kondogbia’s heavy wages will help us in that regard (he was on €2m more than Cancelo will be here).
Schick is also (part of) the reason that Inter have decided to abandon a deal to sign Borussia Dortmund winger Emre Mor, despite having already agreed a fee of around €13m - they want to make sure they have enough cash at their disposal to complete this move.
While we’re on the subject: there is a difference between Suning not having money and not being able to spend money, because of a stupid three-year ‘settlement agreement’ that your club President signed with UEFA. There is never a bad time to sit your Milanista friend down and spell this out to him/her.
In short, this absolute gem of a player should be ours sooner rather than later.
Onto Schick the player then. Is he worth all the hype I’ve just given him? In my opinion, yes - without any doubt. Last week, Fulvio Santucci (a very knowledgeable Interista) articulated my thoughts on us potentially signing Schick better than I ever could have: “I’m unable to tell you how useful he would be to us because he’s a player that drives me crazy. He’s magical, he puts me at peace with the game of football; I can’t pass judgement on him with a clear mind.”
To understand what he’s getting at, take a look at some of the videos that I’ve scattered throughout this piece. In particular I recommend checking out the goal in the video above, scored in Sampdoria’s match against Crotone in April. That’s not a goal that an ordinary footballer can score. Dennis Bergkamp vs Newcastle, anyone?
As Max Allegri said when it seemed like Juve had signed him, “he’s a player who does things that aren’t normal.” The general consensus that I’ve sensed amongst pundits, journalists and fans of late is that Schick is someone you just sign. Without any ifs or buts. Forget value-for-money analysis and where precisely he fits into your tactical plans - that’s stuff that you figure out after you’ve snapped him up. He’s never going to be not worth the hassle.
Speaking with a more rational head on, Schick is a versatile attacker that has played as a main striker, a second striker and a no. 10 in his twelve months at Sampdoria under Marco Giampaolo. And you could probably even play him wide in a front three if you wanted. He’s tall but agile, physically strong but pacey, with a wondrous ability to dribble and a technique and co-ordination to die for. Predominantly left-footed, he’s also useful in the air at 1.87m and able to play with his teammates; basically he has (almost) everything you’d want from a striker.
Schick was mostly used as an impact substitute in his first season as a Sampdoria player, who signed him for €4m from Sparta Prague last summer, but despite that he racked up 11 goals in 32 appearances, finally establishing himself in the first XI after Luis Muriel got injured at the end of March. But it wasn’t just doubts over whether he was ready that convinced Marco Giampaolo to keep him hidden on the bench for so long...
"I always put Schick on the bench because if he played from the start his price would go up and the club would sell him" - Marco Giampaolo— Will (@Will_Beckman) March 11, 2017
Among those 11 goals, you may remember (if not at all fondly) the goal he scored against us in Samp’s 2-1 win at San Siro last season. Hmph.
Where he’d fit in - IF we signed him (because it’s not a formality just yet) - is an intriguing question. Initially Schick was depicted by the media and Interisti alike as an ideal understudy for Mauro Icardi, but I think Inter have greater plans for him than that. Do you think that Schick would have said yes to Inter so quickly if Spalletti planned to put him on the bench for 75% of our matches this season, without any European commitments to contend with? I struggle to imagine so.
During one of Sky Sport’s nightly transfer programs last week, Massimiliano Nebuloni (one of their reporters who covers Inter on a daily basis) made an interesting comment about how Spalletti sees Schick as the ideal player to fill the trequartista role in his 4-2-3-1 formation. According to the journalist’s information, Luciano thinks he and Icardi could play well together, even if he doesn’t have the same characteristics as the players he’s traditionally used in that position (Radja Nainggolan and Simone Perrotta, for instance - or even Joao Mario during this pre-season).
We’ll see. Time will tell. Like I said, let’s make sure we sign him first and then we can discuss all that. I don’t want to jinx anything. Hey look out, another skill GIF incoming!
Within a week we should know whether this move really will happen or not, but there’s a good chance that it will. Inter want Schick, Schick wants Inter and Samp are willing to sell - provided they can sign another forward in the Czech’s place, be it Vietto or someone else.
If we did sign him, I’d personally be thrilled. Quite clearly we have other areas of the team that need sorting out too, so to spend in excess of €30m on one striker is risky in a certain sense, but I don’t think that’s enough of a con to outweigh the pros. He’s so good, and he’s only 21 years old.
Inter may not have delivered on their promise to sign a world class player this summer, but in Schick they have identified an excellent prospect that is almost certain to repay their faith in him. If we haven’t had the chance to lose our heads with excitement for anybody we’ve signed so far, by the end of the month we may finally have a long overdue excuse to... freak out.