Few players have had as wide a gap between pre-signing expectations to actual impact as Matteo Darmian. Brought in with the season already in full swing and a day after a 1-1 draw with Lazio, Darmian’s move from Parma was so smothered that not even a single Interisti showed up to greet him at the airport. The summer of 2020 was an especially quiet one on the transfer market and the 31-year-old’s arrival looked nothing more than satisfying Conte’s desire for veterans while still keeping the wage bill manageable. From rumors of Marash Kumbulla (who has struggled to settle into Roma) to the signing of Darmian, there was ample disappointment when the dust settled on the transfer window. But 8 months later, Inter has reaped reward after reward from Mr. Reliable.
Darmian, who cost a measly €2.5, has not only been a reliable depth piece across the backline and flanks, but also caused all sorts of havoc in the final third. He’s tallied 3 goals and 3 assists through 36 appearances and has a knack for coming up in especially clutch moments. Darmian scored the opener in a 3-2 away victory against Borussia Monchengladbach in the UCL and drew the penalty in a 1-0 win over Napoli. Most importantly of all, however, he popped up at the back post to bury game-winners against Cagliari and Hellas Verona. Both of those games ended 1-0 and proved crucial to Inter’s Scudetto victory. Had the Nerazzurri been held to draws in that pair of April encounters, the likes of Milan and Atalanta would have been able to close ground on the soon-to-be crowned Italian champions. Instead, Inter continued to grind out one-goal wins and left the competition in the dust. This season’s success has been a team effort to the extreme, but Darmian’s vital contributions are such a bolt from the blue that not even the most optimistic of us could have seen anything similar occurring back when he was announced in October.
While other veterans with much higher expectations signed in the same window such as Arturo Vidal and Aleksandar Kolarov have underwhelmed, Darmian more than made up the difference. From providing Inter quality defensive depth to securing eight points en route to the Scudetto podium, Darmian deserves high praise. The fact that his Inter journey began in an empty airport terminal will make it even more satisfying seeing him draped in Nerazzuri confetti next weekend.