Inter have made the decision to replace Julio Cesar with Samir Handanovic, one that Rob Paton examines the necessity of.
Julio Cesar was apparently told in the final few months of 2011-12 by club officials that he would be replaced at Inter this summer. Perhaps looking to undermine his declaration that he doesn’t want to leave by leaking that information less than 24 hours later this week, it has served to somewhat deflect attention from the merits of the move. So too have rumours of the player’s subsequent talks with rivals Milan – sympathy is harder to find for a ‘keeper whose motives can be painted as disingenuous, only looking out for No 1.
Yet, for seven years of service at the club, six-and-a-half of which have been resolutely as its first-choice between the sticks, Cesar’s indignation, whether fully focused and genuine or not, has some resonance. Replacement Samir Handanovic may be equally proven at Serie A level and similarly experienced at international level, but is his purchase a necessary one?
Handanovic arrives with the reputation as a fearsome opponent for strikers in one-on-one situations. He has a fantastic reach, thanks to a larger and equally athletic frame to Cesar’s and has been a point of reliability at Udinese for several seasons. Statistics can also show that where Handanovic has kept a clean sheet in just under 43 per cent of League games played in the last two years – Cesar’s better average rate than that up to the end of 2009-10 dropped significantly in the same two previous seasons to just over 35 per cent. Where Handanovic now has consistency, Cesar appears not to.
Yet, it could be argued that with very different defences in front of them in the past two seasons, Handanovic’s task was a lot easier in Udine than Cesar’s in Milan. Last term, that Inter defence was just five goals short of equalling their all-time worst concession in a single Serie A campaign and that cannot be solely based around Cesar’s capacity or not to save what’s hit at him. Whilst Handanovic may have one particular string to his bow that Cesar does not – penalty saving – it is also worth acknowledging that before the 2011-12 season, one where Handanovic saved two penalties more than Cesar, the duo also had an identical record in facing spot-kicks. They both averaged exactly one saved penalty from every three faced.
In short, statistics with goalkeepers can be misleading and pulled in either direction, because rarely are the situations they find themselves in ever an even playing field. The best time to judge Handanovic’s capacity to fill Cesar’s boots will be six months from now, after the 27-year-old has been given a fair run with the Nerazzurri. It is why other, easier-to-compare elements are being brought up for this particular deal.
Indeed, financially the argument is favourable to the club’s actions this summer. The economics are in fact in line with other activity the club has taken and is continuing to take this summer. Handanovic, just under five years Cesar’s junior, arrives on a considerably lighter contract. Where Cesar was collecting €4.5m a season, his Slovenian replacement will be handed just €2m a year, a saving of 60 per cent.
A glance at changes the club are trying to make across the board at wage level are reflective of a similar measure of austerity. Lucio’s contract rescission saved the club €7m in total wages due, Douglas Maicon’s projected sale could cut another €8m from the next two years. Diego Forlan’s seemingly impending severance will also cash in on €3.5m, whilst another anticipated departure would see Giampaolo Pazzini’s €7.5m over the next three years saved. From the annual wage bill, the club are anticipating a cut of €18m a year, including if goalkeeper Cesar left.
If you take into account Fredy Guarin’s €2.1m annual packet, Rodrigo Palacio’s €2.5m a year, Matias Silvestre’s low €1.4m and Handanovic’s additions to that same wage bill, then technical director Marco Branca is anticipating a drop of €10m a year not including additional costs of tax, which would amount to a real saving of just over 15 per cent from the club’s total, annual salary cost.
Whilst the €34m spend this summer – including just the initial €2m payment for Silvestre – looks like it might eat into those wage-bill savings with minimal return anticipated from cutting loose some of the high earners, it is also worth noting that Silvestre, Palacio – even at 30 – and Handanovic are all younger than the player they are seen to be directly replacing. Guarin, too, is three years younger than January departure Thiago Motta.
Whether or not Cesar deserves to be shown the door at San Siro this summer remains debatable on sporting merit, but impossible to determine until after the decision has been made. However, that the debate over his expense at Inter was had a year ago when Emiliano Viviano was briefly on their books, perhaps indicates that this is one move that was never about anything more than money.