Inter angling for star in the making Tonali

Separating hype from true potential is not a new phenomenon to the football fan. In the early years of a career, some players hit the ground the running and sustain that performance for decades. Others shine brightly and fade a few years later. Some might never realise their potential at all. For Inter Milan, the 20/21 season beckons ever closer and, as they set their sights on one of those mercurial talents, they will face off with some of their biggest rivals to win his signature, in a deal that could easily cost north of 50 million euros – and he’s only 19 years old.

We’re talking, of course, about Sandro Tonali – the player penned to be the next Pirlo – while barely out of his teenage years.

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The heir to the throne?

Tonali has only been playing in the Italian top flight for a single season – helping Brescia claim victory in the Serie B back in 2018. At 5″11, with a slight build and long, wavy hair, he plays the role of the regista – a deep-lying holding midfielder with strengths in passing and vision – the same as Pirlo, who also started his career at Brescia. With one goal and five assists in 23 games, his value comes largely from the way he can dictate a game’s flow and rhythm, building up attacks from the halfway line.

Much like the legendary Andrea Pirlo, his value lies in the things basic statistics often cannot measure. He provides a strategic intelligence and maturity on the field, citing Gerrard and Modric as some of his own personal, greatest influences.

For Inter Milan, his signing could mean building an attack around him, while he can bring the best out of their considerable talent upfront on Politano, Martinez, and Lukaku. Tonali could rewrite the Nerazzurri and enhance their prospects, particularly within the football betting markets; where praise for both Erikson and Lukaku are tempered by the perception that they are not realising their full potential with Inter. Understandably, Tonali could be the key to the Milan midfield.

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Competition from all sides

Inter Milan’s proposal has been described as a ‘Barella-style’ deal – essentially, a loan with an obligation to buy, along with assorted bonuses linked to metrics like goals and appearances, potentially driving the reported €50 million Brescia are seeking for their young starlet.

According to recent reporting, Inter will be competing with the likes of Juventus, however, they are buoyed up by alleged ‘strong approval’ from Tonali himself. Brescia’s president Massimo Cellino implied that the choice would be up to Tonali in the case that offers were relatively similar in value.

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A long way to go

The likelihood of this transfer saga being over quickly is slim. From a Brescia perspective, driving up the price tag is a priority, however, the wellbeing of Tonali – who many might forget is still very young – and making sure he makes a move which benefits his career should come into the equation.

After all, Italy’s national squad is wanting for a new generation of stars to lift their team out of recent under-performing. With Donnarumma looking to take over from Buffon, Gaetano, Esposito, and Colley among many young Italians maturing into world-class players – Tonali could be the missing puzzle piece to more than just Inter Milan’s domestic ambitions.

Inter are a team on the up so why the Marcos Alonso link?

You may be reading the headline of this article and think to yourself that it is blindingly obvious why Inter are linked with Marcos Alonso. And your reasoning would be totally correct as Antonio Conte initially brought Alonso to Chelsea in the summer of 2016 after the left-back put pen to paper on a deal that saw him leave Fiorentina.

Conte is obviously a big fan of Alonso but interestingly enough so was Maurizio Sarri given that the 29-year-old was handed a five-year contract extension in October 2018 by the current Juventus boss. That deal saw Alonso earn a reported £100,000 a week which is now being cited as the reason for his drop off in form over the last 12 months.

Current Blues manager Frank Lampard has gone on record saying that Alonso needs to improve his performances in training if he wants to make the matchday squad in the future. So here we are, a clear link between Conte and Alonso but with the latter struggling to make an impact at Chelsea with his form being publicly slated. So what does Conte think he can do to turn the situation around and should Inter be looking for younger players without as much baggage?

There’s always an argument for experience and with Inter looking likely to go toe to toe with Juve for the Serie A title, a player with Alonso’s know-how may be the perfect addition to the change room. There is just a thought, however, that Alonso’s defending is being found out more and more these days with opposition manager’s targeting the left side of Chelsea’s defence with their attacks.

Do Inter really want a player prone to the odd defensive blunder being thrown into the cauldron this late on a title fight? At the end of the day, it’s up to Antonio Conte and if he thinks so then that should be enough but there is a growing belief that you roll the dice when it comes to an aging Alonso who is being questioned for his work ethic.

Even if it is only a loan move right now as it’s being reported, you’d imagine that Conte would look to make it permanent in the summer, but a £4.6million annual salary on player that is heading into the twilight of his career makes you question the logic of it all.

By all means, splash out on an experienced left-back, age doesn’t have to be a stumbling block. Just have a look at Jordi Alba, 30-year-old and helpping fire his team to the title, that’s at least what the latest La Liga betting suggests with Barca at a mere 2/5 to make it a hat-trick of league trophies.

Make no mistake, solid left-backs over 30 are out there and with Inter beginning to stir and look like a European giant once more, the club needs to go for the very best. What this whole situation goes to show is that the arrival of Antonio Conte has shaken up the club and has the Inter fans slowly adjusting their mentality as far as transfer targets go.

Inter need period of stability to regain Serie A foothold

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Il biscione e l’fc Internazionale III” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by batrax

Inter Milan have endured a staggering decline over the past six years, which has seen the club drop from conquering the Champions League to suffering embarrassing defeats in the Europa League. During Jose Mourinho’s tenure at the San Siro the Nerazzurri secured their first major European title in 45 years when they won the competition in the 2009/10 campaign, while they also reeled off their four Serie A crowns on the spin to dominate football in Italy.

However, since the Portuguese’s departure the club were brushed aside in the league by the rising talents of Juventus, who have established themselves as the prominent force in Italian football. On the continent, matters have been even worse for Inter, failing to compete in the latter stages of tournaments or otherwise not qualifying for them at all.

The Nerazzurri have been through a host of managers since 2010; eight to be precise. Rafael Benitez, Leonardo, Gian Piero Gasperini, Claudio Ranieri, Andrea Stramaccioni, Walter Mazzarri, Roberto Mancini have all come and gone at the San Siro. Frank de Boer currently sits in the dugout, although with the club’s struggles this season you have to wonder how long he will reside there.

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P1013420” (CC BY 2.0) by Sona Hovasapyan

Inter have endured a stuttering start to the Serie A campaign, taking 11 points from their opening eight matches, while back-to-back defeats to Roma and Cagliari have knocked them out of the top half of the table, leaving them in 11th place.

Their inconsistent form has put them in trouble in the past, and as a result they are backed in the latest Bet365 Serie A betting odds at 3/1 to finish inside the top three, although Roma, Napoli and bitter rivals AC Milan have stronger credentials, while Juventus remain alone at the top.

For all their pitfalls there is a lot of quality in their squad after a surge of signings over the summer, with Joao Mario, Gabriel and Antonio Candreva all joining the club. This boosted the talent already at the San Siro with Mauro Icardi, Ivan Perisic and Geoffrey Kondogbia, giving De Boer plenty of attacking options, although their weakness lies in the defence.

Miranda has struggled to reproduce his form from his days at Atletico for the Nerazzurri, while Jeison Murillo and Andrea Ranocchia have proven to be unreliable, particularly the latter in his dismissal against Sparta Prague in the Europa League. Given that De Boer’s strength as a manager is his defensive tactics, time will tell if the Dutchman can rectify these issues.

On their day Inter are a match for anyone as their victory over Juventus proved at the San Siro. Unfortunately for the club those days have been few and far between, giving their supporters little to shout about. Discontent has been present in their fanbase for a while now, and Icardi’s outburst in his autobiography has not improved matters, with supporters even cheering when he missed a spot-kick against Cagliari and demanding his removal as captain.

Reports suggest that he could leave for Arsenal in January, which would leave the club without their top goalscorer and their captain. That would also put further pressure on their weak defence, deepening their problems as Stevan Jovetic, Eder Martins and Gabriel are not prolific enough to replace the Argentine’s impact.

Inter are a team in need of stability and losing further players, especially one at the core of the team would only put them further behind their rivals at the top. De Boer needs time to implement his style of management on the club, as only then will they be able to move forward and attempt to wrestle away Juventus’ dominance of Italian football.

Could Balotelli be back?

Bramall Lane, November 2007, its cold and the night drew in long ago. Sheffield United have invited Inter to play a friendly to commemorate their 150th anniversary. Despite the Nerazzurri winning 5-2, it was played at a slow tempo and the game dissipated into the memory of the few who attended. Little did they know that they had witnessed the debut of one of football’s most frustrating stars. Mario Balotelli had scored a brace that night and that is where it all began, not just for Inter but in his career. He has risen and fallen a long way since then but now it looks like he may go back to where it all began.

Unexpected news

As the Milanese took in their morning coffee they would have been forgiven for spitting it back out as Tuttosport announced that Mario Balotelli could be joining Roberto Mancini in Milan after his disappointing time at Liverpool. The rumour certainly holds some sense of truth as the Nerazzurri ‘mister’ has previously looked for players he has worked with before. His purchase of Stevan Jovetic and the constant pursuit of Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta are testament to that.

It has been reported in recent weeks that the relationship between the coach and the club has been tense of late as the Chinese Suning Investment group have different ideas about the transfer market. They have been more inclined to lean towards a youthful policy whilst the coach wants players for now who have experience and have trophies under their belt as he battles among the title challengers.

Perfect fit?

This is why Balotelli also fits the bill as at the tender age of 25 he could be seen as a long term prospect. He would also be cheap, Inter sold him back in £22m to none other than Mancini at Manchester City but now he could be available for as little as £6m. There is no questioning his talent either and he would be returning to an environment he knows well. Milan has been his home for many years and he scored 20 goals in 59 appearances the last time he put on a black and blue shirt.

Whether he would be welcomed by the Nerazzurri faithful is another thing however as he played for Milan, (the team he supported since childhood) 63 times scoring 27 goals in two spells. Even so he would not be the first player to swap benches at the San Siro as Ronaldo, Roberto Baggio, Andrea Pirlo, Christian Vieri and Clarence Seedorf are just some in a long list that have worn both shirts in anger.

Balotelli certainly has a lot to prove and yet there is something fascinating about him being back under the bright lights of the Giuseppe Meazza. Mauro Icardi aside, Inter have struggled for goals, Eder could not repeat his Sampdoria form and Rodrigo Palacio’s best days are behind him. Could the wandering Super Mario go back to where it all began and resurrect his career? He will hope so or it well and truly could be game over.