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Inter’s Unsung Heroes Part 1: Ivan Perisic

Fresh off winning a treble with Bayern, Perisic put his mark on an unfamiliar left wing-back role

Spezia Calcio v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Claudio Villa - Inter/Inter via Getty Images

“We are working, but the responses so far are not positive.”

“I don’t think Perisic is suited to the role I am asking for, so right now the only place he can play is upfront. There are roles to be respected and you cannot change the characteristics of a player. The sensations I get are negative, so I don’t think he can give the team what it needs.”

That was what Conte had to say about Ivan Perisic’s adaptation to the 3-5-2 formation back on July 20th of 2019. Inter had lost 1-0 to Manchester United in the International Champions Cup the same day, with Dalbert starting at left wingback. Perisic entered off the bench as a striker, with Conte not even trusting him on the flank in a preseason friendly. Unsurprisingly, he was one of the first exits under Conte’s reign, departing on loan to Bayern Munich. The Croatian made 35 appearances (8 goals and 10 assists) en route to a treble-winning season at the German club. And yet, Bayern opted not to make his move permanent. Perisic once more ended up back at Inter and though the Nerrazurri tried, a buyer couldn’t be found. This time, though, he and Conte found a way to work together, and the dividends are there for all to see.

Ivan Perisic of FC Internazionale in action during the Serie... Photo by Fabrizio Carabelli/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Perisic has made 40 appearances so far, notching 4 goals and 5 assists. But it wasn’t until the second half of the season when he firmly became Conte’s first choice on the flank. Throughout the first stretch of the campaign, he and Ashley Young rotated minutes with neither impressing. Perisic, however, edged in front of his English counterpart with a goal against Fiorentina on February 5th. He started in both of the next games, home to Lazio and Milan. The Croatian was tasked with shutting down Manuel Lazzari against the Biancocelesti and put in an admirable performance as Inter walked out 3-1 victors.

Perisic- 7: After a few months without a defined position, he is quietly making a name for himself at left wingback. Matched up against a real danger in Lazzari and kept him quiet for almost the entire match. Also won the ball that resulted in Inter’s second goal. Really solid performance.

FC Internazionale v SS Lazio - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli - Inter/Inter via Getty Images

He stayed in the starting lineup for the biggest game yet of Inter's season the following weekend against Milan. By the time the third Derby Della Madonnina rolled around, Inter was leading the standings for the first time all season. A loss to Milan, however, would have sent the Rossoneri back into the lead. Inter wasn’t to be fazed despite the massive permutations of the game and earned a crucial three points. Perisic was one of the standout performers and assisted Inter’s second of the night.

Perisic - 8: The Croatian’s turnaround in form has been remarkable. He’s now gotten the better of both Manuel Lazzari and Davide Calabria in two successive games, two of the better right-backs in the league. Perisic was a constant threat against Milan, with 3 key passes, 6 successful long balls, 4 interceptions, and 4 duels won. Not to mention the assist on Lautaro’s brace and the second-most touches (61) on the Nerazzurri.

AC Milan v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Coming into the 2020/21 season, an article about Ivan Perisic being one of Inter’s Scudetto heroes would have been inconceivable. And yet, the Croatian has stepped up in a way few thought possible and is now a league champion for the second year running. While it wouldn't be ideal for the 32-year-old to be the starter once again next season, Perisic has shown he can be relied on no matter what.