It’s hard to be an Inter fan these days. The Nerazzurri spent a colossus amount of money in the last few seasons, but yet they somehow keep failing in reaching the knockout stage of the Champions League.
Antonio Conte is the main villain in the eyes of the tifosi, as his tactical stubbornness and late substitutions have proven to be extremely ineffective on Europe’s biggest stage.
However, Conte’s on-field decisions are not the only problem for his side this term, as his insistence on bringing in older, more experienced players at the expense of younger ones has so far backfired badly.
The arrivals of Ashley Young and Alexis Sanchez can be considered to be successful ones, but are the ex-Manchester United duo the difference makers they once were?
Another high-profile veteran, Diego Godin flopped badly and was sold after just one year, while a few eyebrows were raised when Inter gave up on Sandro Tonali and went for Arturo Vidal instead last summer.
Also let’s not forget the signing of 35-year-old Aleksandar Kolarov from Roma, who is yet to make a notable contribution to the team.
At this stage it’s safe to say that, a few exceptions aside, the high-profile veterans, who joined Inter in recent years, are failing to meet the expectations and the club should notice that.
By looking at the likes of Lautaro Martinez, Alessandro Bastoni, Achraf Hakimi and Nicolo Barella, one should wonder why the Nerazzurri stick to this approach. Wouldn’t it be wiser to go for younger and hungrier players instead of old ones who have clearly been past their prime?
The January transfer window can rarely be a game changer when it comes to fixing major squad issues, but it could be an opportunity for a fresh start for Inter.
According to reports, Fluminense starlet Marcos Paulo is close to joining the Nerazzurri, as he is refusing to sign a contract extension with his boyhood club. This means that Inter can bring the 19-years-old striker on the cheap next month or wait until the summer and get him for free.
Considering that Conte’s team will undoubtedly go for the Scudetto, it’s hard to imagine the Portuguese teenager making a difference in Serie A straight away. However, a transfer like this can be the first step of rejuvenating this Inter team, not to mention that Marcos Paulo could at least prove to be an option from the bench for, as obviously Andrea Pinamonti is not deemed fit by Conte even for this.
The two games against Shakhtar Donetsk showed that Inter could use a speedy dribbler up-front and while he is probably not on Champions League level yet, Marcos Paulo could potentially be exactly that.
“If he played for Inter, he would be perfect to support Lukaku. In my opinion it is a mix, with due proportions, of a hypothetical combination of skill between Paulo Dybala and Rivaldo.” This is how Frederico Pena, the agent of the Fluminense talent describes the qualities of his client and while his statement sounds a bit more ambitious than it should, Marcos Paulo’s talent can hardly be doubted.
The teenger has managed three goals and four assists across 30 appearances for Fluminense this term and while those numbers are not that impressive, they can’t fully reveal his qualities.
Paulo is a very unselfish player, who bursts with energy and is very intelligent with his movement on the field. The 19-year-old does a lot of the dirty work for Fluminense up front, as he averages 3.3 ball recoveries in the opposition half, as well as 3 interceptions, while he wins as many aerial duels per game.
However, don’t think that the Brazilian starlet with Portuguese passport is the typical hard-worker with limited technical abilities, as this is far from true.
Marcos Paulo also averages 3.5 successful dribbles per game and although he is right-footed, he is also very capable with his left. This allows him to drift out wide and open up spaces for Nene, who is one of Fluminense’s main strikers and the usual partner of Paulo up front.
The last thing we want is to overhype the teenager, as obviously lack of experience, not to mention moving to a different continent and playing for a top club often proves to be too much even for the brightest of talents.
Obviously, there are many areas in which Conte and Inter need to improve, but bringing in more young players, whose quality and value are likely to increase, sounds like a good start.
Whether or not Marcos Paulo will end up at Inter remains to be seen, but surely bringing in a highly rated teenager for nearly nothing, isn’t that big of a risk.
What should be clear at this point is that both Inter and Conte need to be more agile in their ideas, if they want to match their ambition with their on-field displays.