How Inter could line up with new summer signings

Internazionale have been busy again this summer, with Arturo Vidal’s arrival from Barcelona on Sunday being the sixth new face to arrive at the San Siro this summer.

The Italian giants also have a number of players back from loan spells last season, including Ivan Perisic, Joao Mario, Valentino Lazaro and Radja Nainggolan, though whether they will be moved on permanent before the close of the transfer window remains to be seen.

Mauro Icardi’s sale to Paris Saint-Germain has given Antonio Conte increased transfer budget to build a side capable of challenging for the Serie A title this season.

€40 million has been spent on Achraf Hakimi from Real Madrid. The pacey right-back has impressed on loan at Borussia Dortmund over the past two seasons that it was a surprise the Spanish giants moved him on.

Alexis Sanchez spent last season on loan from Manchester United before making his move permanent in August at the start of August.

Midfielders Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi have joined from Cagliari and Sassuolo off the back of good campaigns in 2019-20. Inter then signed experienced left-back Aleksandar Kolarov from AS Roma.

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Three Bold Predictions Ahead of the New Season

The new Serie A season is officially upon us and is shaping up for another enthralling year of action. Juventus appear to be in a transtion year, but has bolstered their roster significantly already while Inter will be hoping to pip their rivals to the Scudetto after falling short last season.

Milan enters the new year confident as ever, having just secured two impressive young talents in Sandro Tonali and Brahim Diaz and will be hoping to return to the Champions League. The capital-based clubs,  Roma and Lazio, will duke it out once more and will be right there with Milan in the race for top four. The biggest question mark going into the new season remains Atalanta and whether they can replicate last season’s impressive exploits.

Without further ado, here are three bold predictions going into the new season:

Sassuolo to qualify for the Europa League: 

Roberto De Zerbi’s men finished last season on a high note and nearly cracked Italy’s top seven. Sassuolo has managed to keep its stars this offseason, notably Domenico Berardi and Jeremie Boga, and possess one of the league’s most underrated number nines in Ciccio’ Caputo. The Neroverdi also rebuffed Juve’s advances for Manuel Locatelli and will be going into the new season hoping their midfield dynamo can supply their high-powered front three.

De Zerbi has demonstrated he can get the most of Sassuolo’s roster and will be hoping to guide them into contention for the Europa League. The competition will be stiff considering Milan, Roma, Napoli, Lazio, and arguably Fiorentina will all be in the mix depending on their respective seasons, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say Sassuolo will qualify for the Europa League.

A Coppa Italia triumph counts!

Victor Osimhen as capocannoniere: 

Ciro Immobile and Cristiano Ronaldo pushed each other to new heights in last season’s capocannoniere race but will have more company this time around. Napoli’s record signing Victor Osimhen is ready to take the next step in his career and lead the Partenopei’s line to devastating effect. The Nigerian international broke onto the scene last season with 17 goals in all competitions and will slot in seamlessly in Napoli’s dynamic frontline.

Immobile and Ronaldo relied heavily on penalties to inflate their scoring records last season, and one of them will likely slow down as a result. Osimhen is an outside bet for leading goalscorer, but given his skillset and Napoli’s counterattacking style, the former Lille man will have many scoring opportunities. Romelu Lukaku is another striker worth monitoring in this race but is a far safer bet in this respect.

Achraf Hakimi and Edin Dzeko to be tied for assists: 

Hakimi’s signing is one that takes Inter to the next level, as the Morrocan international will provide quality and a deadly final ball from a wingback position. Last season, the former Dortmund man registered an impressive ten assists and will look to translate his efforts in Conte’s 3-5-2.

Dzeko, on the other hand, is more known for his ability to find the back of the net, but evolved his game and has since emerged as an elite creator as well. The Bosnian international finished last season with 11 assists, indicating his playmaking threat. Dzeko is reportedly nearing a move to Juventus and will slot in wonderfully alongside Ronaldo, Dybala, and Dejan Kulusevski.

Both Dzeko and Hakimi will be eager to replicate last season’s output and should be in a good position to do so. They may not top Luis Alberto or Papu Gomez’s tallies, but they will definitely be up there with Serie A’s deadliest creators.

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Inter gearing up for yet another Scudetto challenge

When Inter appointed Antonio Conte last summer, it was understood the Nerazzurri would immediately contend for Italy’s top prize. The former Juventus boss has quickly led his sides to glory upon his arrival, guiding the Bianconeri and Chelsea to league titles in his first season with the respective clubs. While last season did not go as planned – with Inter ultimately disappointing when it mattered – the Nerazzurri are gearing up for next season and are already significantly bolstering their ranks.

Giuseppe Marotta has done an exceptional job as Inter’s sporting director since arriving, revolutionizing their midfield with the signings of Nicolo Barella, Stefano Sensi and most recently Christian Eriksen. Inter’s big-money move for Romelu Lukaku also panned out, with the Belgian international netting 35 goals in all competitions last season and combined wonderfully with Lautaro Martinez. The former Manchester United man may have disappointed in the Europa League final, but definitely emerged as one of Serie A’s most prolific hitmen.

The next step for Marotta is to continue adding players that fit Conte’s image, to ensure the fiery tactician has everything he needs to usurp Juventus atop Italian football. Former Borussia Dortmund wingback Achraf Hakimi has already arrived this summer and is a prototypical Conte player. Capable of playing on either wing, the Moroccan international is ideal for Conte’s 3-5-2 and will offer some much-needed quality and end product in the final third.

Inter also recently secured Roma’s Aleksandr Kolarov for 1.5 million euros, who will likely slot in as a left center-back in their back three. The Serbian has lost his turn of pace in recent seasons but represents solid depth for the emerging Alessandro Bastoni. His best days may be behind him, but Kolarov is a low-cost signing that comes in with plenty of experience and tactical know-how.

Beyond Kolarov, Inter is reportedly interested in Hellas Verona’s Marash Kumbulla. The defender broke onto the scene this season with the newly-promoted outfit and established himself as one of Serie A’s most intriguing young prospects. With Diego Godin on the wrong side of 30 and with Milan Skriniar’s future in doubt, Kumbulla is an ideal option to rejuvenate their backline and offer Conte the possibility to rotate.

Sandro Tonali was reportedly on his way to Inter, as well this summer, but has since dropped down their list of priorities. Milan has inserted themselves in the race for the midfield maestro and has since become favourites for the Brescia midfielder’s signature. Should Inter pull off a move for Tonali, however, they will undoubtedly have the deepest midfield ranks in the league and sufficient quality to overtake Juventus.

The summer window may not have officially opened just yet, but Inter has sent a clear message of intent to the rest of Italy. Fresh off finishing just one point behind Juve and failing at the final hurdle in the Europa League, Conte’s men are eager to retool and mount yet another title challenge. Juventus are currently in a period of transition under rookie manager Andrea Pirlo, something Inter will be hoping to take advantage of next season. As the summer wears on, expect Inter to be active in hopes of winning their first Scudetto in ten years.

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How will Achraf Hakimi fit in at Real Madrid next summer?

While the likes of Marco Asensio, Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard et al. have claimed the headlines for themselves since the resumption of the Spanish Liga season after the coronavirus hiatus, Real Madrid’s resurgence over the past few weeks has been built on a solid defence.

Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane’s centre back partnership is among the strongest in the European game right now, with Marcelo and Ferland Mendy rotating in and out of Zinedine Zidane’s starting lineup to great effect. And at right back Dani Carvajal has found fitness to become a reliable performance once again after some injury troubles.

Carvajal could have some competition for his place after the summer, though. Achraf Hakimi is set to return to the Santiago Bernabeu after two years on loan at Borussia Dortmund, with the Moroccan earning a reputation for himself as one of the brightest young players in the European game at this moment.

Hakimi is a formidable force down the right wing and having been given his first chance at Real Madrid by Zidane there’s reason to believe he will be given another chance in the Spanish capital next season. Along with the likes of Martin Odegaard and Takefusa Kubo, both of whom are also out on loan this season, Hakimi is seen as the future of Real Madrid.

Those who doubt that Zidane can satisfy both Hakimi and Carvajal in the same squad should look at how he has used Marcelo and Mendy. The latter is widely seen as Zidane’s first choice at left back, with the Frenchman quickly settling in following his transfer from Lyon last summer, but Marcelo has still proved his worth over the course of the campaign.

“We’ll see after the season,” Dortmund coach Lucien Favre said when asked whether Hakimi, as well as Jadon Sancho, will still be at the club beyond the summer. “Of course, players will leave. We hope the players will stay, but it is possible that players will leave. You have already mentioned two [Hakimi and Sancho] that we don’t definitely know about. Of course, they could stay with us, which would be very good for me. But we’ll see what we’ll do, whether it’s in defence, midfield or attack.”

Squad depth is something Real Madrid have over Barcelona and the return of Hakimi to the Santiago Bernabeu this summer could give them another advantage over their fiercest rivals. The Moroccan still has some work to do in order to refine his game, particularly in the defensive sense, but he is a player with great potential and it appears destined that he will fulfil that potential in the Spanish capital.

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Fan Zone: Kartik on City’s Sterling, Bernardo & David Silva as well as Fernandinho & more

A special guest for the latest Q&A is Kartik Krishnaiyer- heavily involved in soccer and politics in the state of Florida- and the author of Blue with Envy: My American Journey with Manchester City.

Instead of starting with how it all began for Kartik, the focus in this part of the Q&A is mostly on current Manchester City topics, in particular the key players. We discuss current stars such as David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero as well as some of the club’s key figures in the past such as Vincent Kompany, the former captain who left last summer, and of course Francis Henry Lee.

Kartik’s wealth and depth in information when it comes to discussing the Citizens is even more evident when you cover not just the club’s current era but the history of Man City. You can reach Kartik and Rami Soufi on their social media accounts and feel free to discuss further any of the points raised in the Q&A below.

1)  Choose 2 players from David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez for your team. Explain why?

I am going with Sterling and Bernardo Silva though at one point it would have been Sterling and David Silva. Sterling’s off-the-ball runs are among the best in world football, something England fans and many in the British press didn’t quite understand in the World Cup in 2018.

Sterling didn’t score so they couldn’t understand why Gareth Southgate kept picking him then came the Colombia game. Sterling was replaced by Jamie Vardy and that absolutely gutted England’s play going forward. It was then that people started to notice Sterling’s role and significance. Bernardo Silva has a different game than peak David Silva did. Bernardo has more bite to his play without the ball but he is not as creative a player in the final third. They aren’t like for like, but both complement Sterling very well.

2) Choose one from Kevin de Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho, and explain why?

Fernandinho is the heart and soul of Manchester City. An outstanding two-way player, he’s a master of keeping the ball moving, winning the ball and if needed cynically breaking up play. Also, he is a leader on and off the pitch.

3) Who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the City shirt, and why?

So this is a difficult conversation because it’s probably Franny Lee – who also later as Club Chairman presided over the worst era in the club’s history largely due to his decision making. Don’t get me wrong he inherited a really bad situation from Peter Swales but he had no idea how to fix it. The most lamentable era in City’s history coincided with his tenure.

Still, as a player he was brilliant. A forward who could score and link play and seemed to reserve his best for the biggest occasions – cup finals, Manchester derbies and other key matches. His partnership with Colin Bell was off the charts.

4) What are City’s weaknesses? Is it the full-backs or the central defensive pair looking shaky? Did losing Kompany hurt City’s title defense?

It is the central defense for sure. Losing Kompany has taken away an important dressing room figure and deprived the Starting XI of the glue that keeps together the team’s core defensively. This has continued to be an issue with City’s transfer failures in the center-back position go back to selling Matija Nastasic to Schalke and buying Eliaquim  Mangala as a replacement. The miscalculations in the market have finally caught up with City.

5) I know you follow Bundesliga closely so you’ve seen Erling Haaland & Achraf Hakimi play. Would you rather sign Haaland or Hakimi? 

Hakimi fits Pep Guardiola’s style of an advanced fullback working a lot in terms of crossing and tucking into midfield. Cancelo was a bad experiment and will likely be moved. Hakimi can be explosive going forward, but I am not in love with his defending.

6) City built a reputation playing the possession game. Do you think this focus on possession at the expense of being more pragmatic has hurt City’s quest to defend the Premier League title?

Yes, and even hurt City’s chances in Europe to be honest even more since counter-attacking wins trophies, particularly in critical and tight games. Frankly, same thing happened to Pep at Bayern Munich. His Bayern teams kept the ball all day long but whenever faced with the counter-attacking ability of the Spanish opponents they played in the semi-finals, the Spanish clubs tended to counter them to death.

7) What do you make of Gabriel Jesus? His stats are great despite being mostly used as a substitute. Would you keep Jesus or go for someone like Harry Kane?

Jesus is a better all-around No. 9 for the modern game than almost anyone we could sign. It’s the stuff he does off the ball and his ability to adapt tactically (as seen in Madrid) that make him suitable for Pep.

Sergio Aguero scores a ton of goals and he’s tough to drop but I would argue Jesus is a better overall footballer at this stage of their careers. At the same time Kane is a wonderful player who doesn’t have to be a No. 9. He can play deeper and already understands Sterling’s game from England duty where the two of them lead the line.

Zidane pushing for Real Madrid summer clear out

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Zinedine Zidane will push ahead with plans for a squad overhaul this summer, as he pledges to challenge Barcelona for the La Liga title in 2019-20.

The Frenchman has been clear in his desire to make changes at the club he led to three Champions League title between 2014 and 2017, and that means moving on some big names from the Santiago Bernabeu.

Club President Florentino Perez will fund certain transfer targets, but Zidane will have to clear out players to fund extra moves.

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James Rodriguez to lead Real Madrid summer exodus

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James Rodriguez is set to leave La Liga this summer, with Real Madrid happy for the Colombian international to move on after an unfulfilled five years at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Rodriguez, 27, signed for Los Blancos ahead of the 2014-15 campaign, on the back of an outstanding performance at the World Cup two months before, however his face never seemed to fit at the club particularly under previous boss Zinedine Zidane.

Despite the last two seasons on loan at Bayern Munich, he does not appear to be guaranteed a continued role in Bavaria either.

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