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Is Nicolo Barella a solid target for Inter Milan?

Nerazzurri could be in the race to pick up Cagliari midfielder, according to reports.

Cagliari v Torino FC - Serie A
Nicolo Barella of Cagliari in action during the Serie A match between Cagliari and Torino FC at Sardegna Arena on November 26, 2018 in Cagliari, Italy.
Photo by Enrico Locci/Getty Images

The most prominent report so far today is that Inter Milan have joined several teams in pursuit for Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella.

Barilla has made 18 league appearances for Cagliari this season and has scored a goal. He has spent his entire career with Cagliari with the exception of a brief loan spell at Como in 2016.

In the hunt

If the reports are true, Inter will face stiff competition from fellow Serie A clubs AC Milan, Napoli and AS Roma along with Premier League outfits Chelsea and Liverpool.

Liverpool are looking at Barilla to bolster their squad as they continue to push for a Premier League and Champions League title.

Chelsea, on the other hand, need a replacement for Cesc Fabregas who is reportedly heading to Monaco.

An offer from Inter would likely include a player swap, probably Éder who is currently with Inter’s sister club Jiangsu Suning in China. If a deal were to be worked out, Éder would have to be transferred back to Inter in order for him to be exchanged to Cagliari. Complicated, yes, but certainly doable.

SS Lazio v Cagliari - Serie A
Nicolo’ Barella of Cagliari and Parco Parolo of SS Lazio in action during the Serie A match between SS Lazio and Cagliari at Stadio Olimpico on December 22, 2018 in Rome, Italy.
Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Barella, the player

His prospects with both Liverpool and Chelsea would also be limited despite the fact that both squads do need a midfielder this season. Former Italy international Lorenzo Minotti said his Barella has grown as a player faster than expected.

“This year he has reached the maturity that everyone wished for and was not obvious,” Minotti said. “He has potential, [and] has made a leap in quality in terms of maturity.

“He took responsibility and now manages to manage the game emotionally, makes himself warned less [by the referees].”

However, Minotti added that Cagliari may find themselves without a quality player if they allow him to leave. Funding his move during the January window would also be somewhat difficult for Italian clubs. Transfermarkt has Barella’s market value set at €30 million.

“Now the Italian teams are not ready to spend a similar amount, and those with chances [to] have [full squads],” Minotti said.

Now, Inter could certainly make a place for a player like Barella. Would it be a starting place? Not likely to start, however, inserting him with Marcelo Brozovic, Joao Mario and Matias Vecino could be fairly seamless.

He is a pretty versatile player with the ability to thrive in attack and defense. His best placement would be in the center of the midfield.

Cagliari manager Rolando Maran told Gazzetta dello Sport in an earlier interview that Barilla brings different threats to the pitch.

”In Italian football, a player’s technique must be predominant but you also need to have a good engine and Nicolo combines both of these things,” Maran said. “He is exceptional and has a dynamism out of the ordinary. He is a prototype of a modern football player, he has many qualities ... I think he can do really well anywhere. I must admit that I did not expect to be in charge of such a strong player, I have not seen a player as influential player as him this season in Serie A.”

Here is a defensive comparison between Barella and Inter Milan midfielders.


According to, Barella has averaged 1.2 shots per game and has an 82.3 pass success percentage. On the defensive side of the ball, Barella has 2.7 tackles per match and 1.5 interceptions per. Offensively, he has 1.1 key passes per match, but has been dispossessed nearly two times per match.

Compared to other Inter midfielders, Barella is about on par. He is not as strong offensively as Mario, Nainggolan or Brozovic, but is as strong, if not stronger than Vecino and Valero. Defensively, Barella is more aggressive than all Inter midfielders outside of Brozovic. To add context, he has played more minutes than any Inter midfielder — double that of Vecino, Nainggolan, Valero and Mario.

Last season was Barella’s best, scoring six league goals in 34 appearances for Cagliari.

Here is an offensive comparison between Barella and Inter Milan midfielders.


The likelihood of a transfer to Inter does not seem feasible at this time. While his playing time may be limited at Chelsea, that would likely be the best destination for him in terms of playing time.

If Cagliari does decide to let Barella go — and that is certainly not for sure — it would be difficult for Inter to pony up the asking price Cagliari would likely have for him. Additionally, it is hard to think that the price asked would be worth it for Inter at this time.

What do you think? Post your comments below!