“I still have two years left on my contract and I can keep pedalling,” declared Dejan Stankovic. “Everyone knows what I’m like. When I think I can no longer do it, when I feel I can no longer give to Inter everything that they deserve, I'll hold my hands up and thank the President, as well as the club, for everything I've learned and won here. When that time comes, I'll tell you, but for the moment I’m still really up for it.”
Such a statement would usually be classed as an example of commitment, but in the backdrop that has been Inter’s disappointing campaign, it is something a little more sinister. When you consider that it came from a man who many are earmarking as a player who should be sold, his stance is a clear obstacle to those at the club who will be tasked with rebuilding the Beneamata.
Stankovic is one of many, too many players over the age of 30 in the squad who are on multi-million euro contracts. Once the reason behind their domestic and international success, a group of them are now the team’s biggest hindrance when it comes to the Nerazzurri’s future.
With owner Massimo Moratti no longer pumping in the kind of lavish funds that once saw him use his loose change to pay Alvaro Recoba and the Financial Fair Play rules that were a reason behind last summer’s Samuel Eto’o exit, the club’s senators are worryingly a major drain on the finances of an outfit that will probably miss out on lucrative Champions League football next season.
While Wesley Sneijder is their best paid player, the next 11 highest wage earners are all in their 30s. From Julio Cesar and Diego Milito’s €4.5m a season down to the €3m of Ivan Cordoba, Walter Samuel, Stankovic and Javier Zanetti, the Italian giants pay their old guard a combined €40.5m per season in salary – and that’s after tax.
It’s clear that the solution is to move a substantial amount of those players on, but that is easier said than done. It’s difficult selling certain individuals after bad seasons and players of a certain age can be reluctant to move on to a smaller club, for a reduced salary, when they are still contracted. For example, who is going to pay Lucio €3.5m a season or Stankovic €3m? Look at what happened at Juventus last summer when Amauri, on €3.8m, snubbed move after move. He wasn’t alone in Turin either.
The other aspect to consider is that those individuals who are on the wrong side of 30, with admirers, are likely to be the same men who Inter would presumably want to keep to maintain a certain amount of experience in the squad and first team.
Such numbers all add up to the prospect that who Inter buy will depend on whom they can sell first. After so many of their Vecchia Guardia successfully managed to slow the sands of time in the past, Inter have now reached a point where those drops of sand are not falling quickly enough. With evolution rather than revolution on the cards, Inter may need to acquire not just some new players in the summer, but some patience too.
Over 30s with contracts expiring in 2012: Samuel 34 [€3m], Chivu 31 [€3.5m], Castellazzi 36 [€1m], Cordoba 35 [€3m]
Over 30s with contracts expiring in 2013: Maicon 30 [€4m], Zanetti 38 [€3m], Forlan 32 [€3.5m]
Over 30s with contracts expiring in 2014: Julio Cesar 32 [€4.5m], Lucio 33 [€3.5m], Stankovic 33 [€3m], Cambiasso 31 [€4m], Milito 32 [€4.5m]