Inter have unearthed four players who have been key to their successes over the past few seasons, no small matter given the difficulty of seizing on free transfer opportunities.
This is highlighted in today’s print edition of Turin-based newspaper Tuttosport, via FCInter1908, who note that all of midfielders Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Hakan Calhanoglu, goalkeeper Andre Onana, and defender Stefan de Vrij have been pillars of the Nerazzurri squad without a single transfer fee having been outlaid.
De Vrij’s arrival from Lazio during the summer of 2018 was widely seen as a major coup for Inter, considering that the Dutch former Feyenoord defender came without a transfer fee when his contact with the Biancocelesti ran out.
Whilst de Vrij’s importance to this Inter team has diminished somewhat over the past couple of season, particularly since the arrival of Francesco Acerbi, there is no doubting that over the course of his five seasons and counting he has been an important player for the Nerazzurri.
In the summer of 2021, it was Calhanoglu who made the move to Inter on a free transfer from a Serie A rival, and the fact that the Turk was signed from neighbours AC Milan was something that was certainly noted.
In his first season, the former Rossoneri, Bayer Leverkusen, and Hamburg midfielder replace Christian Eriksen about as adeptly as could have been exptected, and it has been in his second campaign with the club that his importance has really grown.
Calhanoglu is now virtually the first name on Inter’s teamsheet, with his transition to the deep-lying playmaker role have rendered the 29-year-old indispensable to setting the tempo on the pitch.
Lining up alongside Calhanoglu for much of this season in midfield has been former Roma midfielder Mkhitaryan.
The 34-year-old Armenian international is yet another player to have arrived from a Serie A rival for nothing, after his contract with the Giallorossi ran out at the end of last season.
Despite having been signed with the expectation of becoming a useful squad player, the truth is that Mkhitaryan has proved to be far more than that.
Over the course of the season, he has become yet another pillar of Inter’s starting eleven.
Another free transfer to have been made last summer was that of former Ajax keeper Onana.
Whilst the 26-year-old did not come from an Italian club, he has settled in as quickly as any of the players who were already proven in Serie A.
The Nerazzurri looked to Onana’s expiring contract with the Dutch champions as a perfect opportunity to solve the dilemma of replacing Samir Handanovic in goal for the long term, and the player they’ve gotten has been far more than an adequate option signed at low cost.