This is part one of a two-segment series on players that have left the gates of the San Siro since the 2019/20 season. In this episode, we look at Inter’s notable loanees and how they’ve fared since scattering across the footballing world.
It seems to be a requirement for major European clubs to have a mass of players loaned out across the continent, and Inter is no exception. The Nerazzurri have 29 players in the hands of various clubs, though the majority are youth players destined to never actually don the Inter kit. Still, there are some interesting prospects and players that could fetch a decent transfer fee. We take a look at them and what the future holds for the Nerazzurri abroad.
The Frenchman has been one of the most successful loanees so far (though that, unfortunately, doesn’t mean much) at the newly promoted Spezia in Serie A. After making three appearances for Inter last season, the Aquilotti decided to take him on loan in their first season in the top-flight. He has 11 appearances to his name (9 starts) for a total of 704 minutes. But after starting five consecutive games in January, Agoume has fallen out of favor and made only a four-minute cameo in the eight games since. When he has played, it’s been as a defensive midfielder in Spezia’s customary 4-3-3. Agoume has notched 1.76 interceptions, 2.12 blocks, and 17.18 pressures per ninety minutes, while also boasting a passing accuracy of 89.3%.
At a mere 19 years of age, he could spend another season on loan next year, but there is certainly a place for him in Inter’s midfield rotation in the next couple of years. A club like Bayern Munich doesn’t show transfer interest in just anyone after all and the Frenchman’s talent is evident. Agoume has a bright future ahead of him and it could suit both player and club if he sticks around at Inter. It wouldn’t be surprising, however, if the continued financial issues force him to be sold this summer.
If only all of Inter’s loanees had as much potential as Agoume. Instead, several are mere deadwood, and with no team willing to take them on permanently, embark on a merry-go-round of loan moves. Dalbert is one such case, currently on his second loan spell in as many years. The Brazilian was bought for a hefty €19/$23 million back in the summer of 2017 from OGC Nice. The left-back lasted two seasons (but made only 24 league appearances during that time) at Inter before Antonio Conte realized upon his arrival that Dalbert had no part in his plans. He was involved in a loan-swap with Cristiano Biraghi and Fiorentina last season but La Viola decided to send him back this summer despite 31 appearances and 8 assists to Dalbert’s name. Ligue 1 side Stade Rennais was the next to sample the Dalbert experience but it hasn’t been a pleasant return to France for the 27-year-old. He’s made 8 showings in 265 minutes at Rennais and Los Rennais is unlikely to execute his option to buy. Which, as you may have expected, puts us right back where we started.
Left wingback has been an area of weakness for Conte’s entire tenure (until Ivan Perisic’s rebirth), and Federico Dimarco’s consistently excellent appearances at Hellas Verona added insult to injury. The 23-year-old has spent three seasons on loan since arriving at Inter, but this one has been his best by far. Dimarco has made 27 appearances for Verona this season, tallying 4 goals and 5 assists. He has played as both a left wingback and center back in Ivan Juric’s 3-4-2-1 and seems like a fit for Conte as well. Dimarco could be a perfect complement to Hakimi. On a per-game basis, he averages 6.29 long balls, 2.31 key passes, 4.09 crosses, and 3.48 shot-creating actions. In fact, according to fbref, he is a similar player to Robin Gosens and Filip Kostic, two other often talked about options for left wingback. Dimarco also has a wicked left foot, making him a danger from set-pieces and volleys. One of the goals of the season came from him in Verona’s 1-1 draw with Torino.
His goal starts at 0:56:
Verona, however, has an option to buy the 23-year-old. But if they don’t execute it, Dimarco would jump up the depth ranking of left wingack and would be the second choice at worst, if not the starter depending on how much Inter has to spend on other signings.
Though he won’t be ready for first-team action anytime soon, Esposito is one of Inter’s best youth prospects. He’s currently on loan to Serie B side Venezia but hasn’t been able to find a rhythm in the second division. Esposito spent the first half of the campaign at SPAL, but scored just once in 13 games (7 starts). He eventually fell out of favor at the Biancazzurri and moved to Venezia in January. He’s played a part of 12 of Venezia’s 13 games since then, starting six. Esposito has 1 goal (against Lorenzo Pirola’s Monza) and 2 assists while Venezia (and their glorious kits) have climbed up to 5th and closer to promotion. If he can continue his progress at Venezia, the 18-year-old could be sent to another Serie A club this season or next.
Gravillon is a bit further down the road of loan spells than Esposito. He’s currently with relegation battlers FC Lorient in Ligue 1 (who have an option to buy) after an uneventful spell with Sassuolo last season. The Frenchman has made 22 appearances (all starts) on the right side of a 3-5-2 shape, scoring once and assisting twice. He also averages 1.53 tackles, 2.6 blocks, 2.09 interceptions, and 6.64 clearances a game. If he were to return to Inter, where he has a contract until June 2023, Gravillon would slot into the center-back rotation and surely feature as one of the first defensive options off the bench. Another possibility is Gravillon goes on loan to a Serie A club to become more accustomed to Italian football before taking on a role at Inter.
Lazaro seemed to disappear almost as soon as he arrived in Milan back in the summer of 2019. The Austrian cost Inter €20/$24 million to pry him away from Hertha Berlin but it was an ill-fated investment. Lazaro lasted an entire half-season at the San Siro, making only 11 appearances in all competitions and falling behind Antonio Candreva in the pecking order. He was then loaned out to Newcastle in January for the remainder of the 2019/20 season. The English club didn’t make his move permanent and Lazaro soon departed for Borussia Monchengladbach this summer on, you guessed it, another loan with an option. He has 20 showings (12 starts) so far, with one goal and assist each. The goal (pictured below), however, is not one Lazaro will forget anytime soon. But he hasn’t been able to make a lasting impression beyond that wonder strike, and the 25-year-old has missed out on 14 games with injury, struggling to find full fitness. Monchengladbach, currently mired in midtable, is reportedly not exercising the option to buy and it seems Lazaro has a seat reserved for him on the loanee carousel. He could potentially stay at Inter next season as a back-up right wingback instead. Danilo D’Ambrosio will be one year older (if his contract is renewed) and Mateo Darmian can’t cover both flanks, so Lazaro could be a decent rotation piece next season.
If the €20 million shipped out for Lazaro seemed a waste, well, you’re not going to enjoy these next two sections. We have now arrived at the most glaring (and boy are there many to choose from) transfer fails in recent memory. First up is Joao Mario, shipped in for €37/44 million from Sporting CP in August 2016. He lasted a season and a half before going out on loan to West Ham, though he’s spent the last two seasons at Lokomotiv Moscow and Sporting, where he has landed at this season. So far he has played 26 games (17 starts) in all competitions, chipping in two goals and one assist. He may in fact make his return to the Portuguese club, as there’s interest on both sides for a deal to happen. Inter reportedly wants 10 million for Joao Mario. It would be a great relief to finally get him off Inter’s books, but he seems destined to leave in the near future anyway, with a contract expiring in 2022.
We continue this unfortunate trend of high-priced midfielders ending up on loan with Radja Nainggolan. Since moving to Inter from AS Roma for €37/$41 million in July 2018, the Belgian has played more with Cagliari (42 games) than Inter, his parent club (41 games). This season is Nainggolan’s second in a row with the Sardinians, though he didn’t make the move across the peninsula until January. He has made 13 appearances so far, all starts. But despite the 32-year-old’s arrival, Cagliari is in the thick of the relegation battle, currently in 17th and one point behind safety. If the Isolani manages to achieve safety, it’s possible Nainggolan could move there permanently. If not, Inter is stuck with him for one more season before his contract expires.
Luckily, we still have some promising youngsters left to balance out the doom and gloom of the previous two names. At just 19 years of age, Lorenzo Pirola has the potential to be a first-team-worthy center back in time. He’s currently on loan with Serie B side Monza, which is currently fighting for the automatic promotion spots. Pirola has made 8 appearances (7 starts) for a total of 693 minutes. After playing just once in the league in the first half of the season, he’s started 5 of the last 7. Monza kept a shutout in all but one of the five, conceding only to Esposito and Venezia. If Pirola retains his spot in the starting XI, he could ready for a loan in Serie A, though it will be a while before we see him on the Nerazzurri itself. His contract at Inter doesn’t expire until 2025, however, so it’s clear the management has faith in him.
Last, but certainly not least is Eddie Salcedo. The 19-year-old forward is in year two of a two-year loan to Hellas Verona. Verona does have a buy option, but Inter retains a buy-back clause. After making 17 appearances for a total of 677 minutes last season, Salcedo has tallied similar numbers this time around. He has 16 showings so far, scoring once and assisting twice in 632 minutes. But after playing in all but four of the first fifteen Verona matches, he has only appeared in two of the previous thirteen. If Verona chooses not to buy him permanently, he has the quality to go on another Serie A loan. But like with Pirola and Esposito, it won’t be for some time until he makes contributions in the blue and black stripes, if at all.
Which of these loanees catches your eye? Who of the youth players do you have the greatest hope for? Talk about it in the comments below.