Inter Milan are back, baby, and they’ve just signed one of the best young right-backs in the world to prove it.
With Achraf Hakimi on his way to the San Siro, Antonio Conte couldn’t have dreamed of a better start to his second summer transfer window with Nerazzurri, but he’ll be anxious that more work is done to a squad in need of major surgery. With that in mind, here’s seven, yes seven, players that Inter are going to need in order to topple the might of Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus next season, and perhaps even upset the Champions League applecart.
Who will do well at Inter?
Inter’s midfield has been impressive this season, with Stefano Sensi, Nico Barella and Marcelo Brozović giving Conte plenty of stability so far, but a player of Tonali’s ability showing a very active interest in a move to San Siro has understandably turned heads. Perhaps Christian Eriksen, underwhelming since joining from Spurs in January, will be a casualty of Milan’s interest in Tonali, and it could be the case that his creativity at number 10 is sacrificed in favour of a more robust three-man midfield.
Vidal’s talents as a do-everything midfielder who is proficient in both boxes has been vastly underappreciated by the Cryuff-or-bust diehards in Barcelona, but one man who has always had plenty of time for the Chilean is Conte.
Conte and Vidal won three titles together during a happy time in Turin, with Vidal and a certain Paul Pogba protecting Andrea Pirlo in a three-man midfield. With Pirlo’s anointed heir in Tonali set to join, Vidal could be just the muscle needed to reinforce a young, talented midfield three.
The Manchester United loanee has shown himself to be an unexpected but invaluable cog in the Conte machine, contributing a goal and three assists since the restart and impressing with his ability to provide a much needed spark that Eriksen hasn’t quite been able to muster. Sánchez’s career seemed to be going downhill ever since he touched that cursed Old Trafford piano, but he may have finally found a home, and Inter could do a lot worse than turning his loan into a permanent deal, though no mandatory fee has been agreed between the two sides.
Where the greatest player of his era will be put out to pasture has been an increasingly vexed question in recent weeks, with nagging rumours in the Spanish media that Lionel Messi has shelved extension talks at Barcelona, such is his discontent at the current state of affairs at the Camp Nou. Inter have been pretty persistent admirers of the thought-to-be unattainable Argentine, with Joan Laporta revealing that they were prepared to pay a ridiculous €150m for the megastar in 2006, and Massimo Moratti recently hinted to Radio Rai that a sensational move for the legend might not be the ‘forbidden dream’ it once was.
But it probably still is…isn’t it?
Moving from one cut-price north London resident to another, don’t be surprised if Inter follow up on their long-term interest in centre-back Jan Vertonghen. It seems as if Vertonghen’s race is run as a Premier League first-teamer, and this season has been the end of an era for his once-impregnable partnership with fellow Belgian Toby Alderweireld. He will now almost certainly be moving on from his eight-year stay in N17, with his Spurs deal expiring this summer.
This is fantastic news for anyone who has a glaring desire for an experienced left-footed centre-back, with Conte in search of some more squad depth in the defensive department after an underwhelming season from Diego Godín.
He might be 31, but Aubameyang has showed no signs of stopping in the Premier League since joining Arsenal. He’s targeting a second Premier League Golden Boot this season, and a league that has been kind to players of an advanced age would be the logical next step for the striker.
Aubameyang’s contract at Arsenal runs out in 2021 and, assuming Lautaro Martínez finally makes his much-anticipated move to Barcelona, it makes much more sense to turn to the Gabon international rather than his Arsenal teammate Alexandre Lacazette as a perfect foil for Romelu Lukaku.
With Conte, it’s all about getting the fundamentals right, and perhaps the fundamental in the five-man defence which is the very pillar of Conteball is using two dynamic, athletic full-backs who are equally capable at both ends of the pitch – think Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso when his Chelsea side won the league in 2017.
So far, though Ashley Young has looked the part further forward, he has decidedly not been that man on the defensive end of things – while deputy Cristiano Biraghi has not been much better. With Chelsea needing to sell this summer, a solid wing-back with a strong Serie A track record who knows Conte could be just the fix.