Samir Handanovic is currently in his 14th Serie A season and, after many years of defensive mishaps and midfield mistakes, he looks to be part of a team that’s worthy of his talent.
In 2012, Handanovic moved to the Nerazzurri from Udinese for a reported fee of €11m. However, the Inter he joined looked a lot different from the one he’s playing in right now. He was more used to seeing the shirts in front of him read ‘Ranocchia’ and ‘Silvestre’ than ‘Miranda’ and ‘Skriniar’. Javier Zanetti was also on his last legs and Yuto Nagatomo didn’t seem to know how to actually defend.
In his debut season, Inter and Handanovic conceded an eye-watering 57 goals, the joint second worst in the league. The only club to concede more was Pescara with 84. However, Handanovic did take home ‘Serie A goalkeeper of the season’ in 2013, perhaps earning some sympathy points from voters.
Whilst Handanovic’s form has fluctuated throughout the years, as is natural for most goalkeepers, you couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt for some of the defences he’s played behind. At times, it seemed as though he was having to do all the defensive organisation himself, like a teacher trying to corral a chaotic classroom.
His spectacular acrobatic displays in goal always catch the eye, especially an inexplicable reaction save against Atalanta last term. Goalkeepers are hard to analyse as it is, but when a defence in front of you is allowing strikers to get into good scoring positions so regularly, it’s hard to look good. Somehow though, he’s still managed to look calm and collected, which in the last decade at Inter has been a true rarity.
It’s astounding that Handanovic has for over a decade been one of the most consistently excellent goalkeepers in Europe, yet has never played in the Champions League. His loyalty to Inter might finally be rewarded this season with a side worthy of him.
Spalletti’s men have conceded a mere 10 goals in 16 games. The shot-stopper has been a big part of this, but you also have to give credit to Spalletti for revamping the sixth-best defence into a top unit. He also worked on improving the players that had been letting down Inter and Handanovic in recent years, such as Davide Santon and Danilo D’Ambrosio.
So, what’s the limit on Handanovic’s legacy? He’s 33 years old, he’s never kept the net for an elite or even top defence, but he’s evidently been a terrific goalkeeper. It’s a hard case to pin down. So far Handanovic has been selected for Serie A Team of The Year twice and has two Goalkeeper of The Year awards.
For hypothetical reasons, let’s imagine he makes another appearance in TOTY and picks up GOTY (more than possible). Then let’s say Inter have the best defensive record in Serie A for the next two years. This is where Handanovic’s resume begins to build up to where we talk about him as one of the great Serie A goalkeepers of all-time.
Unless he finds the fountain of youth or Inter go on a run of Scudetti, Handanovic will never hit the legacies of Gigi Buffon or Angelo Peruzzi. However, the Nerazzurri man can certainly have a legacy that matches with Nelson Dida and Francesco Toldo, most likely better if his career goes as projected above.
Considering he’s spent most of his Inter career hoping that those in front of him don’t mess up, it’s refreshing to see Handanovic be part of a resolute defence. Italy has a funny way of extending the careers of players, so even at 33 it’s feasible that Handanovic spends another few seasons as a top goalkeeper, manned by a top defence. He’s finally getting what he deserves.