Even at 34 years of age, Diego Godin has a lot to offer. When Cagliari confirmed they were in negotiations for the Uruguayan, there were no protests at Inter’s training ground. It has been generally accepted that, at his age and with his excessive salary, the natural thing to do it so let him move on, yet there is a nagging doubt that Inter should either kept him for one more year, or at least try to renegotiate his contract. He was an important feature in the latter half of the season and perhaps his influence was underrated.
The central defender only signed for the Nerazzurri last summer, on a free from Atletico Madrid. He was at the very least here to bolster an already solid back line and to pass on his wealth of experience to some of the younger players in the squad. This is a man who Gerard Pique described as ‘The centre-half of a generation’, and there was no doubt he could still play.
Promising to bring a Uruguayan spirit to the dressing room, Inter were certainly grittier this year and did not know when they were beaten. Godin made 23 Serie A appearances, five in the Champions League, six in the Europa League, and hardly put a foot wrong. In fact, towards the end of the campaign when experience was needed, Conte turned to him over the highly-rated Milan Skriniar. Stefan de Vrij was the player of the season and grew in confidence alongside him, while Alessandro Bastoni certainly developed a lot this season, and one has to believe, he took notes from Godin.
This influence that he has is not an assumption. Oscar Tabarez has spoken about the defender’s mental strength, saying he ‘represents the best of Uruguay,’ while Diego Forlan also called him a born leader. There are endless professionals who have nothing but admiration for what seems to be a humble and professional man, who takes great pride in the Uruguayan ‘garra charrua’ attitude.
One man who will not be looking forward to reuniting with him in Serie A is Luis Suarez. Whilst they were both in Spain, he of Diego: “Nothing thrills me less than playing Atletico. They're so annoying and Godin is a nuisance; he's always there next to me, he never leaves me alone.”
So why is he leaving? Firstly, his wages of approximately €5.5m are significant and Inter are desperately trying to offload players to fund Antonio Conte’s targets. Secondly, they are looking to other, younger centre-backs to replace Godin, but this is where there is some confusion.
Conte has publicly stated that it is now or never for the Scudetto at Inter. He has shunned purchasing the players like Sandro Tonali in order to bring in winners, fighters and characters. This includes Arturo Vidal and Aleksandar Kolarov, 33 and 34 respectively. They will not have arrived on small wages either. That begs the question, why lose a man who performed well in the back line last term and knows the club now?
You do not have to like Conte’s strategy of bringing a bunch of hard working, experienced old professionals to Milan, but at least you can understand that he thinks that this bunch can help the talented, younger players topple Juventus, in turn making Andrea Pirlo uncool for the first time in his life. If that is the plan, so be it, but the departure of Godin seems strange because he can still offer so much.
Cagliari will certainly benefit from the move if it is completed, as they will be getting a leader on the pitch. The Nerazzurri will no doubt replace him, Marash Kumbulla seems to be the man in question and perhaps it works out all the same. Whether he stays or goes, Inter are a better club for having had him, even if it was for only a year.
For Godin himself, Sardinia could be the perfect place for him next. He once said, nothing is better than a small, modest team built on hard work and Cagliari are certainly that. He will however, need all the ‘garra charrua’ spirit can muster in this campaign.