Beppe Marotta has now certainly got his Armani slip-on shoes well under his new desk in Milan and, according to the latest reports, he has a plan to focus on a mixture of youth and high-profile signings. The strategy will take Inter on to the next step and could also elevate them to Europe’s elite.
Of course, it’s one thing to embrace young talent in general and another to focus on the players coming through from their own academy. This is important, as whilst the Nerazzurri have never been afraid to ‘splash the lire’ or now the Euros, they have struggled to make the best of their excellent academy.
Back in 2017, there was a chance that Inter were going to look at their own Primavera for inspiration after they won the youth title. Luciano Spalletti certainly used words to that effect when he claimed that it was the first team who needed to look at them for a change and take pride in the youth team’s success. This side included Ionut Radu, Zinho Vanheusden, Ryan Nolan, Senna Miangue, Federico Valietti, Xian Emmers, Andrea Pinamonti amongst others who all showed promise.
Some like Emmers, have gone down the leagues to get game time (Cremonese), with players such as Radu (Genoa) and Pinamonti (Frosinone) performing well on loan in Serie A. Many like Ryan Nolan are still plying their trade with the reserves, whilst Miangue is now with Standard Liege and has moved on (on loan after being sold to Cagliari).
If Inter can mix the best of this bunch and the ones that follow with more expensive youthful players, then the plan may start to look more long-term. For many months now, the Italian media has been reporting that Nicolò Barella could be the Nerazzurri’s next big signing and arguably this could be a wiser investment that the now 33-year-old Luka Modric. Barella may cost up to €50m and is also wanted by Chelsea, but Modric would not be cheap either, with his wages included.
There is room for more ‘mature’ players or ‘gentlemen of experience’, should we say. That was a mix Marotta got right at Juventus and all the youthful talent that they brought in had the older hands such as Gigi Buffon to look up to. These were still players of quality however, some of the best in their trade, and the jury would still be out as to whether the likes of Antonio Candreva and Andrea Ranocchia could provide this guidance. Admittedly, Ivan Perisic and Joao Miranda would go a little further to helping this argument, but age is not the only qualifier for being an elder statesman.
Inter have for many years promised to bring through youth and have failed. After 2010, when Marco Branca decided that the Treble winners represented the start of an era and not the end, an entire youth team filled with promise was overlooked as the likes of Ivan Cordoba, Cristian Chivu and others simply got slower and more exposed. There were of course players like Diego Milito, Javier Zanetti and Julio Cesar, just to name a few, who could have helped a generation through, but instead the NextGen winners coached by Andrea Stramaccioni, were cast aside and eventually dispersed, many making good careers in Europe’s top divisions.
Marotta’s involvement in this plan does offer a key element of difference from the past. Inter have often thrown random players like Assane Gnoukouri into the Derby Della Madonnina for example and let them sink or swim. With the template already showing that it was a component (as were free transfers for example) of Juventus’s success, then Inter just may start to look like they have an identity and what’s more, a plan.