Osvaldo embodies Inter's frugality
For the past 12 months, Inter fans have heard that the club is going to bring in another striker to replace the out-of-contract Diego Milito. In that time the Nerazzurri have been linked with a host of strikers such as Manchester City's Edin Dzeko, Chelsea's Fernando Torres, Manchester United's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Cagliari's Mauricio Pinilla.
As recent as last week, Inter met with Chicharito's agent in Washington, D.C., but decided not to go for the Mexico forward.
Instead, Inter went with the inexpensive option and signed Southampton striker Daniel Osvaldo on a year-long loan with an option to buy at 7 million euros. That is less than half of what Southampton paid for the striker 12 months ago. As part of the deal, Saphir Taider has moved on loan in the other direction, with Southampton having the option to make the deal permanent for a reported 9 million euros.
Is Osvaldo as good as Dzeko, Torres, Chicharito or Pinilla? Will he put pressure on Mauro Icardi or Rodrigo Palacio for a place in the starting XI? The answer to both is "doubtful".
One of Inter's biggest weaknesses last season was the lack of a clinical finisher in front of goal -- someone like Milito used to be. That is not Osvaldo. The statistics suggest that he cannot consistently score goals. He's only reached double digits in Europe on three occasions: with Espanyol in 2010-11 (14), and Roma in 2011-12 (11) and 2012-13 (17).
This deal is all about the money, or the lack of it at Inter. If everything works out the way that president Erick Thohir plans, he will get Osvaldo and 2 million euros next summer in exchange for Taider.
The club's transfer activities suggest that Thohir is not willing to bankroll a spending spree that's needed to make the team more competitive with the elite teams in Serie A. Instead of investing in the playing squad, Inter have hedged their bets with a series of loans with the option to buy.
It's the installment-plan approach to building a football team. Why buy players when you can try before you buy?
These are the tactics of a small club. Four years on from wining an unprecedented, Inter are reduced to signing loanees because they're more affordable.
It is this lack of investment in the squad that has to worry Nerazzurri fans. Some back-of-the-napkin math reveals that the club have come out at about even in their summer dealings, but that's before the likely departures of Fredy Guarin and Ricky Alvarez -- two sales that should net the club more than 30 million euros.
By comparison, the teams that finished above Inter in the three Champions League places -- Juventus, Roma and Napoli -- all have spent more than they have earned in transfer fees this summer. According to transfermarket.co.uk Juventus have spent 12.76 million, Roma 32.3 million and Napoli 5.59 million.
If Inter does not break into the top three this season, fingers will be pointed at Walter Mazzarri for doing a poor job coaching the team, when they should be pointed at Thohir, who has handicapped his manager because of his unwillingness to invest significant money in the Inter squad this summer.