Inter Milan must look to youth for their future

Dino Panato

Inter Milan must learn to put faith in their youngsters if they want to return to the top.

Inter Milan's January transfer window certainly wasn't uneventful, though alas it caught attention for almost all the wrong reasons. The nerazzurri eventually came away having made a couple of signings, but unfortunately the mercato will most famously be remembered for a deal that didn't happen.

That is, of course, the bizarre proposed swap that was set to send midfielder Fredy Guarín to Juventus for veteran forward Mirko Vučinić in a trade so uneven that Inter may as well have just handed their bitter rivals a few million euros for nothing. Incredibly, it took uproar and protests from supporters before the nerazzurri chiefs saw sense and halted the switch, by which time Guarín had packed his bags in eager anticipation of trading the Europa League for the top of the league. Oh dear.

Inter managed to complete some business before the transfer window shut, signing Danilo D'Ambrosio from Torino and Brazilian playmaker Hernanes from Lazio on transfer deadline day. Hernanes is a good player, no doubt, but considering his hefty €20 million price tag, it probably was not the most sensible capture for Inter. He hasn't looked his sparkling best for a while, and now at 28 years old, it won't be long before Hernanes is past his physical peak.

The Hernanes signing is of the strange kind that has come to epitomize Inter in recent times, in which the nerazzurri appear to lack any kind of coherent transfer strategy. Their squad is now a bizarre rag-tag bunch of inadequate old remnants of the grand old days (Esteban Cambiasso, Walter Samuel and, sadly, Diego Milito), players who have failed to live up to their hype (Andrea Ranocchia and Ricky Álvarez) and utterly average players masquerading as if they are good enough to challenge for the Champions League (Zdravko Kuzmanović, Marco Andreolli, even Rodrigo Palacio).

Inter still have not adequately replaced the elderly stars that sailed off into the sunset with a Champions League title back in 2010. Of course, it would have been impossible for Inter to have a full squad clearout in January, when it is notoriously difficult to complete any business at all. But dropping €20 million on an aging midfielder doesn't exactly offer much hope that they are going to address their big problems in the summer, either.

Perhaps Inter's biggest problem is with the coach himself. Walter Mazzarri's aversion to trusting young players was obvious at Napoli, where the likes of Lorenzo Insigne and Eduardo Vargas were held to limited playing time. It is even more evident at Inter, where talents like midfield playmaker Mateo Kovačić, energetic box-to-boxer Saphir Taïder and young striker Mauro Icardi find themselves limited to roles coming off the bench.

Blind short-termism has led them into their current predicament

It's galling to think that Inter don't have a sprinkling of reasonably good young players, either. They have a lot of them. Their consistently excellent track record of producing and locating talent still applies, with those currently out on loan -- Francesco Bardi, Marco Benassi, Ishak Belfodil and Alfred Duncan at Livorno, or Cristiano Biraghi at Catania -- being some of the best prospects on the peninsula. In their young players, they may well have a scudetto-winning side of the future. But if they're ever going to reach those heights, those young players need to start playing together.

Ultimately, signing a far from consistent aging Serie A journeyman like Vučinić isn't an adequate fix for their long drawn-out attacking problem, and it's a bit of a concern that the fans seem to realize that before the men in charge. As with the Hernanes signing, it would be a continuation of the blind short-termism that has led them into their current predicament. Surely it would be preferable to see Icardi -- who scored ten times for Sampdoria last season -- be given the chance to blossom up front, rather than be overlooked in favour of an old Juve castoff.

The recent departure of director Marco Branca, who oversaw some of Inter's worst transfer activity over the last few years, has at least given the nerazzurri hope that they're on the right track. In fairness, as does their other January signing: full-back Danilo D'Ambrosio. He is only 24 years old, and has been a stand-out performer for Giampiero Ventura's overachieving Toro this season. It's a transfer that has been made with half an eye on the future; i.e., the antithesis to the Hernanes signing.

Crucially, it remains to be seen whether the coach is willing to put enough faith in his young talent for Inter to maximize their potential. After the recent sales of starlets like Davide Santon, Philippe Coutinho and Giulio Donati, the last thing Inter want is to see is more talent go to waste. If it does, they can expect to be scrapping for the Europa League for a fair while yet.

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