Inter Milan must step up search for wide players
Inter manager Roberto Mancini must feel like his plan will never come together. He has gained so much over the summer as Inter have overhauled their squad, and yet he is still missing that final component. His search for wingers has been long and hard and for the last few months he has been trapped in a frantic situation. Initially, Mancini had not been able to dispose of Xherdan Shaqiri, and now that he has, his two targeted replacements now seem out of reach.
Back in January after Inter had played well in the second half against Juventus, Mancini explained how essential it was that his team had an option that would stop them from playing in such a narrow fashion. The introduction of Lukas Podolski gave his team a more balanced look even before Shaqiri's arrival later that month.
What happened next was a huge disappointment for the club, coach and the two players involved. Podolski was poor and lacked dynamism, pace and effectiveness. Shaqiri came in with a bang and his early performances were good, but injury soon struck and when he returned to the squad the poor form of Podolski had resulted in Mancini reverting to a formation without width. The Swiss international failed to impress in the Trequartista role (behind the front two) and fell down in the pecking order to Hernanes.
Here ended experiment number one. Soon Podolski found himself in Turkey via North London but Shaqiri was more difficult to shift. Touted out around Europe, one would have thought the 23-year-old would have been desperate to leave. This certainly wasn't the case. Despite Schalke, Newcastle, Everton and Dortmund all being linked, it seemed the Swiss winger just wasn't wanted and perhaps his failure at Bayern and Inter was causing too many clubs to question his abilities. Inter have spent a lot of money of six players this window and with the board and Mancini wanting to get the squad down to 25, it looked like they were now operating a "sell to buy policy".
Finally, Shaqiri is off, with the player joining Stoke £12m fee and personal terms being agreed to. Now, Mancini can pursue his targets, but huge obstacles remain.
The replacements earmarked are Wolfsburg's Ivan Perisic and Genoa's Diego Perotti. Perisic at 26 had a superb season last year and helped his team to second place in the Bundesliga as well as winning a DFB Pokal title. He crossed paths with Inter in the Europe League when the Germans beat them soundly, and in 24 games he scored five and created four assists. He would be perfect for Inter's style as he is a good crosser of the ball but can also alternate his play by cutting inside.
Diego Perotti, the 27 year old Argentinian winger, stacks up well in comparison to Perisic. With 27 games in Serie A, four goals and five assists, he is arguably the more attractive option. He can play on both wings as well behind the striker and his crossing and long distance shooting are complemented by his quick feet and speed when in possession of the ball.
But Inter were dealt a setback hours before Shaqiri's transfer to Stoke when Wolfsburg's sporting executive Klaus Allofs claimed that the Nerazzurri would not be able to afford the Croatian. This will concern the Italian team as the player and his agent have made it abundantly clear that he wants to move but now they will be cautious of a potentially long drawn out deal.
Almost simultaneously, Genoa president Enrico Preziosi claimed that Perotti was absolutely not for sale and that his player would be categorically staying at the club. This was not what Mancini and company will want to hear as there was hope of a swap deal taking place with Yuto Nagatomo being used to offset costs.
It is perhaps a coincidence that on the same day that Shaqiri makes his move to the Premier League both clubs who possess his potential replacement close their doors emphatically. Now that Inter have the money to spend they are maybe just guarding themselves for inevitable assault and are simply trying to get the best deal.
One thing is for sure and that is Mancini will have to get a one or both of these players before the window ends. Jonathan Biabiany will need a partner on the other wing and perhaps even one on the bench. The Nerazzurri have had a superb transfer window, but they will need it to be even better before its end.
Richard Hall is an Italian football writer contributing to ESPN, The Guardian, Daily Mail, IBWM and Football Italia. Follow him on Twitter @Gentleman_Ultra.