Thursday April 4 2019
A tale of two Interisti

Football Italia’s Chief Correspondent Richard Hall reviews the return of Mauro Icardi during Inter’s 4-0 win at Genoa but begs you not to forget about a certain Roberto Gagliardini…

Irrespective of the result, it seemed there would only ever be one headline after this game. The long, protracted and messy nature of what will surely be one of Inter’s lowest points in recent memory was now over. Their Argentine forward was back. He would start and, some way or somehow, the Italian media would be reporting about the man who sells papers. The Nerazzurri finished the game with such a story, but there was another. A man quite the opposite to the South American hitman, this was the tale of the ever-improving Roberto Gagliardini. 

Icardi hadn’t played against Lazio and, if anyone didn’t know why, Luciano Spalletti quite unprofessionally let everybody know in the interviews after the 1-0 defeat. At this point it looked like there was no going back, but before Wednesday’s match against Genoa there was another twist to the tale. Beppe Marotta had intervened and quite simply taken the lead role, making sure the club were working towards the same end goal. “From a professional point of view, I think Icardi looked good. Now the time has come to put everything behind us and look to the future with optimism. We have to be a team and win, without creating a culture of excuses. This is the message that we want to give,” affirmed the general manager.

Icardi’s inclusion had an impact, even by him being on the pitch. The Genoese defence were tight to him, doubling up at times, and ultimately looked scared of him. This enabled the likes of Matteo Politano and Radja Nainggolan to operate in more space and they both looked in superlative form, offering Inter a tempo and creativity rarely seen this season. It was this movement by Icardi and the Genoa defence’s insistence in getting numbers around him that led to Gagliardini opening the scoring and then even rounding it off (four of his seven goals for the club have come against the Grifone). This was the midfielder’s fourth and fifth of the season, in only his 11th Serie A start. He may not get the praise that Ivan Perisic or Nainggolan do, but perhaps he should.

Gagliardini arrived at Inter in January 2017, the Beneamata agreeing an initial €2m for his loan until June 2018 and a €23m obligation to buy, with an additional €3m in bonuses. At the time he was 22 years of age, a product of the famous Atalanta youth academy, and he had been courted by Juventus amongst others. When he joined up with Stefano Pioli’s squad, he had an immediate impact as he gave the Milanese club a balance they had lacked in midfield. He showed he had the fitness and intelligence, and he was particularly superb at starting moves off from a deep position, often building attacks. His box-to-box mentality also saw him work well with Joao Mario and he looked like the missing link.

Admittedly, he was less effective in his second season. Almost asked to play the anchor role by Spalletti so that Matias Vecino could roam, he lost his ability to be the metronome. There were no goals across his 32 appearances and he soon became Inter’s forgotten man, despite staying a firm fan favourite. This season, his haul of 15 games has seen him play more in his natural position. Even when deep he has the license to get forward, culminating in five goals. What he is offering the team now is a link in midfield, which sets him apart from other players in the squad.

Gagliardini’s performance against Genoa was intelligent, effective and composed. Hopefully for Inter’s sake, Spalletti has realised that he has an asset which they have perhaps underused this term. He certainly hasn’t complained or made any scenes, neither has he taken to social media about his lack of game time. He has simply worked hard and, when given the chance, played well for his club.

The fact that Icardi scored his penalty, crashed the post and, more importantly, threaded a pass through the eye of a needle for Perisic to score will of course mean that he gets the headlines. The 4-0 win at Genoa was emphatic and there were many standout players, but Gagliardini was arguably the best of them all, not just for his brace but also his constant work rate, faultless passing and will to win. The prodigal son may have returned, but don’t forget about Roberto.

Have your say...
with Gagliardini 15 games : 12 wins 2 draws 1 loss
without him 15 games: 5 wins 3 draws 7 losses

therefore, #SpallettiOut !
on the 6th April, 2019 at 10:17am
There's merit to Gasperini's word where he said Gagliardini is similar to Pogba... I hope he can get consistent games, maybe not under Spalletti
on the 6th April, 2019 at 8:53am
@Balo Sorry mate i stand by what i said this is the perfect place to start addressing the problem! These racist chants didn’t happen in a political forum they happened on a football field and they happen every weekend! These things have no place on a football field and yet we have to endure them, even though a sports field shouldn’t be used for politics and racism we still have to listen to it and yet there are people on here that want to turn a blind eye to it!
on the 5th April, 2019 at 3:32pm
@Al Dino It is political and you can’t hysterically demand a football blog start weighing in on racial issues as the previous comment did. There is an argument to defend Bonucci’s general sentiment but this sort of thing is highly charged and yes political just like the whole Raheem Sterling controversy.
on the 5th April, 2019 at 11:16am
Balo i think you are wrong here! This isn’t about politics its about being human and accepting everyone equally what Bonucci said was wrong but what Cagliari fans did was even worse. This is the perfect place to start changing our racism problem and as a Juve supporter i had hoped for a blog on this issue as well because racism stops here not matter who we support our fellow fans, players clubs owners we all need to stop this from happening again!
on the 5th April, 2019 at 5:20am
@Dami calm down if you want your fix of politics go elsewhere. This is a football site.
on the 4th April, 2019 at 11:00pm
Spalletti is an idiot, stubborn and favors certain players over others much more worthy..
Perisic's out of form for much of the season, despite his goal against Genoa, despite his work rate, he's been bad on the ball, and still Spalletti plays him over Keita no matter what..
Gagliardini has been better than Vecino and Valero, but he's still a back up for those two in Spalletti's head..
Another thing to note, the CURVA NORD does not represent me..#SpallettiOUT
on the 4th April, 2019 at 4:36pm
Again Football Italia posting nothing of Bonucci's disgraceful comments. It is shameful that you are not fully supporting Kean. Juventus is a disgrace that they fully supported Ronaldo after the allegations against him yet Bonucci and Allegri have not sided with Kean after he was RACIALLY ABUSED by the Sardinians.

But, then again, its just another week in Serie A to add to the countless times racism has been a talking point. No wonder most Italians emigrated.
on the 4th April, 2019 at 3:22pm
@Pinturicchio, what you've said is categorically untrue. The man has put in his time and has had to play second fiddle to Spalletti's love of Vecino. Please don't forget that it was essentially him at the end of last season who unlocked the real Brozovic. Given enough game time and continuity I think he can become a real asset for club and country, but this wont happen until Spalletti either opens his eyes or is gone from the club, the latter of which I hope happens.
on the 4th April, 2019 at 2:03pm
Pinturicchio with the cutting edge analysis. Well done sir, cant wait to hear your next blurb on the quality of any and all italian players.
on the 4th April, 2019 at 12:36pm
"Irrespective of" or "regardless of".

"Irrelevant of" is not an expression that exists
on the 4th April, 2019 at 10:52am
Thinking Roberto Gagliardini is worthy of any praise is hilarious - and I'm being kind in my critique.

Touted as a veritable Italian talent from an otherwise sterile Inter FC, he has done nothing of note since his sending off in the loss to Spain U-21 in the U-21 Euro finals a few years back.

Scoring a goal against a self-destructive Genoa side is not his coming of age, rather a blip on an otherwise morbidly average career so far.
on the 4th April, 2019 at 10:16am

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