Antonio Conte and Beppe Marotta were united, they were clear and what is more they delivered a message. Hard work and discipline were the most important values in this new regime, winning comes second. For the likes of Mauro Icardi and Radja Nainggolan, there was no mincing of words, they were, in no uncertain terms, up for sale. This hard-line approach may seem radical, and it is, especially for Inter. There are reasons behind it, but is it a decision that could come back to haunt them?
Conte said he completely backed a decision already made by the club that both players should move on. In what at times seemed like a kangaroo court, the narrative before and after the question on these players seemed to be focused on building up to it and explaining it away. The references to Samuel Eto’o and his ability to sacrifice himself for the team in the past with implications Ivan Perisic should follow suit, these characteristics are wanted by the ‘New Inter’, there is no place for men who are self-serving here.
Self-serving is certainly an accusation that can be thrown at both Icardi and Nainggolan. One, as the whole of Europe knows, has negotiated his contract through the means of Instagram (you can’t see Conte replying on Insta-stories, can you?) whilst Nainggolan has been unprofessional when it has come to his lifestyle choices and his application. Therefore, it’s simple isn’t it? Sell them both and reinvest? Perhaps, but maybe it’s not that straightforward.
Both players offer up a different conundrum. With Nainggolan it is perhaps simpler. The Belgian has not made an impact since arriving from Roma. The deal that saw Inter hand over £33m, paying £21m and including defender Davide Santon and midfielder Nicolò Zaniolo, has gone down in history as a terrible move. The midfielder, who didn’t want to leave Roma, now has to be farmed back out to potential suitors. With his professionalism being questioned due to his antics, who will spend £30m on a 31-year old who has had a poor season? It is true that Inter could use him as a transfer makeweight, but ultimately, they will make a loss on a player who won’t be to too hard to replace.
As for Mauro, what do you do about Mauro? Inter have made up their mind that he is out and the fanbase seem to agree. Why shouldn’t they? Last season was a car-crash. Bad PR, poor negotiations and a lack of respect for the club and the captaincy have seen him now reaping just what he and his agent/wife have sown. The problem here however, is where does he go and how much for? With reports that Manchester United are not interested in him, that leaves Juventus, Napoli and Atletico Madrid.
Despite what Inter think of him, his goal scoring record was phenomenal. The 26-year-old has scored 111 times in 188 games for the Nerazzurri and still has many years left in him. With Conte and Marotta talking of bridging the gap to Juventus and Napoli, it seems utter madness that they would listen to anyone who wants to negotiate with them. Napoli for one would be monumentally strengthened by his arrival, to the point where you could argue that Carlo Ancelotti could potentially challenge Juventus next term with that sort of firepower.
With the length of time left on his contract, could Inter replace those goals with the reported £60m fee they would get? It is a dilemma, as whilst all the arguments that he is bad for the dressing room may well be correct, one cannot argue that he has been invaluable for Inter in recent seasons and those goals will be hard to replace. Selling him to a direct rival seems suicidal. If he has to go, then surely it would be preferable for him to be pushed towards Spain?
Inter have made their choices and there is certainly logic behind them. Should they be able to move both players out quickly, then this will help with deals for Nicolò Barella and Romelu Lukaku. If Icardi can be pushed towards Spain, despite his desire to stay in Italy, then they will have succeeded in their task, but the warning signs are that this is less probable. Should Icardi end up running out in Naples or Turin next term, then Inter’s hardline approach may just have seen the opposition move even further on.