Matias Silvestre’s Inter career has been anything but rosy thus far. After arriving on loan from Palermo, the pundits suggested he would be a first-choice centre-back alongside Walter Samuel in the Nerazzurri defence, but a stern dose of reality has seen him descend to a substitute role.
After plenty of success with Boca Juniors – winning Apertura, Clausura and Copa Libertadores titles among others – the player left for the peninsula and enjoyed a particularly impressive three-year spell with Catania.
His promising performances prompted a move to Sicilian rivals Palermo during the summer of 2011, with the Rosanero reportedly paying around €7m for his services. During his time with the two Southern clubs, Silvestre was often touted for a call to the Azzurri, as he holds an Italian passport.
Palermo are known for their inconsistency, but Inter and Coach Andrea Stramaccioni looked beyond the club itself and decided the player had shown enough to be taken to San Siro on a loan basis at the very least.
However, despite appearing regularly in pre-season, Silvestre has fallen out of favour since a 3-1 loss to Roma during which he was exposed by Francesco Totti and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo. The defender has featured for a meagre seven minutes in the last nine domestic matches, merely appearing consistently in the Europa League to give the regulars a rest.
If not for a spectacular one-handed block by goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, Silvestre would have even cost Inter their last continental match, as he slipped to allow a Partizan attacker to waltz into the box unchallenged in injury time, only for the Slovenian shot-stopper to bail him out and the Beneamata to rub salt into the visitors’ wounds by scoring the winner on the counter-attack.
Hindsight is 20/20, but Palermo President Maurizio Zamparini claims he has not been surprised by Silvestre’s lack of production following his move north. “We did not let Silvestre leave for the money, we got rid of him because I did not like him,” the eccentric patron explained in September. “We conceded a lot of goals with him in defence, so we decided to let Inter have him.”
Stramaccioni has always maintained that Silvestre is “ready” for Inter, but simply not in the imposing form of Andrea Ranocchia, Samuel or Juan Jesus. Meanwhile, the defender himself noted in the pre-match Press conference ahead of Thursday’s clash in Serbia that he always expected there to be tough competition for places and that he is working hard to find continuity.
With Ranocchia and Samuel succumbing to injuries that are expected to keep them out for three or four weeks, the Inter boss has been forced to play the Silvestre card for the immediate future. There’s no more time to ease the Argentina-born defender into the line-up, so he better work fast.
The criticism received this season has already resulted in reports he could be on his way to Atalanta during the winter transfer window, but Silvestre must view this as an opportunity to prove himself rather than something akin to being thrown into the deep end with sharks circling.
His Inter career is on the line and it is time for the 28-year-old to sink or swim. The next few matches will all but certainly determine whether Silvestre will establish himself – and Inter take up their option to sign him permanently – or joins the long list of under-performers that have passed through the Appiano Gentile training ground over the years.