LUKAKU AND HAKIMI OUT! DID THE DEFENDING CHAMPIONS INTER REPLACE THEM SUFFICIENTLY FOR A SUCCESFUL TITLE DEFENCE?
Inter returned to the pinnacle of Italian football last season. The enigmatic Antonio Conte led them to a first Scudetto in ten years. Conte built his squad from scratch and won the league in just two years, toppling Juventus. But with finances leading to differences between him and the board, he walked away. The onus fell on Simone Inzaghi to build on the Inter squad in the transfer window and defend their title.
— Inter 🏆🇮🇹 (@Inter_en) May 2, 2021
A majority of the Serie-A clubs were hit by the pandemic. The games behind closed doors led to a loss of matchday revenue and loss of investments. Hence each club reported losses and resorted to selling their star players for covering them. Conte was furious when Inter decided to cash in on the title-winning squad instead of building on it.
As he left, Inzaghi was given the reins of Inter and a limited budget to operate on in the transfer window. The managerial change would surely be one of the biggest off the field transfers this season for Inter. Conte an elite manager was traded for a novice manager managing an elite club for the first time in Inzaghi.
🎬 | ACTION
— Inter 🏆🇮🇹 (@Inter_en) August 30, 2021
Meanwhile, Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi’s departures are the biggest ones on the field. The club have tried to replace the players like for like instead of buying new ones to strengthen it furthermore. Joaquin Correa, Edin Dzeko, Denzel Dumfries and Hakan Calhanoglu are some of the notable incomings. The club has also cleared a lot of deadwood by selling fringe players and raising profit along with cutting their wage bill.
FootTheBall reviews Inter Milan and their activity in this transfer window. Did the Nerrazzuri address all their shortcomings in the squad? Did they replace Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi? Can they successfully defend the title with Simone Inzaghi?
Joaquin Correa – Lazio (Loan)
Edin Dzeko – Roma (Free)
Denzel Dumfries – PSV
Hakan Calhanoglu – Milan (Free)
Zinho Vanheusden – Standard Liege
Alex Cordaz – Crotone (Free)
As Lukaku left, Inter had huge shoes to fill. Lukaku is a 30-goals a season striker and with the current market, it was impossible to find one. Inter acted cleverly and bought not one but two forwards to fill that void. Joaquin Correa is a versatile forward capable of playing as a centre-forward or a second striker or even an attacking midfielder. The Argentine was signed on a year-long loan from Lazio with an option to make it permanent. Correa worked under Inzaghi at Lazio and knows what the manager wants. On his league debut, Correa came off the bench to score twice for Inter to give them a comeback victory against Verona.
Edin Dzeko, an experienced striker with a hunger to succeed again has been picked on a free from rivals Roma. The Bosnian already scored and assisted one goal for his new club. With Dzeko providing the experience and Correa providing the linkup and goals, Inter have sufficiently replaced Lukaku.
— Inter 🏆🇮🇹 (@Inter_en) August 21, 2021
Hakimi was another one who needed an able replacement. The Moroccan was proficient going forward and had a hand in crucial goals in the title-winning campaign. Inzaghi follows a similar attacking approach from the wingbacks and needed an attack-minded replacement for Hakimi. Dumfries had a breakthrough Euros and earned himself a move to Inter.
🚨 | ANNOUNCEMENT
Denzel Dumfries joins #Inter!⚫️🔵
— Inter 🏆🇮🇹 (@Inter_en) August 14, 2021
Christian Eriksen wouldn’t be available till January at the earliest as he is recovering from a shocking heart attack. Hence in the midfield, a creator in the form of Hakan Calhanoglu was signed. The Turkish international excels in a playmaking position and displayed his quality with a goal and assist on his debut from the middle of the park.
Zinho Vanheusden was a surprise addition as Inter bought him back from Liege. Similarly, Alex Cordaz, a veteran goalkeeper was signed as a backup due to his homegrown feature. Matteo Darmian’s loan was also made permanent after a fruitful stint last time out.
Romelu Lukaku – Chelsea
Achraf Hakimi – PSG
Matteo Poiltano – Napoli
Antonio Candreva – Sampdoria
Rigoberto Rivas – Reggina
Danielle Padelli – Udinese (Free)
Joao Mario – Benfica (Free)
Radja Nainggolan – Antwerp (Free)
Ashley Young – Aston Villa (Free)
Dalbert – Cagliari (Loan)
Sebastian Esposito – FC Basel (Loan)
Zinho Vanheusden – Genoa (Loan)
Andrea Pinamonti – Empoli (Loan)
Valentino Lazaro – Benfica (Loan)
The outgoing list is a long one and Inter wouldn’t be bothered except two or three names on it. The first one is obviously Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian has developed into a world-class striker under Conte and drove Inter to the scudetto. He was the undisputed MVP of the league. As pandemic ate up Inter’s finances they were forced to sell him. A lucrative €100 million bid Chelsea was too hard to turn down for Inter and he was on his way to the Stamford Bridge again.
Back in blue. ✍️#LukWhosBack
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 12, 2021
Similarly, Achraf Hakimi was sold to PSG after a solitary season. The Moroccan was sublime as a right wing-back and might be the best in his position currently. PSG were in desperate need of a world-class RB and Inter were desperate for funds. Hence the deal occurred smoothly in the region of €60-€70 million.
There were few free departures from the club and the most notable ones are Joao Mario, league legend Nainggolan and Ashley Young. Mario was a failed investment from Inter and to avoid a penalty, they terminated his contract. Nainggolan wasn’t a part of Inzaghi’s plan and was free to leave for Belgium. Other loan deals of Politano and Candreva were made permanent in an attempt to fill the coffers.
PSG have announced the signing of Achraf Hakimi.
The 22-year-old has already played for:
✅ Real Madrid
✅ Inter Milan
✅ Borussia Dortmund
✅ PSG pic.twitter.com/Azyq7GL1p6
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 6, 2021
To have a short squad, youngster and fringe players were sent on loan. Lazaro, Pinamonti, Esposito and Vanheusden were a part of this plan.
They say that always keep upgrading the winning team. But due to the existing situation, Inter were forced to cash in on theirs instead of upgrading. But the defending champions have been smart in the market. They adopted a like for like policy as they looked to replace players. Lukaku and Hakimi have been sufficiently replaced in theory. As pressing needs are well replaced on paper, their effect can only be judged once the season is done and dusted.
🎉 | AND IT'S ALL OVER
2⃣ games ✅
6⃣ points ✅
— Inter 🏆🇮🇹 (@Inter_en) August 27, 2021
Inter are brimming with talents in the middle of the park and Calhanogly only makes it stronger. With their defence tight as ever, they can lead a successful title defence if Inzaghi can get his tactics right.
With the pandemic easing, Inter can recollect matchday revenues and raise funds to add more signings in the winter transfer window.