In his regular weekly column Inter fanatic Sam Olsen will be delving deep into the stories that matter to Inter’s fans looking to keep the spirit of discussion and dispute alive and well on the pages of Sempreinter.com. New Zealander Sam has published several books on military history as well as contributing to a number of sport and news related websites. His love for Inter began in 1997 watching Ronaldo waltz through confused defences in the famous blue and black, and he has enjoyed the roller coaster ride ever since. His favourite moment was watching the team lift the Coppa Italia in 04-05 with Mancini, breaking the long domestic trophy drought, while his favourite player is Javier Zanetti, the great one, who encompasses everything good and right about the club.
With the emotions of the departures of some of the greats of Inter now in the past and the World Cup firmly on the horizon it is an opportune time to look to the future and what it might hold for the Blue and Black half of Milan. The team finds itself in the centre of the seemingly eternal rebuilding process but with the 2014/2015 season hovering just over the World Cup shaped hill there is a real feel that Inter have finally been able to free itself from the past and can look forward with some excitement. While Walter Mazzarri is a man who has divided opinions and left many fans feeling less than enthusiastic about next season’s prospects at least he provides a tactical blueprint from which to build off.
The club have said goodbye to a number of players at the end of the off season, many of whom were on wages more proportionate with the free spending ideology of the former owner, these included of course Javier Zanetti, Walter Samuel, Diego Milito and Esteban Cambiasso as well as veteran keeper Castellazzi and fringe midfielder Macdonald Mariga. Mudingayi and Wallace both failed to convince in their loan spells and have returned to their respective clubs. With this fringe clipped the squad has a much more refined and compact look about it, with a solid core of youth and experience. What happens next however will determine whether Inter are slogging it out for the Europa league again or battling it out with the big boys for the higher honours. Like the tightrope walker tentatively stepping out high above the crowd, Inter must make sure that the players they sign are the right ones. They have to get players who will take the team to the next level but not undermine the development of the young players with the most potential. With these parameters in mind I will assess each area of the pitch based on the current options and try to determine where need to strengthen to challenge Juventus and Roma.
Goalkeeping: Status: Samir Handanovic is undoubtably Inter’s number one and is in the world class category. In Juan Pablo Carrizo Inter have an able though not spectacular deputy while youngsters Bardi, Belec and Di Gennaro all have shown great potential.
Requirements: Should Handanovic stay Inter are fine here. Both Bardi and De Gennaro are potentially world class and need another season on loan to get sufficient game time.
One to Watch: Francesco Bardi has been impressing across Italy with his form for Livorno. Managed correctly he could be the heir to Buffon in a few years.
Defense: Based on a back three Inter are well stocked in this area. With Vidic they have a real leader while Juan Jesus and Andrea Rannochia are both players with bright futures. Campagnaro and Andreolli offer experienced options from the bench, while Rolando, if he is signed, will provide competition for starting places.
Requirements: Sign Rolando, sell the much maligned Mattias Silvestre.
One to watch: Simone Benedetti made 33 appearances for Padova in Serie B last season and at 22 looks a bright prospect. Another strong season could see him in the mix for a place at Inter.
Midfield: Perhaps the area in most need of attention for the club. The departure of Cambiasso has left a giant hole in the centre of the field. His reserve Kuzmanovic has not been up to the task while Saphir Taider has shown signs but is not yet developed enough to cover such an important position. Out wide Jonathan has been good but the feeling remains he is decent rather than great while D’Ambrosio also looks handy without being spectacular. Nagatomo on the left has secured his position, although needs some quality competition to push him on.
In central midfield Inter are well served with Kovacic and Hernanes both capable of turning a game on its head. Backing them up are Alvarez and Guarin, two players with question marks over their heads but capable of individual brilliance off the bench.
Requirements: A quality defensive midfielder is the clubs highest priority, someone capable of breaking up opposition attacks, starting Inter’s attacks and organising the midfield. A big ask. A wide man is also needed to provide competition for Nagatomo. One of either Guarin and Alvarez should be sold and a good backup player drafted in as a replacement. Inter also have several exciting prospects with central midfielders Lorenzo Cristeig, Alfred Duncan and Joel Obi; and wide men Marco Benassi, Ibrahima Mbaye, Cristiano Biraghi and Diego Laxalt and could be tempted to draw one or more of them into the squad next season.
One to watch: Like so many of his young team mates Alfred Duncan impressed on loan at Livorno and Inter could be tempted to fast track him into the big time.
Forwards: The second half of 2013/2014 season saw the rise of Mauro Icardi as a star at Inter. He struck up a good understanding with Rodrigo Palacio and this can be expected to continue next season. In Samuele Longo and Ishak Belfodil Inter have two players that at one time appeared to be potential first teamers although both have flattered to deceive of late.
Requirements: At least two new forwards. Although the first two options are fantastic there is not much after that. An experienced forward that will not thwart the growth of Icardi and a second striker are a must.
One to Watch: Once regarded as one of the brightest young playmakers, Brazilian Daniel Bessa’s form and fitness has tailed off dramatically in the last couple of seasons. Next season will be his last chance to prove he can come good on his early promise.
Summary: The 2014 transfer window should prove to be an interesting one for Inter as they look for a combination of youth and experience to take the team to the next level. Priority signings are a wide midfielder, defensive midfielder and two strikers, while several players should be shown the door including Guarin or Alvarez, Schelotto and Matias Silvestre amongst others. Big decisions need to be taking regarding the number of quality youngsters currently on loan and whether any of them should be bought into the first team, re-loaned or sold. Already Marko Livaja, the extremely talented but temperamental Croat appears on his way to Russia, hopefully as part of an unlikely deal for a certain French midfielder!
Up Next Week: Part II of the State of the Inter Nation where we assess the players being consistently linked to Inter. Would they fit in, are they the right men for the club or simply an expensive bench warmer! Stay tuned!