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Joao Cancelo sustains injury on international duty

Aren’t international breaks great?

Portugal v Andorra - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

On top of being pointless, inopportune and mind-numbingly boring, international breaks can be a right pain in the backside.

While football fans can just about deal with the tedium that these fortnightly snoozefests subject upon us, it’s pretty darn annoying how so many players pick up injuries while they’re away on duty with their national teams.

It might be because of the strain that travelling puts on their bodies; it might be because international coaches and medics don’t know as much about their players and their bodies as their club coaches and medics; or it might just be sheer bad luck.

The why doesn’t really matter - what matters is that there always seems to be a disproportionate number of players who sustain injuries on international duty. And it sucks.

Particularly when it’s one of your own team’s players that picks up the injury.

Portugal v Andorra - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier
Inter will be without summer signing Joao Cancelo until approximately mid-October.
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

We may only be three days into the first international break of the season, but already Inter have been unfortunate enough to suffer that exact fate. Barely a week after joining Inter on a season-long loan from Valencia, Joao Cancelo looks set for a (reasonably) lengthy period on the sidelines.

Cancelo was one of 14 Interisti who were called up for international duty during this fortnight, but the 23 year-old has been forced to return to Italy after picking up a knee injury on Tuesday morning.

Last night, the Portuguese Football Federation confirmed what had already been reported on social media via a statement on their official website:

“Joao Cancelo suffered an injury during this morning’s training session in Soccer City. After undergoing medical tests with specialists from the FPF’s Health and Performance Unit, the player was declared unfit for the Seleção’s upcoming matches against Faroe Islands and Hungary, and so he has left Portugal’s training camp.”

Whoop Dee Doo.

Shortly after this announcement, rumours began circling, both in Italy and abroad that Cancelo’s injury was very serious., a publication based in Valencia, wrote on Tuesday night that the player could be out of action for around two months, while Premium Sport went as far as saying that Cancelo’s entire season could be in jeopardy.

Thankfully, things don’t seem to be quite as drastic as that.

After leaving the Portugal camp on Tuesday night, Cancelo made a swift return to Italy and underwent further examinations with Inter’s medical staff on Wednesday. The club then released the following brief statement on their website in the afternoon:

“Joao Cancelo underwent medical tests this afternoon at the Istituto Clinico Humanitas in Rozzano after picking up an injury yesterday while training with Portugal. The tests revealed that he has suffered a tear to the medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Cancelo’s condition will be evaluated week to week.”

Despite there being no mention of how long the player will be out for, we can work out from past experience that Cancelo is likely to be out for approximately 5-6 weeks.

The reason we know that is because this is the exact same knee injury that Cristian Ansaldi suffered last August, just before the start of the 2016-17 season. The Argentine sustained the injury on 12 August and was back in the first team squad on 21 September, when he was an unused substitute for Inter’s 2-0 win over Empoli.

If Cancelo were to have the same recovery period as Ansaldi did last year, it would mean he will miss Inter’s next five matches - SPAL, Crotone, Bologna, Genoa and Benevento - but could be back after the October international break, when we will play Milan in the Derby della Madonnina and then Napoli.

Inter’s Serie A kick-off times for matchdays 3-17 were confirmed by the Lega Serie A yesterday.

Of course there’s no guarantee it will be the same - no two bodies are the same, and I suppose no two injuries can be exactly the same either - but at least it gives us an indication.

Francesco Bosco, a former youth physiotherapist at Inter and Juventus and now head of Sport Medical Center, spoke to on Wednesday afternoon to give his own prognosis. “Inter’s medical team will evaluate Cancelo’s progress day by day and adjust his rehabilitative program accordingly; they’ll carry out lots of further tests as time passes. His recovery period is expected to last around 4 weeks, although that will obviously depend a lot on how Cancelo’s leg will react to the treatment he’s given.”

Given the quite abysmal manner in which Inter are concluding this summer’s transfer window, with the distinct possibility that nobody arrives between now and 23:00 on Thursday, this is a big blow for us, even if initially it looked like he could be out for even longer.

Cancelo came on as a late substitute in our 3-1 win over Roma last weekend, but showed enough in those few minutes to suggest he could be useful to us this season. Last week, our Tim Kraus broke down the various tactical options that the Portuguese full-back gives us (available here), explaining how he will enable Luciano Spalletti to switch to a three-man defence should he wish to.

Without him we will lose that element of flexibility.

On top of that, there’s also a more straightforward problem his injury presents: a numerical problem. Our squad is already perilously thin as it is, particularly on the right-hand side of the team, so we can afford precious few injuries between now and January if we’re to challenge for a top four spot. Danilo D’Ambrosio and Antonio Candreva had better not pick up any problems of their own in the time he’s out - otherwise you and I might be appearing on the substitutes’ bench before long.

For the time being, let’s just pray that nobody else gets injured over the next fortnight and that we can carry on from where we left off against Roma on Saturday evening.

Otherwise we could be in very, very deep trouble.

Buona guarigione, Joao.