Much of the Nerazzurri faithful must feel like it’s Groundhog Day. As they gesticulate over the Gazzetta Dello Sport whilst having their morning espressos in many of Milan’s Piazzas, it could have been any day from the last month. Why? This is because the headlines are the same: Romelu Lukaku is on his way, Edin Dzeko’s transfer fee can’t be agreed, Mauro Icardi is still here. Whilst these are the stories that are grabbing the headlines, there is another one not getting the attention it deserves. Stefano Sensi has been lighting up pre-season and improving Inter.
In a world where Harry Maguire is worth more than most Serie B teams, one would be forgiven if you missed the Sassuolo midfielder’s arrival at Inter. The 23-year-old signed on a year-long loan with a clause that can see his new club make the deal permanent if they want. It was a deal that was already seen as shrewd, but now looks like an absolute steal.
On his arrival there was a hint of his character in the club statement, as it claimed he has spent all his life around football and left home at 13 for the Rimini youth academy. They go on to say that it would have been tough leaving home at this age, but it is to this that he attributes his perseverance and determination. All character traits wanted by Antonio Conte.
Conte had claimed he wanted to take the ‘Pazza’ out of Inter and create a winning mentality. Whilst pre-season can tell you little, what it has shown is that Inter look fitter than normal and they have an added determination. They also look more creative, and whilst these things are not all attributed to Sensi, he has had a major part to play.
The former Sassuolo midfielder has shown that he is a team player, he has worked tirelessly in all of the games he has featured, he has shown vision, intelligence and scored goals, provided perilous set play routines, he has simply been the ‘maestro’.
Playing in Conte’s 3-5-2 he has played well alongside Marcelo Brozovic and Roberto Gagliardini, grabbing a goal against Lugano. He played well against PSG and scored the equaliser against Tottenham, has been arguably the best player in this time and is relishing his new environment. The Inter Coach has certainly had a profound effect on him, as Sensi recently said that he had bought into Conte’s philosophy of hard work and respect.
Sensi will offer much for his new team. He can play in offensive, central or defensive roles and he will complement the ability of Nicolò Barella. Hopefully, this partnership can also thrive for Italy. His range of passing is certainly his biggest asset, as it will eventually give Inter’s midfield variation.
He calls Xavi a huge influence, but whilst comparisons to the Barcelona hero are extreme, his pre-season performances have certainly seen him raise his performance levels. He has demonstrated his tactical intelligence and ability to manipulate space, making sense of why Conte is looking for a target man to play alongside Lautaro Martinez.
The Nerazzurri are taking shape, the goalkeeper and the defence is now in place, as are the wing-backs. Sensi and Barella’s arrivals have now completed Conte’s midfield and will add creativity, stability and make them hard to beat. Marcelo Brozovic has also started to drop deeper, allowing Sensi to take up a more offensive and creative position. They are interchangeable, a valuable trait to have both when playing together and in case one needs to rest.
The new season is on the horizon and Inter look in good shape. Yes, they have to sort out the forward line, but this will come. The signing of Sensi was the sensible move. He provides the example of the new look Inter, professional, technically able, motivated and yet not a super star tag attached. This is the image of Inter that Conte is looking for and so far, Sensi is the shining light of this new era.