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Dec 11, 2013

January transfer window shaping up to disappoint Internazionale fans

Inter fans have been looking forward to the winter transfer window for months now. We have all heard the names linked with a move to Stadio Giuseppe Meazza: Manchester City's Edin Dzeko, PSG's Ezequiel Lavezzi and Chelsea's David Luiz. Adding this sort of talent will surely propel Inter into the top three in Serie A and back into the Champions League. But to pull off that sort of spending in today's economic climate would require an owner with deep pockets, and one who is willing to invest heavily in the playing side of the club. I don't think that is Erick Thohir. Tancredi Palmeri, the BeIN Sport Italian correspondent and CNN and Gazzetta dello Sport contributor, was asked Wednesday on Twitter about Inter's January transfer plans and he responded:

@F5285 they need to sell first

— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) December 11, 2013
According to Palmeri, Inter will look to sell Gaby Mudingayi, Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Alvaro Pereira, while other reports link Diego Milito, Fredy Guarin and Andrea Ranocchia with moves to the Premier League. If true, the consequence would surely be the wholesale introduction of the new talent that this Inter squad requires, and that the Nerazzurri fans are hoping for. If you have been following what Thohir has said since buying Inter, this news should not come as a surprise. In late November, Thohir gave an interview to La Gazzetta dello Sport in which he said: "If you ask me if I'm going to buy new players, my answer is always the same. Our decisions will be taken together, but with one eye on the budget. There would be no unilateral decision on my part, that's what's different from the past. "We will buy players, but we're going to be careful with our spending. Our objective is financial restructuring, creating a club which is in sound financial health, as agreed with [former Inter president Massimo] Moratti." As for the prospects of a new stadium, Thohir added: "One day we will have our own new stadium, but at this point we can't say if we're going to build one." The PR game leading to the takeover of Inter emphasised Thohir's understanding of the sports business due to his previous investments in Major League Soccer club D.C. United and the Philadelphia 76ers NBA team. What those reports failed to point out was that D.C. United has the fourth-lowest payroll in MLS while the 76ers have the lowest payroll in the NBA. Considering that both these teams operate with a leaguewide salary cap, something that Inter doesn't have, these are not encouraging signs for Inter fans expecting to see a PSG, Manchester City or Monaco type of investment in the club. There is nothing in Thohir's background to indicate that Inter will be any different from D.C. United and the Philadelphia 76ers -- teams in the middle of the pack in terms of wages and with no history of winning. And that has to terrify Nerazzurri fans. Whether Thohir has the ability and willingness to invest heavily in the club is a question that I think Moratti thought long and hard about during the sales process. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, when selling the majority ownership in the club to Thohir, Moratti insisted that a "fans' safeguard clause" be added into the sale agreement. The safeguard clause reportedly gives Moratti the option to buy back the club at a reduced price at the end of the 2014-15 season if Inter's new owners have not made the investments promised in order to keep the club at the top level. Now I might be completely off track here with the ownership trio of Erick Thohir, Rosan Roeslani and Handy Soetedjo, and I hope I am. They could turn out to be great patrons of the club, and provide the invest and support the manager needs both on and off the pitch. But there part of me is seeing similarities between the Thohir ownership group and the ownership groups that bought Malaga in La Liga and Blackburn Rovers in England. In those situations, the new owners promised big-name signings that never materialized, and it became clear that those owners did not have the money or inclination to make the necessary investments to make their clubs contenders. Will that be the case at Inter?

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