Welcome to the first instalment of the Serpents Loan Watch, a new feature that we’ll be running on the site every Wednesday for the remainder of the season (and perhaps into next season as well, who knows).
From now on, if you’re looking to keep track of all the players that Inter have sent out on loan this season you’ll (hopefully) need look no further than this article, as it will provide a succinct round-up of what each of them has got up to over the past seven days.
Given that this is the first edition, though, in addition to a weekend review we’ve also summarised how our loanees have fared throughout the entire campaign up until this point, so we’ve split it into two separate articles to stop it getting too long.
This piece will focus on the players that Inter have sent abroad, from Geoffrey Kondogbia to Gaston Camara, while the other one (up soon) will deal with our domestic loanees. From next week onwards everyone will be discussed in one article.
Note that we’re not including players who have been sent out on loan with an obligation to buy (such as Jeison Murillo and Cristian Ansaldi); officially they are on loan, but to all intents and purpose they have already left Inter on a permanent basis.
So, without further ado...
Geoffrey Kondogbia (Valencia)
This Season: After two largely disastrous seasons at Inter in which he failed to justify the exorbitant €35m price tag he arrived with, life has become distinctly more rose-tinted again for Geoffrey Kondogbia following his return to La Liga. Having already enjoyed a successful campaign in Spain’s top flight with Sevilla the former U20 World Champion has fitted into Champions League-chasing Valencia’s midfield like a glove, scoring 4 goals (including one against Real Madrid, at the Bernabeu, on his debut) and providing 1 assist since signing on loan in the deal that sent Joao Cancelo in the other direction.
Kondogbia has so far made 26 appearances in all competitions under Marcelino this season (all from the start in a 4-4-2 system), but more to the point he has started every single match that he has been available for since joining the club - the only 7 matches he hasn’t played this season in have been matches for which he was unavailable, either through injury or suspension (he was sent off for two bookings against Real Sociedad in September).
In other words he’s been undroppable for them since minute one, which makes the chances of Valencia signing him permanently at the end of the season (they have an option to buy for €25m) reasonably high. Let’s hope nothing changes between now and the end of May.
This Week: Kondogbia was forced to sit out Valencia’s 2-1 win over Real Sociedad at the weekend with a foot injury, but he came back into the starting XI for Los Che’s 1-1 draw away to Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday evening - and he came back with a bang, scoring a fine opening goal that you can see for yourselves in the video below.
The draw meant Valencia missed the chance to overtake Real Madrid in the La Liga table, who had lost the night before, but they remain 4th and with an eight-point gap back to Vincenzo Montella’s Sevilla in 5th. Qualification for next season’s UEFA Champions League would appear to be fairly secure.
Off the pitch, meanwhile, Kondogbia also hit the news this week for some uncharitable comments he made about Inter in an interview with Spanish radio station Cadena Ser, in which he described the club as ‘chaos’ and said he’d happily pay Valencia’s €25m option to buy himself. You can read them in their distinctly ugly entirety here.
Joao Mario (West Ham)
This Season: Another player Inter fans have been delighted to see the back of this season is Joao Mario, who left the Nerazzurri in January by signing for West Ham until the end of the campaign.
The Hammers are enduring an underwhelming season in which avoiding relegation from the Premier League now represents their only realistic target, but the upside from our point of view is that the Portuguese midfielder is almost guaranteed to start every week between now and May (because they aren’t very good and so he’s one of their most talented players).
Since arriving in East London he has started each of West Ham’s 4 Premier League matches - as well as making one 45-minute appearance in the FA Cup (his debut) - and during that time he has provided 1 assist: a nice flick round the corner for Javier Hernandez in their defeat to Brighton (here). The curious thing though is that in those 5 appearances he has played in 5 different positions: left wing-back, right winger, trequartista, central midfielder, and second striker. Jack of all trades, master of none?
Obviously he has not scored yet. We all know how remote a possibility that is.
This Week: On Saturday Joao played 83 minutes in West Ham’s 4-1 defeat to Liverpool on Saturday, where he was used as a trequartista in a 3-4-1-2 system, and according to all reports he was terrible. Frank Lampard suggested afterwards that Moyes made a mistake in playing him and Manuel Lanzini together from the start, while others were less diplomatic in their criticism.
One fan described his display as a ‘disaster’, another called it ‘absolutely useless’ and a third said ‘he’s showing today why Inter let him go’. (There were a lot more too - you can see what else people had to say about him in this piece).
Let’s not smirk anyone.
Yuto Nagatomo (Galatasaray)
This Season: Since signing for Turkish giants Galatasaray on the last day of the January transfer window, Yuto Nagatomo has found the game-time that he had been looking for when he asked Inter for a short-term move ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Russia. The Japanese international has started 5 of the 6 games he’s been available for since touching down in Istanbul and his place in Vahid Halilhodzic’s squad appears very secure.
This Week: Nagatomo played the full 90 minutes in Galatasaray’s 5-0 win over Bursaspor at the weekend (a win which keeps Fatih Terim’s side top of the Super Lig table), before being rested in the first leg of their Turkish Cup semi-final away to Akhisarspor (which they won 2-1). Had it not been for a dodgy offside call, though, Yuto would have enjoyed more than just the full 90 minutes on Friday - he’d have scored his first goal of any kind since January 2014!
Gabriel Barbosa (Santos)
This Season: After a terrible six-month spell in Portugal with Benfica (which you can read a bit more about here) the artist formerly known as ‘Gabigol’ has now returned from whence he came, and it’s as if he’s never been away.
Gabriel has played 4 games for Santos since completing his triumphant homecoming and he has scored 4 goals (one in each game) - a rich vein of form that has undoubtedly contributed to the spike in shirt sales that the club have experienced since his return (according to GloboEsporte, he has been solely responsible for 30% of all sales at the official Santos store over the past month).
Before people start wailing about how Inter should have kept him in order to provide Luciano Spalletti with another option in the wide areas, though, it’s worth pointing out that Gabriel is not scoring these goals in the Brasileirão but in the local state championships that take place at the start of every year - and the standard in these regional leagues is awful. For a point of comparison, it would be like Inter swapping Milan, Juventus and Napoli for three months every year to play the likes of Monza, Mantova and Pro Patria on a league basis - totally pointless and in no way indicative of a player or team’s quality and form.
This Week: Gabriel played 82 minutes of Santos’ 2-0 win over Santo Andre at the weekend and it was him who scored their second goal, which went in off his ribs.
Despite that, my favourite part of the video above is when (at 0:50) he pushes an opposition player into an advertising hoarding. How sweet.
Jonathan Biabiany (Sparta Prague)
This Season: A campaign of two very, very distinct halves for Biabiany.
For the first three months of the season he was a key figure in former Inter head coach Andrea Stramaccioni’s team, starting each of the first 12 games he was available for (providing 1 assist), but things then became rather nasty when Sparta decided to exclude him and two other players from all first-team activities and make them train on their own. Biabiany has thus not been included in the squad for the second half of the season and is no longer listed on the club’s official website.
It appears Sparta are attempting to bully him (and the other two) into rescinding their contracts after deciding that they cannot afford the players’ wages anymore, but in doing so they have incurred the wrath of Biabiany’s legal adviser, who has described their treatment of him as ‘a severe violation of the player’s fundamental rights’ and claims they are breaking newly-agreed FIFA rules on player abuse (you can read more about this here).
One thing’s for sure: we haven’t heard the last of this story...
Zinho Vanheusden (Standard Liege)
This Season: Another loanee out of action at the moment is Zinho Vanheusden, although he is being kept on the sidelines for slightly different reasons to Biabiany.
Having renewed his contract with Inter until 2022 the Belgian has moved back to boyhood club Standard Liege to continue his rehabilitation after tearing his ACL ligament in September, and if all goes well he’ll be ready to start playing again at the start of the 2018-19 campaign.
Speaking to RTBF this week, Zinho seemed pleased about the way his recuperation is going: “I’m in my fifth month of rehabilitation. I’ve started to run long distances again while I’m also doing changes of direction with caution. If everything goes well I’ll be able to start training with the rest of the squad in a month.
I’m not aiming to be ready for the end of season play-offs, my target is to be ready for the start of next season; anything that comes before that is a bonus. My father had the same injury and he’s told me I’ll come back stronger than before, just as Luciano Spalletti said to me.
I was clear with my agent in January: for me the only option possible was a return to Standard Liege, because it was there that I formed myself as a footballer and they’re the team I’ve supported since I was 5 years old.”
Get well soon, Zinho.
Samuel Longo (Tenerife)
This Season: The man Marca described as ‘Mr Loan’ during the summer has once again been sent out on a temporary basis by Inter this year, on what is his seventh different loan spell since leaving the Nerazzurri’s Primavera in 2012.
Despite scoring 14 goals for Girona in the Segunda Division last season - 14 goals which helped the Catalan club secure an historic first ever promotion to La Liga - Longo was not signed permanently at the end of the campaign, but his impressive performances in Spain’s second tier nonetheless caught the eye of Tenerife and so they have taken him on for this year. And, as things stand, he’s on course to better last season’s tally.
Longo has scored 11 goals in 20 appearances for the islanders so far, including one on his debut against Barcelona’s B team and two braces (against Rayo Vallecano and Reus Deportiu), and had he not missed 8 matches through injury he’d probably have scored even more by now. The fact that Tenerife, who are currently 12th in the table and have just changed their coach, have only 1 of those 8 matches probably says something about just how important he has become for them.
This Week: Longo was once again on the score-sheet this weekend as Tenerife defeated Lugo 3-1, converting a first-half penalty to cancel out the away side’s opening goal, but in truth he could have been walking away with the match ball - the second goal was taken off his boot by a teammate as he went to take a shot, while the third was an own goal from an opponent sliding in to deny him a tap-in. Never mind.
Rey Manaj (Granada)
This Season: Like Longo he was sent to Spain’s second division to play his football this season, but unlike Longo he hasn’t been able to nail down a starting place. Granada are going much better than Tenerife and are currently third in the table, but the Albanian has only played 339 minutes of football so far (15 appearances, 14 of which as a second-half substitute), scoring 1 goal (this one, against Numancia) in that time.
This Week: Granada continued their climb up the table this weekend with a 2-0 win over Alcorcon, but for the fifth time in the last six matches Manaj was an unused substitute. And in the other match he came on with 1 minute left.
More newsworthy than that, though, was the interview he conducted with FcInterNews during the week, because in it he gave a strongly-worded response to Kondogbia’s anti-Inter comments a few days previously. “People who talk badly about Inter whilst still being under contract with them are biting the hand that feeds them,” he told the site, “people who say things like that say them because they weren’t up to the task of playing for a club as important as Inter.”
Axel Bakayoko (Sochaux)
This Season: After winning the Scudetto with the Primavera last season Bakayoko has been sent to France for his first season in senior football, and so far he’s found life amongst the big boys fairly difficult.
Ligue 2 side Sochaux have taken the winger on loan for the 2017-18 campaign as they attempt to return to the French top flight, after four years of exile, but in 14 appearances between league and cup up to now Bakayoko has neither scored nor provided an assist - although he has been used at left-back on a few occasions, which might partially explain that.
Undoubtedly the highlight of the 20 year-old’s season was starting Sochaux’s Coupe de France tie against Paris Saint-Germain in February - even if it did end in a 4-1 loss.
This Week: Currently 10th in Ligue 2, Sochaux’s mid-season revival was halted at the weekend when they lost 3-2 away to promotion-chasing AC Ajaccio, despite the home side playing from the 18th minute onwards with 10 men.
Bakayoko replaced former Genoa defender Zakarya Bergdich just before half-time and played the remaining 49 minutes at left-back, and unfortunately he was punished for some rather blatant ball-watching on Ajaccio’s second goal (you can see the highlights here).
Gaston Camara (Gil Vicente)
This Season: After two seasons on loan in Serie B, divided between three spells at Bari, Modena and Brescia, Gaston Camara has headed to Portugal this year and joined second-division side Gil Vicente.
The man who made 2 senior appearances for Inter during the 2014-15 season has played 19 times for the Roosters so far - 9 from the start and 10 off the bench - and has notched up 3 assists in that time, playing mostly on the right of a front three.
This Week: Camara played the full 90 minutes this weekend as Gil Vicente lost 2-1 to league leaders Santa Clara, with his most significant contribution being a drilled cross that none of his teammates were on hand to attack. Gil Vicente are currently in the LigaPro relegation zone and in the middle of a 15-game winless run(!), although they did at least register their first goal in 10 games on Friday.