For the last twelve months Inter Milan fans have heard that the club is going to bring in another striker to replace the out-of-contract Diego Milito.
In that time the Nerazzurri have been linked with a host of good strikers like Manchester City’s Edin Džeko, Chelsea’s Fernando Torres, Manchester United’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Cagliari’s Mauricio Pinilla and former Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata.
As recent as last week Inter met with Chicharito’s agent in Washington D.C. but decided not to go for the Manchester United and Mexico striker.
Instead, Inter went with the cheap option and signed Southampton striker Daniel Osvaldo on loan for 12 months with an option to make the deal permanent next summer for €7m (£5.5m). To show how much Osvaldo’s value has gone down in the last year, that is less than what Southampton paid for the striker 12 months ago (£13m). As part of the deal Saphir Taider has moved the other way to Southampton where the Premier League side will have the option to make that loan permanent for a reported €9m.
This deal is all about the money, or lack of money at Inter. If everything works out the way that Inter president Erick Thohir plans, he will get Osvaldo PLUS €2m next summer.
Is Osvaldo as good as Džeko, Torres, Chicharito, Pinilla or Morata? He is not even close. He is a striker who has scored more than a goal every to twice in his career (2010-11 and 2012-13).
Will Osvaldo put pressure on Mauro Icardi or Rodrigo Palacio for a place in the starting XI? I hope not because I cannot see him scoring 10+ goals next season, something I expect both Icardi and Palacio to do. One of Inter’s biggest weaknesses last season was the lack of a clinical finisher in front of goal. Someone like Diego Milito used to be, a player who would need only one or two chances a game to score. That is not Osvaldo. There is nothing in his career to show that he can consistently score goals at an efficient level.
So why did Inter sign Osvaldo and not a better and more prolific striker? The answer is money.
It is clear from Inter’s transfer activities that Thohir is not willing to bankroll a summer transfer spree that was needed in order to make the team more competitive with the elite teams in Serie A.
Instead of investing in the playing squad, Inter have hedged their bets with a series of signings where they have taken the player on loan, for one of two years, with the option to buy in the future.
It’s the installment plan approach to building a football team. Why buy players where you rent them for a while and see if you like them?
One of the problems I have with this approach is that these are the tactics of a small club. This is something that Torino, Cagliari or Parma would do. Not to diminish their accomplishments, but F.C. Internazionale is one of the biggest clubs in Europe. Winners of 18 Serie A titles and 3 Champions League trophies. They are the only Italian club to have won the Coppa Italia, Serie A title and Champions League in the same season.
Four years on from wining that treble they are reduced to signing loan players because they cannot afford to buy them.
It is this lack of actual investment in the squad that has to worry Nerazzurri fans. According to transfermarket.co.uk Inter already have a positive balance from this summer’s transfer market of €1.8 million due to the sale of Simone Benedetti to Cagliari for €3.52 million and Marco Benassi to Torino for €1.32 million.
And that is before Inter offload Fredy Guari and Ricky Alvarez, two sales that should net the club over €30 million.
By comparison, the teams that finished above Inter in the three Champions League places; Juventus, Roma and Napoli, have all spent more than they have received in transfer fees this summer. Juventus have a net spend of negative €12.76m, Roma negative €32.3m, and Napoli negative €5.59m.
It is really difficult to compete with the top teams in the league when they are investing in their squad and the Nerazzurri are not.
If Inter does not break into the top three this season, fingers will be pointed at Walter Mazzarri for doing a poor job coaching the team, when instead they should be pointed at Erik Thohir who has handicapped his manager due to his unwillingness to invest real money in the Inter squad this season.