The long hot summer has finally drawn to a close, and there is no doubt: Inter has fundamentally changed. And that is saying something, given our club, well known as ‘Pazza Inter’ (Crazy Inter), is very familiar with drastic changes to its playing squad over the summer months.
In fact, you could probably write the lyrics of a fairly horrible song, just with the names of failed or underwhelming transfers. I’m thinking something like this: ‘Ruben Botta, Ezequiel Schelotto, Yann M’Vila, Jeison Murillo, Juan Jesus, Tommaso Rocchi, Walter Gargano, Gaby Mudingayi, Hugh Campagnaro, Martin Montoya, Jonathan, Alvaro Pereira, Saphir Taider, Caner Erkin, Ishak Belfodil, Kerlon, Ricky Alvarez, Matias Silvestre, Juan Pablo Carrizo, Stevan Jovetic, Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Dodo, and Kondogbia’ - set to the tune of a circus clown.
If we were to go further back, how about trading Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf for Guly and Drazen Brncic? Selling Coutinho for pennies, and let’s not even discuss attributing Nicolo Zaniolo’s transfer value as £4 million last summer (he’s now worth £40 million plus on the open market).
Given our uncanny ability in the last few seasons to make an absolute hash of the transfer market, it seems that the summer mercato for the 2019/20 season is almost miraculous. Giuseppe Marrotta, Piero Ausilio and their team have shaken off the shackles of yesteryear and built a generally well-balanced squad around a cohesive strategy.
252 matches in the English Premier League, 113 goals and 35 assists. The ex-Manchester United attacker has been nothing short of prolific, despite a difficult past two years at Old Trafford.
During that time, he has consistently delivered for Belgium on the international stage, going on to be their leading scorer. Lukaku will be one of the deadliest strikers in the top European leagues this season. And having already scored two-in-two (including a winning penalty), he’s off to a fantastic start. The club record fee of £60 million is a heavy price, but Lukaku’s shoulders are broad enough to carry it.
Signed for £20 million from Hertha Berlin, Austrian right wing-back Valentino Lazaro is expected to become Antonio Conte’s first choice right wing-back. The 23-year-old has been plying his trade at Hertha Berlin for the past two years, impressing in the nation’s capital.
Lazaro made his debut at Red Bull Salzburg at only 16 years and 224 days old, becoming the youngest player to ever play in the Austrian Bundesliga. By the time he was 19, he had already made 100 appearances for the Austrian side. He has a playing style similar to experienced Brazilian star Willian. Although currently recovering from an injury, Conte has high hopes for Lazaro and made him his first summer signing.
We finally got our man. After months of speculation that Barella would go to Juventus, Inter or Milan, Marotta muscled out interest from the Italian duo, as well from the Premier League’s elite to get his man in the black and blue jersey, in a deal that could reach £45 million.
There is no doubt that Barella has the potential to not only become the pre-eminent Italian midfielder of his generation, but also a world-class superstar. Blessed with incredible stamina and composure, it’s easy to understand why two midfielders-turned-coaches in Gennaro Gattuso and Diego Simeone are both so enamoured with him.
He has speed, trickery, and a surprising amount of strength and explosiveness despite his small frame. A dribbling wizard, not to mention a bit of a set-piece specialist (he occasionally scored from free-kicks for Cagliari), both Del Piero and Pirlo have referred to him as the next big Azzurri star. Fabio Capello has called him the next Marco Tardelli.
The sky is the limit.
Small in stature, but not in skill. Stefano Sensi had a breakout season last year as an integral part of Sassuolo’s midfield. Although the team’s performance was underwhelming, Sensi certainly caught the attention of big clubs like Milan and Napoli and Inter. Striking a £18 million deal with Sassuolo, Marotta brought in the 23-year-old midfielder who has been likened to a dynamic mix between Daniele De Rossi’s deep-lying midfield play and the athleticism of Claudio Marchisio, with a sprinkling of Marco Verratti (both Verratti and Sensi won the Italian young player of the year award while in Serie B).
It is early days yet for Sensi, but having already broken into the national set-up, Italian football has high hopes for him.
Biraghi is one of the most energetic left-wing backs in the league, and was probably one of the best performers in Serie A last season. Making a deal to bring him in exchange for Dalbert (albeit on loan) was a natural and logical choice.
Home-grown at the Inter academy, Biraghi is an Inter fan. For him, this is a homecoming.
Fiorentina fans were upset to let him leave, which says a lot about the high regard in which they hold him. Speedy and strong, Biraghi has strong offensive skills while not compromising defensively - he had the most interceptions and ball recoveries in the Fiorentina defence last season. He’ll be a definite upgrade on Dalbert, who hopefully will resurrect his career in Florence.
El Nino Maravilloso - here is a player that older Inter fans will remember with fondness - an absolute marvel, a joy to watch (even though he absolutely terrorised us on a number of occasions).
Inter tried to sign him several times, but unfortunately, the thrills of playing for Barcelona won out. His pace, power, explosive acceleration and vertical play had the crowd constantly on the edge of their seats. He was a winger, a striker, a false 9, an attacking midfielder - equally at home in all the positions in the final third, and prolific in goals and assists at both Barcelona and Arsenal, although his production tailed off towards the end of his time at Arsenal.
The less said about his time at United the better. Sanchez never really settled, although he was a dedicated professional, and never made the impact he was certainly expecting to.
In the end, both Sanchez and Lukaku were the scapegoats for a poor United outfit that underwhelmed. The fact that they were willing to send him to us on loan while paying most of his wages shows how low his stock had fallen. That’s all behind Sanchez now – if he is even half the player he was at Udinese or Barcelona, this transfer will be an absolute bargain.
The long-serving, decorated hero of a brilliant Atletico side, and the scorer of the championship winning goal in the 2013-14 season for a long-awaited Atletico title victory.
Strong in defence, a resolute character and a brilliant organiser, tackler, and header of the ball, Godin will offer up a strong hand on the rudder of our three-man defence. Getting an experienced campaigner like Godin on a free transfer was a marvellous move by Ausilio. He offers a significant dressing room presence as well as an ability to still contribute at the highest level.
Former captain, leader, and leading goal scorer, became our (and his) worst enemy. Icardi was the greatest hope for a regeneration of Inter; the shame of what could have been. Best of luck at PSG, MI9, but his legacy is forever tarnished.
Another disruptive dressing-room presence. It was his feud with Icardi that caused the whole crisis midway through last season. Perisic had his good days, and on his best days, he was one of the best left wingers in the world - but his average and bad days were too many to count. He went missing far too many times when he was needed.
A talented midfielder, who lacked motivation (for some reason), and had an even worse attitude than Icardi or Perisic.
After failing to impress, he was shipped out to West Ham on loan, where he proceeded to attack Inter and Serie A in general - while also failing to impress in East London, so much so that West Ham wanted to send him home early (let alone pay the redemption fee).
We finally managed to move the guy on loan to Lokomotiv Moscow. He was a bad egg, and a mistake by Suning in their first summer in charge of the transfer market. Inter will never recover the £40 million paid for him.
An exemplary professional who always did his best for the team. Yet occasional high-profile lapses in concentration, plus losing a step of pace, made it clear that his best days were behind him. A lucrative contract offer at our sister club Jiangsu Suning is what he deserves before he eventually retires - he always turned up for training, had a clean disciplinary record and was an all-round positive presence in the team.
Nainggolan was one of the best players in the league post-2010. He was intended to solve Inter’s creative problems while also providing a physical presence on the field. His 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons were phenomenal - his power and pace and vision with the ball at his feet made him the fulcrum of Spalletti’s second Roma spell.
High-profile disputes with his team-mates, a hard-partying nightlife habit and fitness issues (chain-smoking cigarettes won’t help) interrupted his 2017/18 season, but a lucrative transfer to Inter held high hopes (or so we thought) last summer.
In hindsight, it was one of the worst transfers by Inter - we traded 100% of the sporting rights to Davide Santon (OK, no big deal) and Nicolo Zaniolo (a youth team midfielder who had never made a senior appearance) and £20 million, which seemed like a good deal at the time.
As we have now seen, Zaniolo exploded into one of the finest players in the league, while Nainggolan had more bad days than good. How did our coaching staff not realise that Zaniolo would absolutely outshine Nainggolan in his chosen position? They had trained him for years and signed him for the academy. Surely, they had faith in him? We will never know. Now on loan to his favourite club, Cagliari - a sale would do both teams good.
The transfer rumour that rumbled along all summer - swapping Icardi for Dybala was posed as an excellent option for both Inter and Juventus. Inter would receive a full Argentina international (and a player they tried to sign from Palermo before Marotta himself nicked him away to Juventus), a 25-year-old attacker about to reach his peak, who combined the best elements of a dynamic attacking midfielder with the speed and finess of a false 9 or second forward, who was versatile enough to play on both the left and right flanks as well as through the middle. Meanwhile, Juventus would have received the best striker in Serie A, who still had room to improve. Win-win, or so we thought. But the bitter taste of seeing Icardi line up for Juventus was too much for Suning, and likewise for Paratici and the Agnelli family for sending Dybala to Inter.
A move that made sense on paper - we needed a strong, tall, ball-playing striker to serve as a foil for Lukaku and to also serve as his reserve in case of injury or suspension. But the price requested was far too high - £20 million for a 33-year-old striker with maybe one or two years left at best at the top level (despite his ongoing stellar performances for Roma).
In the end, annoyed by the back-and-forth, Dzeko signed an extension with Roma. It was for the best. Inter didn’t want another situation like the summer of 2011, where we tied down stars like Milito, Samuel, Lucio, and Maicon to long term lucrative contracts when their abilities were at their peak and going to a downward trend.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic / Arturo Vidal / Ivan Rakitic
Inter’s decision-making core wanted to add a physical, ball-winning midfield general. But their three main targets proved to be out of reach.
SMS, Lazio’s best player and certainly their most valuable asset, was priced out at £70 million plus. Arturo Vidal was required by Barcelona to remain as cover as they engaged in a summer-long courtship of Neymar, but couldn’t afford to actually pay for him due to accounting. Long term, however, the presence of Vidal probably would have put a barrier in the development of other young midfielders, most notably Gagliardini, who still has a lot of promise. In the end, inothing came of the mooted transfers - perhaps next year.
Our CEO said it himself - Conte is like signing a world-class player, and paying his wages meant that Inter couldn’t sign another top star. But it’s worth it, right? It’s still early to say, but I can’t think of a coach that is better suited to coach this Inter team to the very top of its abilities. Conte is a winner and success is in his DNA.
The bickering, drama and intrigue of the Inter dressing room of recent years has been a serious problem. But if there’s one thing that Conte won’t tolerate, its dissension in the ranks.
Inter sorely needs a motivated man-manager and disciplinarian with a strong, focused tactical record and game-plan - Conte and Inter are a match made in heaven.
Could all of this have been done without Marotta pulling the strings? Maybe, maybe not. The money was there - but Marotta had a plan. And he did his best to strengthen the team without compromising the unity and harmony of the group.
It was a tough call to send away Perisic, Nainggolan, and Icardi. But tough decisions sometimes have to be made for the good of the collective, and Marotta understood this better than most. He was fired, rumour has it, after he opposed the transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo.
There is no doubt that Marotta has been the best transfer market operator in Serie A of the last decade - massive profits and trophies galore justify that tag, as do the transfers of Paul Pogba for free from Manchester United and then back to United for £100 million; nicking Andrea Pirlo when Milan thought his career was over and turning him into the focal point of a Scudetto winning team; swooping in for gems like Emre Can, Kingsley Coman and Dani Alves (just to name a few) for free show his prowess.