Saturday February 1 2014
No country for young men

Inter’s transfer strategy risks adding Mateo Kovacic to the list of promising young players they failed, warns Jeremy Lim.

Inter can look back with satisfaction on their business in the transfer market. Only time can tell whether Hernanes and Danilo D’Ambrosio make their mark as intended, but the January reinforcements already lend testimony to the club’s ambitions. Though the fracas surrounding Fredy Guarin’s status as a Nerazzurri player leaves a black mark, Inter can now get down to focusing fully on finishing the campaign with a place in Europe.

It is a journey that looks increasingly likely to estrange the young and fledging players within their ranks, however. Semi-significant summer buy Ishak Belfodil departed for Livorno without a proper sniff at Walter Mazzarri’s first-team. Fellow Amaranto-loanee Ibrahima Mbaye, a champion in the NextGen Series with Inter’s Primavera, was nearly sacrificed in the deal bringing Hernanes to Milan. “Why are Inter not betting on Mbaye?” his agent blasted. “The Nerazzurri risk burning down much of the value of their youth academy. Erick Thohir arrived with different promises, but evidently they cannot be realised under the current Coach.”

The patron had vowed to refurbish the ailing outfit through a youth-centric focus, but the shortcomings of an inherited management that once released a budding Mario Balotelli have undermined plans. Meanwhile, there are growing factions that believe Mazzarri can make more enterprising use of his younger talent, even if Juan Jesus and Saphir Taider have earned regular minutes this term.

Mateo Kovacic’s lack of opportunity to nail down a starring role in the starting XI is the epitome of the crowd’s frustration. The 19-year-old moved to Appiano Gentile one year ago, where his reputation bloomed out of virtual obscurity under former boss Andrea Stramaccioni. Mature performances beyond his age, playing in front of the defence where he displayed an innate understanding of the tactics required, quickly earned him rave reviews.

Comparisons with compatriot Zvonimir Boban inevitably followed. Pre-season saw the Inter faithful enthuse about watching the starlet impact their campaign in his first full season as protagonist. Then things rapidly changed. An early injury and incoming Coach Mazzarri’s tinkering to revamp the prodigious playmaker’s position took their toll. “I think he can really make the difference in the final third,” the trainer said in September. “In the future I think he could play his best football in the hole or out wide in a front three.”

But Ricky Alvarez’s emergence there soon curtailed Mazzarri’s vision and restricted Kovacic to mere cameos from the bench, often while shunted deeper in midfield. Confusion over his role saw the teenager fall into the divide between function and flair, never able to rediscover the consistency from his early months that was once the hallmark of a star in the making.

Hernanes’ arrival as the regarded imagination of the team compounds Kovacic’s struggles. The ex-Lazio player joins at a time when his counterpart has fallen behind the inept Zdravko Kuzmanovic, a new low. Given the further acquisition of Ruben Botta coupled with failure to offload Guarin, space is fast running out for Kovacic to secure a decent shot at affecting Inter’s season in its closing months.

The Croatian’s circumstances are typical of this Inter administration's overall propensity for quick and easy fixes. Even desperate attempts to mine consolation from the club’s negligent regard for talent development would come up blank. It is a vicious cycle of not seeing promising youngsters given the right treatment, some of them with world-class potential, that Inter fans have reluctantly grown accustomed to. A greater rot could set in should Mbaye, Alfred Duncan, Joel Obi, Daniel Bessa or Samuele Longo be pushed out of the exit door next behind Philippe Coutinho and Davide Santon.

If Thohir truly intends to forge a sustainable future from the club’s nurseries, hence keeping in line with Uefa’s Financial Fair Play guidelines, then the plights of Kovacic and co. should shed ample light on what is yet to be addressed. Nurturing the young but talented individuals residing on Inter’s books will see them grow into key cornerstones of the Indonesian’s reign, not painful memories of what might have been.

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Have your say...
@ Dennis I'll wait for the milan blog to do my rant

@ victor money is not an excuse for this incompetence. Milan have changed 22 players since last summer. It's beyond ridiculous.

@ inter fans your club makes me feel better about being a milan fan!

@ anonymous santon had so much potential. He was playing for Italy when he was 18. Then inter did their usual thing. I'd welcome him to milan. After all we've got emanuelson at left back
on the 2nd February, 2014 at 2:08am
Inters policy is to sign all the young talent they can then loan them to increase their value & use them as pawns on the market. A policy that allows them to sign big players. The diamonds (Bardi, Juan, Kovacic, Taider, Icardi) will be kept to join a the squad of champions being built. You cant keep them all, as for Italian? Pfft since when has Inter been Italian or accepted by Italy as their own? INTERAZIONALE brothers of the World! Forza Inter
on the 2nd February, 2014 at 1:37am
HaHa look at the all the anti-Inter fans coming here to vent their envy, Inter sign a World Class player & you all start picking at 'issues' dont worry Kovacic is going nowhere unless we get paid ridiculous money that will buy us a quality team of champions. Hernanes & Kovacic together...WOW! @ Maldini's Hair, Balo...was he not banned again for your home draw? He is worse now then 4 years ago. Forza Inter
on the 2nd February, 2014 at 1:33am
Please we want Jose Mourinho back.
on the 1st February, 2014 at 10:56pm
@Viktor yep u r right they do not have the money but the little they have they seem to waste on garbage. Ever Banega has gone on loan to Newell's old boys while Milan is getting Essien.His official age might be 31 but I am not its his true age with the amount of time he takes to recover from injuries. Why couldnt Milan ask Ancelotti for Casemiro on loan? Lazio were after Anelka to pair up with Klose. You could not make that up. Whats d obsession with oldies in Italy? Scared to take a chance
on the 1st February, 2014 at 10:37pm

FYI brining in "gems" totally unknown from South America could be seen as a potential risk. You know your only allowed to have a certain non-eu players right?
on the 1st February, 2014 at 10:02pm
... our midfield actually is one of the better if you ask me.

The big problem is our defense, our midfield is just ask good as 3 years ago if not even better.
on the 1st February, 2014 at 10:00pm
All the people saying Kova isn't doing well this season is obviously down to the terrible anti football tactics WM uses. And our board is the biggest joke, Branca selling talent and buying rubbish, Fassone who is an obvious Juve fan not to get me started on Thohir who has absolutely no idea on how to be a president of a serie a club. Vision: to integrate young players into the team due to the FFP regulations. Reality: spending large amounts of money on older players.
on the 1st February, 2014 at 8:32pm
Mazzarri has his Maggio in D Ambrosio, his Hamsik in Hernanes and Kovacic has appeared in 20 games even if he was substituted on. I assume we will see more 3421 where both Hernanes and Kovacic could play behind the strikers or in central midfield. When on Napoli Mazzarri often played Hamsik as a right attacking midfielder opposite of the decoy Lavezzi seperated by the Matador Cavani. Alvarez and Kovacic will have to fight for a starting positions, and that is completely normal.
on the 1st February, 2014 at 8:21pm

Why am I even here? Because I've even frequently on football italia for the last 8 years. Essien was a great midfielder and could rediscover he's form as many players do that. He's 31 and could still be useful. Italian clubs DO NOT have the financial capacity to compete with globetrotter clubs suchs as psg, chelsea, city, barca, real and bayern when it comes to transfers. This is not something new and frankly the bitter truth. Not sure why you brought up Baresi, Essien play Baresi doesn
on the 1st February, 2014 at 7:27pm
Coming back to your default Milan have no money crap. Plenty of players with more to give than Essien and Taarabt like Ferghouli, Banega at Valencia;if newcastle can unearth Cabaye why is a club like Milan struggling in the transfer market.To be fair it is not just Milan, Fiorentina getting Diakite is just crap. There are gems at Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and serie B. But they keep going for has-beens. Essien, Muntari n De Jong how frightening a midfield for a Milan fan to bear
on the 1st February, 2014 at 7:00pm
@Viktor why do you keep showing yourself up on here? Essien is a great player? What year are you referring to? Baresi is great but you would not want him in your team now or would you? Btw Essien was never great, he was a very good and powerful midfielder but he is now average. Also I was addressing Italian clubs in general not just Milan. What exactly is surprising with Inter's transfer policy, it has been like this since the 80s and beyond. This is a club that preferred Guiseppe to Franco
on the 1st February, 2014 at 6:53pm
Kovacic will continue to receive the same type of minutes he's been getting off the bench only with the rare start. As long as inter continue to play cambiasso theres always going to be another defense type to play along side him. This is the problem. Juan Jesus has solidified his spot taider should start slotting in next to cambiasso the other youth not being given a chance is icardi
on the 1st February, 2014 at 6:28pm
I am losing a lot of respect for Mazzari's idea of football. He can see Kovacic playing out wide in a front 3? Seriously? What a disgusting thing to say.

He's been used up the field all season long and he's quite clearly better when playing a little deeper. Whether he's playing as deep as Verratti or just in front of that, it is deep where he belongs. But to use him in a front 3, or any wide capacity...that's ridiculous.
on the 1st February, 2014 at 5:37pm
I agree with most of the feedback blog's on Mazzari not being a fan of youth football. Here is a coach who has "ample" young talent on the bench and what do they do, give them to lower level squads to reinforce WOW!. Befodil,Mbaye,And don't get me started on Coutinho that was sad to name a few. From the start Mazzari was not the coach for this team.They must offload Cambia/Milit,to get some money and Thohir must fire the "ADMINISTRATION".Revamp from top to down. And save Kovacic he's talented
on the 1st February, 2014 at 5:30pm
@dennis Wrong forum. This is about inter not Milan. FYI, essien is a great player he's been unfortunate with injuries. If he reaches 50% of he's old average we did a great signing. I'm guessing you're hoping for a neymar signing or something, that only happen in city,psg,chelsea etc. it's a new world deal with it
on the 1st February, 2014 at 4:43pm
As an Inter fan, I could not agree more with this article! The club's transfer strategy is a joke and has been for as long as I can remember.

If Erick Thohir is serious about complying with FFP regulations and giving our young players opportunities, he needs to remove anyone who refuses to buy into this strategy. This includes Branca and Mazzarri.

Perhaps the club should seek to lure ex-Southampton chief executive Nicola Cortese? They have done a good job in developing their young players...
on the 1st February, 2014 at 3:17pm
This could have been expected when Mazzari was hired. He has even said that he prefers not to use young players.
on the 1st February, 2014 at 2:16pm
Milan used to have an identity but Galliani is now a waste of space.The players he keeps bringing are just an insult to what Milan used to be. No idea why he is still there as surely it cannot be for gratitude of his past deeds. How can you sign a player from a championship side and if you are gonna do that then surely Julio Cesar is a better option than Taarabt. Still not sure what Juve want with Osvaldo as Llorente has been great of late and they always score goals. Roma need a striker not mfs
on the 1st February, 2014 at 2:03pm
Inter for me are just a victim of their own success their senior players were and still so good that you look to them to get the results, honestly it would taken a absolute fortune to but a new milito or cambiasso. But I have to admit there has been a massive oversight in terms of certain players especially coutinho who was just plain wasted. I don't think it is simple as putting young in the centre of the team but maybe a bit of sacrifice so you don't depends on milito to still win you games.
on the 1st February, 2014 at 2:02pm
there will be space for kovacic to shine now that cambiasso is hurt. right back to pulling the strings infront of the defence where he is comfortable. hernanes will only IMPROVE kovacics' game due to the relief of pressure on mateo and opposing teams focusing on the Brazilian.


campangaro---rolando---juan jesus




on the 1st February, 2014 at 1:54pm
Sadly this is what Inter is about and has always been. No identity on how they play so winning is all that matters so talent is discarded in favor of efficient mature players for which Mazzari is an expert. They guy at Napoli used only 3 talented players with the rest made up of hard workers to play his counter attack rubbish. Mourinho is the king of this type of football that has no identity. On another note surely there is a 10 year old Italian defender in Florence better than Diakite
on the 1st February, 2014 at 1:54pm
there will be space for kovacic to shine now that cambiasso is hurt. right back to pulling the strings infront of the defence where he is comfortable. hernanes will only IMPROVE kovacics' game due to the relief of pressure on mateo and opposing teams focusing on the Brazilian.


campangaro---rolando---juan jesus




on the 1st February, 2014 at 1:54pm
@Maldini's heir. I hope Santon will play for Milan because he will weaken them. Let me repeat..He plays for Newcastle. If he was any good he would have been bought by one of the big 6 in England. And as for Mario, as a Milan fan you should know by now why he was sold by Inter, not lack of talent but his attitude. Of course if he was still with Inter he wouldn't be scoring as many penalties. Inter only get an average of one per season.
on the 1st February, 2014 at 1:43pm
@tiger, what do you think Sneijder was? he wasn't a brain in midfield? You think every team should have a player that plays like Pirlo? That's an idiotic way of thinking.
on the 1st February, 2014 at 1:41pm
@ Tiger, Never had a brain in midfield...Wesley?
on the 1st February, 2014 at 1:39pm
Its no secret Mazzarri never liked young players and rarely gives them chances, when he gives them 5 minutes to play and they don't impress he is quick to criticize them and say "this is why I don't play youngsters". Mazzarri is definitely the wrong choice if the plan is to focus on youth. Even our academy is starting to go down in quality.

To the dude that said Inter has never offered much to the NT, how long have you been watching football? 5 years?
on the 1st February, 2014 at 1:37pm
@Anonymous: yeah right, by the way.. thank you for Bonucci! Your team just did not know how to utilize its talents. Rannochia was considered much more talented than bonucci, but look what he becomes now. You are just as clueless as your pathetic management.
on the 1st February, 2014 at 1:10pm
Kovacic will never succeed under Mazzarri's dire, defensive, terrible style of football. Inter are a team that plays on the counter and rarely break teams down through patient possession football.

In terms of technical ability Kovacic is Inter's best footballer (and im including new signing in that)

For the good of his career he should try and escape in the summer, believe me there will be dozens of top European clubs who have a proper transfer policy queuing to take his immense talent.
on the 1st February, 2014 at 1:03pm
I believe inter has a variety of problems starting from Branca (of which I personally think he should have been kicked out long time ago).
1-hard time to depict good talent
2-not giving youngsters a chance,they give up on them too quickly ex(Pirlo, Seedorf,Balotelli and list goes on)
3-it"s been years that I have been saying their major problem is defence and they keep on acquiring midfielders and forwards
4-they never had in the past 20 years or so a (regista) a brain in midfield
hope Hernanes
on the 1st February, 2014 at 12:43pm

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