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The case for Rafinha Alcantara

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The least sexy option might actually be the best one.

AC Chievo Verona v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images

My, my, my.

This doesn't look like an Inter uniform at all.

Last friday, FC Barcelona announced an agreement with Bayern Munich for Arturo Vidal, for an undisclosed fee. The chilean international (100 caps) agreed on a salary of 165 00£ per week for a deal ending in 2021. On a football point of view, Vidal replaces Paulinho, the one-season cameo guy who's back in China after his stint with Barca last year. While this deal provides the Barcelona side with “experience and competitiveness“ (as said in the tweet above), a tough midfield presence, and an anti-madridista. All at once, it comes as a real blow to Inter Milan. The Nerazzuri were this close to striking a deal with the former Bayern player. Reports like this one were flooding our timelines last week, but apparently, once Inter knew that Luka Modric could be had for the right price, Piero Ausilio slowed down on the Vidal deal, which allowed Barca to snatch him at the very last moment (a Barca thing, lately). Now, Modric still hasn't signed, Vidal is chilling with Messi, and Inter is still lacking it's midfielder. Square one it is.

You probably feel grumpy now, if you're an Inter fan. Feeling cheated, and all. It might come to you as a surprise then, when I tell you that I'm kinda glad Vidal went to Barca. No, this is not a classic fandom case of we didn't want him anyway, nor is it an angry attempt to bash a player just because he didn't sign at the Giuseppe Meazza. I genuinely didn't like the signing in the first place. Vidal is a great player, with successful stints in Juventus (winning 4 Scudetti), Bayern (3 Bundesliga) and the Chile national team (2 Copa Americas). He's a strong headed player, with enormous stamina, excellent passing, dribbling and shooting, able to defend accurately and attacking precisely in a box-to-box role. The Chilean midfielder has been consistently hailed as one of the best in his position. But I was worried about mainly was his age and upcoming decline: Vidal is already 31, in the back end of his prime. While he's already playing at a world class level, and age doesn't always mean decline (remembering Andrea Pirlo), he has a lengthy injury history including a knee problem that had him sidelined for over 3 months last year.

I also think that Bayern wouldn't let go of him that easily if he was valued like the player we think him to be: just look at how hard these Germans are balling to keep Robert Lewandowski away from Real Madrid, and how they refused to transfer Franck Ribéry to Chelsea, back in the day. Hell, just look at how Modric is being guarded by Real Madrid. Why did Bayern let go of Vidal that easily? Corentin Tolisso? Leon Goretzka? Something else? Also the life of Vidal outside the pitch worries me. The former Bianconeri allegedly has a drinking problem. All of these factors made the transfer look less than ideal in my mind. Had we gotten him, and he started to decline during the season, it would've looked like a bad deal all the way through: getting even 30% of the Arturo Vidal we know is a good buy, but Inter is looking for contributors now, and doesn't have any economical and football room for error, failed transfers and player regression. In Barcelona, even if Vidal isn't his best self, there's always Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Sergi Roberto, Philippe Coutinho, Andre Gomes, recent signee Arthur and other options to recover. In Milan? Not so many.

With that being said, Inter still needs another playmaker. Modric is the main target now. The Golden Ball of the latest World Cup is apparently seeking a new challenge, having won everything with Real Madrid, and is thrilled by the prospect of joining the Nerazzuri (feels odd to say that). There could be an argument made that Modric is the best midfielder in the world. Supernatural vision, excellent passing, dribbling, stamina, technique, versatility and correct defending make up the most complete midfielder Inter would see since the glory days of Wesley Sneijder. While he's old (32 heading into 33) just like Vidal, he doesn’t have the same same sort of injury history as the-now Barcelona player, or the outside-the-field drama, despite some recent problems.

The knock? Modric might be too good to get. Real are certainly not letting him go that easily after letting Cristiano Ronaldo walk to Juventus. His buyout clause (750 million euros) doesn't look like a payable fee right now and the Madrid side doesn't want to bargain, even considering legal action to stop the Inter offers:

The method mentioned in the tweet of going through Chinese companies to finance the transfer might or might not be entirely legal, according to Financial Fair Play rules, and is already looking a wee bit excessive. I'm all in on the Modric bandwagon, and if he ends up on the squad without lawsuits, death threats of financial bankruptcy of the club, then I'm all ok with that. But right now, it doesnt look like a realistic option to pursue, less than two weeks away from the opening game of the Serie A.

Which brings me to my preferred option.

Rafinha Alcantara.

Yes I know. We were sitting here talking about the Vidal and Modric of the world, and we end up with a guy that has less than two seasons worth of La Liga games in 7 years of activity combined. The younger brother of Thiago Alcantara clearly doesnt belong in the same ballpark as the current Inter transfer targets, but don't let this fool you: he's quite good.

Rafinha was a member of last season’s squad, thanks to a six-month loan spell signed in January. During that time, he played 12 games, bagged 2 goals, and provided 3 assists. He brought tremendous value to the table, and despite his limited playing time, he had the most dribbles (2.4 per game) of the whole squad, the 4th most key passes (29), got fouled the most (1.6 per game), and distributed the ball accurately (an average of 89.5% passing accuracy), according to WhoScored.com. While he wasn't perfect, leading the team in bad touches per game(1.8) and dispossessions(1.3), he was willing to work, often moving, creating space, linking, building up the play from the midfield, creating 24 chances in the meanwhile, per Squawka. He's no Isco, but his movement was similar to that of the Spanish Magician, always searching for an opening. His talent at this point is not a question mark, and maybe he needs a chance to prove himself. Why not at Inter? He wants to come back, and in Milan he would have greater opportunities to play whereas in Barcelona he's stuck in a rotation with Roberto, Rakitic, Busquets, Gomes, Arthur and now Vidal ahead of him. That kind of player would be useful to break opposing lines of defense when the adversary is parking the bus à la José Mourinho (which happens often in the Serie A). And this shows promise, my friends:

Now the hard part might be actually getting him. The Barcelona guys are not backing down from their asking price of 35 million euros, intent on making the most money out of a potential deal. Inter don't look that interested anymore in getting the Brazilian midfielder back, now that bigger fish looks available. But I would still bet on the 25 year old; he's still young, capable, and loves the team. At some point, Barca will need to sell to cover the expenses they've been making since last summer. If Inter is ready to pounce on Rafinha, he could be had for the right price. If we need to get rid of Joao Mario at some English club’s overspending spree’s expense, then so be it. And maybe he's not the star we've been hoping for, a difference maker like Modric and Vidal, but he's definitely a player we should have at the Giuseppe Meazza.