Terzo

After an unnecessarily close and hard fought fixture away against Sassuolo at the Stadio Mapei, Stefano Pioli and his men managed to secure all 3 points to set up a cup-like end-of-year match-up against Lazio this Wednesday night at the San Siro. There and then the fate of Inter’s season moving forward could very well be decided, or at the very least, a strong indication as to the character of the remaining season would be given. This is a fixture which Joao Mario will sit out due to being suspended after reaching too many yellow cards, as will Felipe Melo after being sent off, yet again.

If there ever was a fixture to sum up Felipe Melo’s career as a footballer, it would be this performance in the early kick-off away against Sassuolo. After giving a performance in the first half, where he demonstrated with accute accuracy his ability to be tactically, technically and physically disciplined, the Brazilian midfielder followed it up with a second half performance where he displayed precisely the polar opposite after being sent off due to 2 incredibly unnecessary and careless tackles resulting in being shown 2 clear cut bookings.

Journalist David Amoyal hit the hammer on the nail when he accutely described Felipe Melo’s strengths and weaknesses after the pre-Christmas fixture against Lazio last year where the Brazilian was sent off for one of the most reckless challenges ever seen on a football pitch, with the words: live by Felipe Melo, die by Felipe Melo. Technically the Brazilian midfielder possesses everything a deep-lying defensive midfield playmaker needs at the highest level, whilst at the same time lacking the most fundamental aspect almost all professional footballers possess, namely discipline.

Anyone who has followed Turkish and more specifically, Italian football closely over the past decade, has witnessed first hand how aggressively Felipe Melo has defended his team’s defence with incredible timing and intelligence, all whilst dictating the tempo of his team’s midfield in the build-up phase. During his breakthrough debut season in the Serie A with Fiorentina, Felipe Melo demonstrated his brilliant Dr Jekyll side, leading to Juventus activating the minimum release-fee clause of € 25 million in his contract with Viola, only to discover that they had in fact, acquired Mr Hyde. Granted, Melo gave several great performances for the Bianconeri during his 4 seasons with the Bianconeri, however it was his lack of discipline tactically and physically on a consistent basis  which made him an unpredictable loose cannon on the deck of the black and white ship.

Today at the Stadio Mapei, that blatant inconsistency was painfully on display for everyone to see. Melo’s silly challenges did not end up costing Inter points today, however given that he was shown his second yellow card AFTER Joao Mario had received his booking meaning that he would miss the cup-like rubber on Wednesday night against Lazio, is nothing short of lack of discipline and experience, 2 traits you’d expect a 33-year old to possess without much drama. This is a flaw that has stalked Melo throughout his entire career and prevented him from becoming a legendary regista worthy of being named in the same breath as Paul Scholes or Andrea Pirlo.

Last season, Inter were leading the Serie A until the untimely defeat against Lazio at the San Siro just before the Christmas break. A defeat caused in large parts by a savage tackle by Melo leading to his expulsion which precipitated Inter’s and Mancini’s demise figuratively and literally from that moment and onwards. This took place after nothing short of a brilliant start to the season by Melo, a start so good it had fans and pundits alike discussing whether or not the Brazilian midfielder had finally matured enough to become the worldclass player he could, and as some argue, already should have been. It is nothing more than an ironic twist of fate that his sending off today means that he will miss the replay of last years fixture against Lazio at the San Siro weirdly scheduled to be played yet again just before the Christmas break.

Given his shortcomings characterwise, it remains to be seen whether or not Melo’s suspension is a blessing in disguise for Inter and in fact depends entirely on the result of the clash on Wedneday night. However, until then we’re all left with yet another almost schizophrenic performance by a player who is an enigma for the broader audience but who also now once again has become a nuissance to his current employer, who in turn has to come to terms with the fact that if you live by Felipe Melo, you die by Felipe Melo.