When Inter signed Rodrigo Palacio this past summer, the move was surrounded by plenty of scepticism – including from yours truly.
Many posed the question as to why a team that had recently ended a season in sixth place with an unusually high number of veterans, would outlay significant expenditure on a 30-year-old that had never truly proven himself at the top level. He was a player of undoubted ingenuity, as his highlight-reel strikes over the past few years attest, but could he deliver week in and week out at the Giuseppe Meazza?
Surely there were younger options with more potential? Palacio seemed like an unnecessary purchase for a team that should be aiming to rejuvenate.
Although the fee was left undisclosed by the two clubs, reports indicated Inter paid €11m for the former Boca Juniors star who had come off a 19-goal campaign over 32 appearances in 2011-12. Prior to that, Palacio’s time in Serie A had hardly been a model of consistency, having merely notched 16 goals in 58 games for the Rossoblu since his arrival in 2009.
However, it is President Massimo Moratti and the 2010 European champions who are basking in the positive glow of the transfer at the moment, as the move has tipped the scale more towards reward rather than risk for the Nerazzurri.
Initially, an injury prevented Palacio from receiving playing time – as he fell behind Diego Milito, Antonio Cassano and even youngster Philippe Coutinho in Coach Andrea Stramaccioni’s pecking order. But since his return he has been in irrepressible form with seven goals and two assists in his last seven matches in all competitions, notably including two game-winners in the Europa League against Partizan Belgrade and a late strike to seal the deal in the exhilarating 3-1 victory over Derby d’Italia rivals Juventus.
In terms of the team’s budget, within the rules of Financial Fair Play, the transfer fee is divided along the length of the contract, so in the case of Palacio a tidy €3.67m per year over three years. It’s high salaries that affect European clubs' FFP standing to a greater extent, which is why the earnings of players like Lucio, Maicon, Julio Cesar and Diego Forlan were logically jettisoned out the door.
Palacio’s ability to play anywhere across the front line has proven invaluable for Stramaccioni this season. He has combined well with Cassano, Milito and everyone else and his eye for goal seems to have been honed to devastating effect. His recent exploits have even earned him a recall to the Argentina national side with Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain sidelined.
The striker who spent his days in the Bella Vista youth team may be 30, he may have a haircut that not everyone is fond of, but the numbers thus far suggest that he may end up being a bargain and worth every penny for Inter this season.