With the 2018 January transfer window set to open for business, Inter would be wise to help solve their creative crisis by heavily pursuing the signature of Paris Saint-Germain’s Javier Pastore.
If Inter supporters were told back in August they’d be seven points off first in the Scudetto race and hold one of four coveted spots good for UEFA Champions League football to ring in the New Year, you would hear no complaints at all. But, in a matter of weeks, the mood has changed.
Prior to their 3-1 loss at home against Udinese on 16 December, the Nerazzurri were the only remaining Italian club to have not suffered a defeat this season. To the surprise of many, the Lombard giant even held sole possession of first place at one point ahead of perennial title contenders Juventus and Napoli. However, in recent weeks, with both the Partenopei and Turin’s ‘Old Lady’ having once again solidified themselves as the cream of the crop in the top flight, Luciano Spalletti’s men have struggled to keep pace.
Over their last six matches in all competitions, including their 1-0 defeat to rivals Milan in the Coppa Italia quarter-final , Inter have scored just one goal, bringing to the forefront the noticeable lack of creativity to create a constant stream of chances going forward.
This season, star striker and captain Mauro Icardi has finally emerged in mainstream football media as not only a lethal attacking force in Italy, but in world football. To date, the Argentine bomber’s 17 goals lead the capocannoniere race and there is a strong chance the 24-year old wins his second Golden Boot – the first dating back to the 2014-15 season where he and Hellas Verona veteran Luca Toni split the honours with 22 goals each. However, although as clinical as they come in the box and needing just a single touch to inflict serious damage, Icardi is still very much reliant on those around him to feed him consistent chances and decide matches on his own like we’ve been privy to all season long.
Currently, the Nerazzurri have scored a total of 34 goals through 19 league matches, meaning Icardi has done all the heavy lifting to bury exactly half of those. Behind him are: Ivan Perišić (7), Marcelo Brozović (3), Milan Škriniar (3).
If Inter are to continue flirting with a Scudetto in the second half, or at the bare minimum, stay the course and finish in the top four, they simply cannot stand pat in January and be content with the status quo of current affairs – which leads me to my main argument: Inter must go strong to land Javier Pastore.
The 28-year old would be an immediate upgrade over the struggling Portuguese international João Mário who has failed to be a constant central provider of chances ever since he moved over from Sporting CP last summer for €40 million.
Despite featuring in just shy of 750 minutes in Ligue 1 under manager Unai Emery, it’s clear Pastore holds the technical means to slide right into Spalletti’s 4-2-3-1, and relieve some of the creative responsibility heavily resting on wide-men Perisic and Antonio Candreva.
Inter have become far too predictable and dependent on playing the ball in wide areas that there are times where Icardi is tightly-marked and without even a sniff of a half-chance to leave his mark on the match. There is no doubt that Pastore’s dribbling ability, calculated passing, well-timed through balls into tight windows and play recognition to capitalize as the game unfolds would open up the game for many to see regular goalscoring chances and become a much more balanced attacking side.
Recently, French paper Le Parisien reported the Argentine playmaker notified his teammates that he will be leaving the Parc des Princes in January, and talks are on-going with the Italian club to make a move happen that would seemingly grant him the necessary minutes to play his way into a World Cup 2018 roster spot. However, the biggest hurdle sporting director Piero Ausilio could face is whether their current economical state allows them to bring in the former Palermo star on a permanent basis by paying the entirety of fee upfront, which is what PSG may demand in order to comply with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play restrictions amidst a massive spending spree of their own last summer.
While Inter appear more keen on bolstering their attacking ranks with Pastore through a loan with a obligation format, it remains to be seen whether PSG will blink first in what could be a month of back and forth negotiating for the Argentina star.
Though Inter will enter 2018 in a favorable position in the table, by no means are they safe as sole possessor of third place. Both Lazio (5th, 37 points) and rivals Roma (4th, 39 points) each have a match in hand and are likely to add this window, meaning they will face stiff competition until the very end for a Champions League berth. However, if Pastore and his agent Marcelo Simonian can find a way to force PSG’s hand, and a total agreement is reached between all parties, Spalletti may have found the answer to their creative hole up front – which would go a long way in securing a top four finish.