Inter head towards Serie A title without kicking a ball as Juventus stall

Inter did not play at the weekend as their game with Sassuolo had to be called off because of a recent outbreak of Covid-19 within the Inter squad. After tests on Monday it was revealed that Inter now has a clean bill of health but the game had to be postponed as a measure of safety.

There would be good news and bad news for Antonio Conte’s side this week. With no game they could sit back and watch how Milan and Juventus fared, the only two clubs now who could take the Serie A title away from them.

Milan looked like they were going to draw away to Fiorentina but they won 3-2 in a thrilling game and that was the disappointing news of the weekend as Milan are now just six points behind. However of course Inter has an extra game to play. But the great news from Inter’s perspective was that Juventus lost.

It was the Old Lady’s 4th loss of the season and it was a shock as it came at home to Benevento in a game that finished 1-0. Juve had 23 goal attempts and Benevento only had 1 shot on target for the goal the whole game. Media in Italy have said that’s it for Juventus and their title chances and the club has now fallen 10 points behind Inter and played the same games.

The postponement of the Sassuolo game means that Inter will have had a 3 week break until their next game which is against Bologna away from home. Although all of Inter’s players will be involved in the up and coming international matches over the next 10 days or so.

Best performing players for Inter

Let’s take a look at the best performing players for Inter so far as they try to win an historic league title. We will look at the best positions.

Goalkeeper: Samir Handanovic 51 pts

Samir Handanovic has been the regular goal keeper and has started 27 games keeping 10 clean sheets. He has managed to keep clean sheets on 37% of his appearances so far. He is currently the number 1 ranked goalkeeper in Italy and overall ranks in at number 9 over Europe’s major leagues. Three from his last five games has seen the shot stopper keep clean sheets.

Defender: Achraf Hakimi 63pts

Hakimi is 8 points ahead of the next Inter defender Milan Skriniar. Hakimi reminds one of an all round player much like the Real Madrid great and indeed former Inter player Roberto Carlos in that he isn’t afraid to come forward and score goals. His stats are fantastic and Hakimi has been involved in 10 goals in the league so far scoring six times. His value is just 7m and he has been one of the best players in Serie A this season.

Midfielder: Nicolo Barella 38pts

For all of Inter’s greatness this season it has to be said that their midfield talent at least for obtaining points has not been their strongest. Still Nicolo Barella has had great moments this season. He isn’t ahead on the most assists but he has still set up 5 goals and he has also scored a further three. His value is 7m.

Striker: Romelu Lukaku 88pts

Some people will claim that Romelu Lukaku has stiff competition as Inter’s best striker from Lautaro Martinez but that simply isn’t true. While Martinez is a brilliant striker and will get even better at this moment Lukaku is Inter’s number 1 and there can’t be any doubts about that. Lukaku is currently 23 points ahead of Martinez and has scored 5 goals more and has 19 currently. He has also assisted in a further 8 goals and is simply having his best season as a professional player. Lukaku ranks 2nd in Italy behind Cristiano Ronaldo and overall ranks in at 4th. His value is 10.5m.

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Inter take huge step to the title after Martinez heroics and Milan loss

It was game where Inter were clearly the superior side at the weekend, but it was game against Torino away from home that looked destined to finish 0-0. However in the second half the duel opened up and Inter ran out 2-1 winners to record their 9th win in a row and 20th overall this season.

For this game Conte switched to a 3-5-2 packing out the midfield and happy to advance Achraf Hakimi. The usual two were up front in Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez and they would once again repay their coaches’ faith.

The first half ended goalless but was still an entertaining affair and the home side were really forcing the game and controlling the pace. Indeed Inter the champions elect had zero  with 8 shots on target altogether, 4 from each side. Whilst the game was very exciting it did have a feel about it that this wasn’t going to be Inter’s day. The threat was that it could all become quite tense and a match that Inter are very capable of winning could have ended the wrong way. Torino simply were going for the win.

But in the second half everything changed dramatically and Inter were awarded a penalty. Lukaku stepped up to take it and put Inter in the lead but it was a lead that would be short-lived. Antonio Sanabria equalised for the home team just 8 minutes later and looked to have salvaged something from the game with 20 minutes left given of course that Torino are battling relegation this season.

However there would be a final sting in the tail and joy for Inter when Alexis Sanchez who has found form in the past month set up Lautaro Martinez to score what would be the winning goal of the game.

The good news continued for Antonio Conte’s side as 2nd placed Milan lost 1-0 at home to Napoli and so the gap is now 9 points. The threat is seemingly coming from Juventus who are in 3rd place and have 55 points, but a game extra over Inter, win that and they would be 7 points behind.

Fabio Capello predicts the league winners

Italian legend Fabio Capello has predicted who will win Serie A this season and he has chosen Inter. Capello said: “I have been saying it for weeks that Inter have won the championship. I have been saying this since Milan lost against Spezia and I reconfirm it today.”

All at Inter will be keeping quiet about such talk but Capello has spoken, and he is rarely wrong.

Lukaku v Ronaldo

The top goalscorer in Serie A has come down to 2 players now. The boots are off and it is Cristiano Ronaldo v Romelu Lukaku. Ronaldo has finished as top goalscorer in the Premier League and La Liga and he would love to complete a unique treble. Ronaldo was denied last season by Ciro Immobile but the Juventus forward is in the driving seat this season and at the weekend he scored a hat-trick.

Ronaldo has 23 goals so far and Lukaku is 4 behind on 19. Any one of the two really can finish as the top scorer. If Inter win the Scudetto knowing Ronaldo he would take some heart by finishing as top scorer, but with the way Inter score goals who knows who will finish on top? This is how the bookmakers see it.

Cristiano Ronaldo 1/4

Romelu Lukaku 5/2

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Juve’s summer options to strengthen the first XI

Everyone by now has heard that Juventus has an incomplete and incompetent midfield. The full-backs are not exactly top tier either.

Since Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and then Paul Pogba left while Claudio Marchisio suffered due to injury, the Bianconeri have struggled to rebuild their midfield. Perhaps only Miralem Pjanic- the Bosnian signing who joined from Roma- could be considered as a quality and suitable signing for Juve’s midfield since the departure of Pirlo, Vidal and Pogba.

Pjanic has since moved to Barcelona while the club bet heavily on two free signings Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey, both of whom have done little to justify the massive salary they still earn to this day.

However, the midfield is not the only concern for a club with big objectives and a grand vision. The full-backs have struggled to deliver with the situation becoming worse as Danilo looked unimpressive playing as a full-back under Maurizio Sarri. Danilo has steadied the ship this season under Andrea Pirlo but not as a right-back or left-back while Juan Cuadrado has been filling-in as a right-back.

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Below are some options to strengthen the squad including offloading some of the undesired players and fixing the problem in midfield and other positions. 

1) Target Lyon’s Aouar as well as Memphis Depay. Depay did not do well while with Manchester United, yet he has done well with Lyon and with the Dutch national team. He recently turned 27 and, more importantly, he can join on a free transfer. He is almost certainly going to demand a considerable salary but that can be addressed if certain players are sold.

As for Aouar, some of the options may include sending the likes of De Sciglio and Douglas Costa as well as a reasonable fee to secure his signing. Aouar has done well for Lyon and has been for the most part impressive in Europe whenever he played. Aouar turns 23 in June yet he already has experience playing in the Champions League as well as having four seasons of regular football with the French club.

2) Sign Manuel Locatelli in the summer. Locatelli will not be an inexpensive signing because his stock continues to rise. He is only 23-years-old. Signing him as well as Aouar may prove to be the needed boost to revamp Juve’s faltering midfield. He is featuring regularly for Italy now earning all of his six caps in 2020.

3) Free signings in summer of 2021. There is a long list of players available on a free transfer this summer, yet clearly the club cannot just jump to sign as many of them because we have seen what has transpired with Ramsey and even Rabiot.

On paper Sergio Aguero may sound like a bad idea because he is turning 33 and has had injury and fitness problems last season as well as for the majority of this campaign. Could he turn a corner and perhaps provide 18 to 24 months of quality football and goals? It is possible but he should not be a priority.

Another risky name is that of Sergio Ramos- the Real Madrid veteran- who has won every trophy at club level and almost all there is to win with the national team. Sadly it should have been Giorgio Chiellini providing the in-game advice and helping Matthijs de Ligt continue to rise as a Colossus in defense. Unfortunately Chiellini spends more time rehabilitating than playing so the door could be open for a Ramos-Ronaldo (CR7) reunion in Turin. Ramos is not a priority unless the club is desperate to win the Champions League next season because the Spaniard can add experience, leadership and (frankly) deception too.

Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum is an interesting option who does not get enough attention but he is also available in the summer. Could he be on his way to Turin just as Emre Can before him? If it happens, fans will be hoping he will have a much greater impact than Can. It is uncertain whether management will consider him but who could have predicted Juve will sign Can before it officially happened?

Finally, two other names spring to mind and both can be useful for the short-term and beyond. The first is Bayern Munich’s David Alaba who can be quite useful as a left-back or can serve as a centre-back. Alaba would bring plenty of experience and has the winning mentality but can Juve afford his salary demands?

The other name is none other than Milan’s young goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. He just turned 22 yet he already has over 200 league appearances and over 20 (Azzurri) caps. That could be a sensational signing as it may also unsettle a future contender in Milan. It would send a strong signal to Juve’s challengers that the club is ready and willing to delve deep in the transfer market to remain at the top.

This summer transfer campaign may turn out to be the club’s most important one in years because the future of Cristiano Ronaldo is up for discussion as well. Will CR7 extend his contract for a further year or two? If so, at what salary range? That could also prove detrimental financially to the club’s wage structure. Keep in mind CR7 is a big reason why Juve’s popularity has skyrocketed worldwide and one of the key reasons we see people wearing the Juve kit- often with the number 7 on the back.

The ball is in the management’s court and they cannot waste this summer because this would set the club years behind if the wrong decisions are made.

How to fix Juve’s problems

A winning cycle must come to an end. Even a highly successful management team makes mistakes. Modern football puts emphasis on having at least a couple of elite midfielders and having quality fullbacks to achieve success on the big stage. All three statements above are accurate.

The same statements above are also applicable to Juventus in one way or another, yet our focus today is not on the statements above but rather on what can be done to halt this decline by Juve.

Before discussing some of the ways to address Juve’s problems, have a look at a sample of the fine products and designs by https://twitter.com/Striped_Hearts.

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What can be done (realistically & in general) to fix Juve’s problems:

1. Offload the players who are injury prone: 

For a club of Juve’s stature, the medical staff is either poor or management has turned a blind eye on the medical history of a number of players. Aaron Ramsey, Mattia De Sciglio and Douglas Costa are injury prone players and have often had fitness problems. They must be moved whether via simple sale or as part of a deal to get a better player.

France’s Lyon could be a club interested in one or more of the players above, and Juve have shown interest in signing Lyon’s Houssem Aouar. Aouar fits the criteria the Bianconeri are desperately looking for: he is still only 22 years old, he has experience in the Champions League and he has shown potential whenever he played in Europe.

For those claiming he has little experience, Houssem has already played as a regular for Lyon for almost four seasons now. Still, on his own Aouar would not be enough to rejuvenate the squad.

2. Sell the players who are underperforming:

That is a tricky one because Juve have several players who are either not performing well or have been far too inconsistent to be trusted with playing against the bigger sides in Serie A or to compete in a match in the Champions League. This list includes the likes of Rodrigo Bentancur, Adrien Rabiot, Alex Sandro, Leonardo Bonucci and so forth. Bonucci will likely remain with the club and Giorgio Chiellini is not included in this list because he will likely retire this summer or the next one as a Juve player.

3. Begin again the search for Bargain deals:

Juve’s current successful cycle was based on a solid foundation with smart financial moves and bargain signings- whether on a free transfer or for a relatively low fee. Juve went away from that approach from the moment they signed Gonzalo Higuain in their desperate quest to establish themselves as a force in Europe. Higuain could not deliver the Champions League but that was always going to be a difficult task when the club was losing quality players almost every summer and the midfield issues were often given less attention than required.

The club’s best midfield signing in the last four to five years- Miralem Pjanic- is no longer with the club yet even the Bosnian midfielder struggled during his last season with the club before being traded for Barcelona’s Arthur. Otherwise most off the signings range from the poor to the mediocre at best when assessing their quality and influence- Hernanes, Stefano Sturaro, Mario Lemina and Roberto Pereyra just to name a few.

4. Reality must prevail & a thorough plan must be applied

It is very easy to sit down and pretend the likes of Ramsey and Douglas Costa can demand a decent fee because it is well established that both players have had a number of fitness problems and they are already over 30-years-old.

What management must do is to sit down and carefully assess the profile of every squad member- the benefits of keeping such a player as opposed to selling him or loaning him out. Under the current economic climate, greatly affected by Covid-19, this will make matters even more difficult for the club.

Juve must strengthen the midfield with two quality signings- players who can retain possession but also pass forward and create as opposed to just passing sideways and backwards. In addition, Juve must sign on elite full-back. Danilo as a full-back was disappointing last season yet this campaign- under Andrea Pirlo- he has been consistent. The issue is Danilo is not playing as a full-back hence that could partially explain why he has become more consistent.

Juan Cuadrado has been deployed as a right-back but he turns 33 before the end of this season. The fact Cuadrado has been the club’s best full-back is a testimony to how mediocre Juve’s full-backs are. De Sciglio is on loan at Lyon, Danilo has been used more centrally and Alex Sandro has been in and out of the squad due to injury but he does seem like a player who is worn-out. Gianluca Frabotta is just 21-years-old and has the desire to improve but he is still far from a consistent or proven entity.

If this happens to be Fantasy Serie A football then one can surely offload Alex Sandro, Bonucci, Rabiot, Ramsey, Bentancur, Rugani, Douglas Costa and De Sciglio but reality says otherwise. It will not be easy to sell some of the names mentioned above.

Of course many Juve fans would also like to see Federico Bernardeschi gone; however, what the fans desire is not always something easy to implement. He is the perfect example of a player who has lost his way and seems to be playing without any confidence. The last match worthy of note for Bernardeschi happens to be the famous 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid when CR7 registered his emphatic hat-trick after being taunted in Madrid.

This summer will be a decisive one and most certainly some of the names mentioned above must be shown the exit door.

The curious case of Paulo Dybala

When Andrea Pirlo took over this offseason, many expected the Italian tactician’s arrival would breathe new life into Paulo Dybala. The Argentine international was in dire need of a shakeup after an indifferent season under Maurizio Sarri. Dybala was always an awkward fit in his rigid system and struggled to make an impact, whether he was deployed as a false nine or from the right-wing.

Dybala has not fared much better this season, despite yet another managerial change. As contract talks continue to stall, and La Joya’s woes drag on, it begs the question: What should Juventus do with Dybala?

La Joya has featured sparingly this year and has been regularly sidelined with recurring injuries. When he has played, Dybala has disappointed netting just three goals in 16 appearances. The former Palermo man has since been usurped in the lineup by summer arrival Alvaro Morata, as he represents a better fit in attack alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. Dybala’s fitness, or lack thereof, is another concern.

Dybala has seen his season ravaged by injuries, robbing him of the consistency he needs to make an impact. The 27-year-old has missed Juve’s last 14 games in all competitions, highlighting his inability to stay fit. According to reports, Dybala has asked for a significant pay raise that would see him earn in the top 15 footballers worldwide. When considering his past few seasons and his consistent injury problems, Juve would be foolish to agree.

Juventus’ top brass has rightfully been reluctant to meet Dybala’s demands, with both parties entrenched in a stalemate going into what could be a defining summer. Let’s be clear – Dybala’s talent is not in question. When in form, few players offer Juventus the same creativity La Joya could. His assist against Milan typified his brilliance, teeing up Federico Chiesa with an inch-perfect backheel assist.

The issue is, however, is that those moments are too few and far between. If Dybala is unwilling to lower his demands and put pen to paper on a modest contract, Juve would be wise to start considering alternatives. Recently, it’s been reported that the Italian champions will invest heavily this summer to bolster their midfield. Names like Paul Pogba, Houssem Aouar, Rodrigo De Paul, and Manuel Locatelli have been thrown around, but the reality is, without a major departure, any of their signings remains unlikely.

Juventus’s stuttering midfield has long been the side’s Achilles heel, culminating in early Champions League exits. As their grip on Italian football loosens, the Bianconeri can no longer afford to ignore its midfield. When will Paratici and co. accept that Rodrigo Bentancur and Adrien Rabiot are simply not the answers?

You might be asking, why mention Juve’s midfield in an article about Dybala? Well, if Juve is unable to agree to terms with La Joya, they would be smart to use the funds they’re saving on two midfield stars. Whether it’s Pogba and Aouar or Locatelli and De Paul, any combination of these four works.

In an ideal situation, Juve would be able to keep Dybala and add these reinforcements. But in a post-pandemic world where funds are tight, you have to play the hand you’re dealt. After witnessing two seasons of this version of Juve, I think it’s pretty clear it’s not working. Let’s not mince words – This is the worst Juve in 10 years. Beyond Ronaldo, De Ligt, and a few others – make no mistake about it – there are no untouchable players in Turin.

As yet another disappointing Round of 16 exit looms large, Juve must reconsider its roster, get creative, and take to the transfer window diligently once more. The deal for Weston McKennie is a perfect example to follow. The club’s books might be in the red, but there is no reason why Juve can’t improve its roster with crafty solutions.

In the past, Juventus’ sporting directors, whether it was Giuseppe Marotta or Paratici, have often said it’s nearly impossible to improve the team. Nowadays, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Juventus has some big decisions to make this summer – starting with the Paulo Dybala dossier.

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Roma lose touch with Milan and let Juventus into 3rd place

The clash of this past weekend in Serie A was Roma against Juventus, it was also 3rd vs 4th and Roma came off as second best. Had Roma won the favour for both Milan teams at the top would have been immeasurable. Instead champions Juventus found a way to win and Roma fell 9 points behind league leaders Milan.

Juventus won 2-0 through an early Cristiano Ronaldo goal (that was his 16th of the season in the league) and then later on in the second half there was an unfortunate own goal by Ibanez which wrapped up the game for the old lady.

Alvaro Morata set up Ronaldo for the games first goal as he passed the ball to Ronaldo who was on the edge of the box and with a trademark shot Ronaldo had scored yet again. It is very clear in everyone’s minds that the Portuguese star wants to be top scorer this season so he can have claimed that feat in England, Spain and now Italy, and what a record that would be.

As for Roma, Paulo Fonseca’s team had plenty of possession in the first half but didn’t do anything with the ball in the final third and Juventus defended very well. By half time it didn’t feel like a surprise to see that Roma had not registered any shots on target, Juve ended the half with 3 shots.

In the second half it was quite a dire affair mostly because of the excellent Giorgio Chiellini who was like a rock in the Juventus defence and even if Roma did start to create some chances they never looked like coming back.

The usual match winners for Roma Borja Mayoral and Henrikh Mkhitaryan had bad games but at the same time that only happened because they were marked out of it. Juventus showed their superiority in every way and this was most probably the weekend that confirmed that Roma will not be winning this league this season.

Paulo Fonseca had this to say after the game, “We did well for most of the game and mustn’t forget we were up against Juve. They defended well the numbers are numbers, but the team that scored the goals ended up winning. If you look at the statistics, we had more shots, more corners, more possession, more passing, but Juventus scored the goals.”

Roma are now in 4th place and have 40 points and that was the Giallorossi’s 5th loss of the season, they are 9 points behind league leaders Milan. Roma will play Udinese at home this Sunday.

Robin Olsen set to leave Roma?

Robin Olsen is hoping to leave Roma and says he is even crossing his fingers about a move away to Premier League team Everton. This has followed his impressive performances with the Merseyside club and he looks to have ousted Jordan Pickford for the time being. Olsen is having a great time with Everton and of course getting game time. At Roma that doesn’t look like a possibility and the player is hoping for a full transfer at the end of the season.

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Juventus knock Inter out of the Coppa Italia as Conte clashes with Juve president

Inter are out of the Coppa Italia after their 2nd leg semi-final clash ended 0-0 against Juventus. The first leg was won by Juventus 2-1 and so Juventus have made the final.

After the final whistle though it appeared that Inter coach Antonio Conte had raised his middle finger to Juventus officials, some have pointed out that it was directed at the Juventus president. However there have been claims that Andrea Agnelli swore at Conte and tensions boiled over.

The game itself had its moments but as the time ran down and Inter who needed to attack more got few chances the writing looked on the wall that they wouldn’t be able to conjure up a great comeback. The game as a whole felt level and even though Inter had created 18 goal chances only 4 of those were on target.

In the early exchanges as expected Inter attacked and Lautaro Martinez felt he should have had a penalty but it was waved away. Soon after Romelu Lukaku came close with a thundering header which wasn’t too far off of its target. With nine minutes of the game to go Achraf Hakimi who has been very impressive in attack even if he is a defender came close to scoring with a superb shot and had that gone in it would certainly have changed the complexion of the game and we would have been in for quite an exciting last 10 minutes or so.

Inter coach Conte had this to say after the game, “ We paid for the first leg, for some gifts we gave them. We tried to score until the end, because with one goal, they would have had more difficulty. I’m sorry because these are matches that are played in 180 minutes. Today we tried in every way with desire and determination. You make mistakes you have to learn from mistakes and then start over and try again.”

While the disappointment of going out of the cup at the semi-final stage has dampened spirits throughout the Inter squad they will now have to refocus for their next league game at the weekend and it won’t be easy as it is against Lazio.

As for the league the title is still on and Inter are in 2nd place on 47 points and just 2 points behind Milan who keep winning. Last weekend Inter recorded their 14th win of the season from 21 games played as they beat Fiorentina 2-0 away from home.

Nicolo Barella opened the scoring for the visitors after an Alexis Sanchez pass and his curling shot from the edge of the area was a stunner. That was Barella’s third goal of the season.

Early in the second half Ivan Perisic made it 2 after Hakimi broke free down the right wing and squared it to Perisic who was unmarked and it was an easy slot in. Lukaku missed a few good chances but this was a game that was never in doubt and Fiorentina were quite toothless.

Inter’s will play Lazio next on Sunday evening at San Siro while Milan are away to Spezia a day earlier.

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Cristiano Ronaldo double hurts Inter in Coppa Italia as league chase remains on

Inter were the odds on favourites to beat Benevento this past weekend and they made no mistakes in winning the game 4-0 at San Siro.

Lautaro Martinez was among the scorers and Romelu Lukaku grabbed a brace in an easy win. The opening goal of the game came from an own goal though as Ivan Perisic’s free kick in swinging cross was met by Benevento’s Riccardo Improta who prodded home quite superbly to give Inter the lead. It was unfortunate but the early goal set the game up for Inter.

Inter played with a high intensity in the first half but some how managed just 1 shot on target the whole half as Benevento were happy to defend and created no chances themselves. Indeed it would be a game where the away side would not have a shot on target. The first half ended 1-0 to the home side.

Inter came out for the 2nd half even more fired up and it was little surprise that they doubled their lead in the 57th minute through Martinez who had been lively the whole game and saw an earlier effort ruled out for offside. This time his shot was precise and placed and at 2-0 the game was effectively over before the hour mark.

Ten minutes later a terrible mix up in defence for Benevento saw the ball fall for Lukaku who made no mistakes in scoring, it was such an easy goal that the Belgian didn’t even feel the need to celebrate. And soon after it was 4-0 and again it was Lukaku latching onto a ball in the area and scoring a very similar goal to his first. Lukaku now has 14 goals in the league and is only one behind Cristiano Ronaldo.

Christian Stellini in charge of Inter

Following Inter coach Antonio Conte’s sending off in the Udinese match which ended in a 0-0 draw assistant coach Christian Stellini was in the dug out and on press duties for this game and he will also be in charge when Inter face Fiorentina away from home in their next game.

Eriksen and Sanchez stay at Inter

A U-turn has been made by Inter and they have decided to keep both Christian Eriksen and Alexis Sanchez at the club for now. Eriksen was said to not fit into Conte’s plans but since December Conte has found a role for Eriksen and the player has responded and is in good form. As for Sanchez he seemed he was off to Roma in a swap deal for Edin Dzeko but at the eleventh hour that was called off. Indeed Sanchez played in the win over Benevento and even assisted in a goal.

Ronaldo scores a brace to give advantage to Juventus in the Coppa Italia

Inter are in trouble after losing the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final against Juventus at home. Inter took the lead in the game but eventually lost 2-1 thanks to two goals from that man Cristiano Ronaldo.

Lautaro Martinez who is in form opened the scoring when he got in front of his marker but Ronaldo converted a penalty and scored the winner when he pounced on a defensive mistake.

It was a game full of intensity and a special atmosphere even if the fans were not allowed to attend the game. There were plenty of chances for both sides, each having 5 shots on target in an absorbing game of football. It was no surprise that in the end 9 yellow cards were shown. It is advantage Juventus going into the 2nd leg.

Inter were missing Lukaku because he had gained too many yellow cards in the competition and was suspended for the game. Afterwards coach Conte said: “Juventus made the most of two naïve errors to score their goals. We need to be more clinical and ruthless, as we created so much and you have to finish those chances against a side like Juventus. The performance was excellent, it was just the result that was negative. We had Juve on the ropes, it’s really disappointing, because we deserved much, much, more than the final result.”

The 2nd leg match will take place on February 9th.

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Are Footballers Paid Too Much?

Football has found itself once again at the center of a media storm this week as critics have been quick to lambast players for their perceived failure to adhere to social distancing on the pitch.

The same criticism it must be said, which was not levelled at professional rugby players as they crouched, touched and engaged in the Autumn Nations Cup.

The criticism which is so often levelled at football feels increasingly as though it comes from a place of classism, particularly in the United Kingdom. These young working-class footballers who have devoted their entire young life to their profession and are seemingly begrudged the financial rewards that their endeavors entitle them to.

In the following sections we will debunk the many myths surrounding a footballer’s wages and attempt to conclusively answer whether they are paid too much or not.

The Top 1%

When someone wants to bemoan the amount of money that footballers make, they invariably pluck an example from the top 1%. No-one will start that argument by highlighting Fleetwood Town winger Wes Burns who earns £72,000 a year before tax.

No, it’s far easier to point to someone like Lionel Messi, who earned £26 million from his basic salary last year. On the face of it, the wages earned by the top 1% in football by stars such as Messi look preposterous.

However, when you factor in the money that Lionel Messi has generated for Barcelona over the years, his salary doesn’t look anywhere near as preposterous. Between 2018 and 2019 Barcelona generated almost $1 billion in revenues.

The majority of that (84%) came from broadcasting rights and commercial deals which were undoubtedly as lucrative as they were because of Lionel Messi. Had the famous number 10 shirt been worn by Wes Burns, Barcelona’s revenues would have been nowhere as high.

It could be argued in fact, that the top 1% of footballers do not earn enough considering the value that they bring to their clubs. Players and players alone fuel the influx of cash into the sport that comes from football betting, broadcast rights and commercial deals.

There are People Struggling

In the Spring of 2020 Health Minister Matt Hancock stuck the boot into footballers when he said, “I think the first thing that Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution, take a pay cut and play their part.”

At the heart of Hancock’s argument was the belief that people in this country were struggling financially, and as such footballers should recognize that and donate a portion of their salaries to the NHS. What Hancock was effectively outlining was a fair taxation system, something which is already in place.

Every person in the UK who earns over £50,001 a year must pay a minimum of 40% tax on earnings over that threshold, which includes the majority of Premier League footballers. As a result of this tax limit, Premier League footballers paid over £1.3 billion in tax last year.

And that is considerably more than Somerset Capital Management – a fund management company partly owned by Jacob Rees-Mogg – paid last year despite holding over $7 billion in assets. It is also a lot more than billionaire Tory Peer Lord Ashcroft has ever paid in tax.

Double standards and self-interest aside, it is clear to see that the argument that footballers should be doing more people who are struggling is facile. That is the job of the government, not individuals.

The fact that Premier League players bandied together under the #PlayersInitiative last year to donate £200 million to the NHS should be seen as a shocking indictment of the government. If the health service was funded properly in the first place, it would not have to rely on the generosity of sportsmen.

Football isn’t a Job for Life

When we think of footballers and their wages, we usually cast our minds to the top players in the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A or the Bundesliga. In reality, life for the average footballer is usually spent in the lower divisions.

Down there the wages do not even come close to those earned by Messi or Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. As alluded to earlier in the article, the average League One footballer like Wes Burns earns between £50,000 and £100,000 a year.

Those earnings are limited too, with most footballers earning salaries like that in the middle of their careers. When they are starting out in the game their wages are markedly lower, and likewise when they are nearing the end of their careers, their wages drop off too.

This means that the average footballer has roughly 5-7 years of top earning potential, for a career that has required far more work and dedication than similarly paid career paths.

For example, to become a doctor you have to dedicate 7 years of study and hard work to be earning as much as a League One footballer. From this point on, earning potential remains pretty stable for 30 or 40 years.

Whereas footballers, who have dedicated their lives to the game from as early an age as 6 or 7, only have half a dozen years of high earning potential. After this, when they retire, they are left with no transferrable skills and as a result, very limited career paths.

To say that the wages of average footballers are inflated is to do a disservice to the footballers who have put in the effort to get to where they are.

In Summary

Footballers are in general paid well for the work they do, but their salary is often commensurate to their skill and market value. At the top of the scale, huge commercial entities like Messi and Cristiano- just think of the CR7 brand- bring in more in terms of revenues than they take out in salaries.

Lower down the scale, footballers are rewarded for their life commitment to the game with good salaries that correlate to their relatively short careers.

Finally, the most striking point about footballers’ wages is that the game is awash with money. This is because people all over the world adore football and will pay to watch their favorite team or players in action. Football is the main sport in most of the countries around the world with a few exceptions such as the United States…

If footballers – who are the main reason for spectators – were to take lower salaries, which ‘deserving’ person or persons would reap the financial rewards of the game? Would it be the owners or the CEO? The chairman perhaps, or the top director?

Inter make a statement by beating Juventus to pile pressure on Milan

Matchday 18 felt like the moment that this seasons Serie A title race turned into a two horse one and there is even more likelihood that a team from Milan will be crowned the winners.

Milan beat Cagliari but all of the plaudits were saved for Inter who beat Juventus in a huge match at San Siro. It felt like a turning point because one could not fathom the problems that would have been borne out of a Juventus victory for Inter. Firstly they would now be six points behind Milan have dropped to 4th and Juventus would be 2nd on 36 points.

But that wasn’t the case and Inter stepped up when they needed too. It was an interesting game though given that neither Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez featured in the goals or even the assists.

The game got off to an incredible start when Cristiano Ronaldo thought he had opened the scoring in the 11th minute but his goal was ruled out for offside. And then 60 seconds later Inter took the lead. Nicolo Barella who has been in good form lately crossed the ball and Arturo Vidal who has taken some bad press recently found some space to head in the cross past Gianluigi Buffon the veteran goalkeeper to put Inter in the lead.

It was a shell shock moment for Juventus given that they thought they had taken the lead only to now be trailing in the game.

Juventus looked for the equaliser and played some intelligent football in the first half and most of the possession. But Inter were happy to sap up some pressure and had 10 goal attempts in the 1st half alone with half of those shots on target.

Much like the first half the second period started with incident and Inter were celebrating being 2-0 up within seven minutes of the restart. This time Barella went from provider to goal scorer his 2nd of the season but most important. Barella’s brilliant shot flew into the net after a cross by Alessandro Bastoni his 2nd assist of the season and Inter were in party mode.

The second half soon petered out and there were only 3 shots on targets between the two sides with Inter having just one, but that was the goal.

Inter coach Antonio Conte was obviously very happy with the win, he said: “We prepared well and it’s satisfying to see that we were right about the things we thought could hurt Juventus. The lads followed the plan perfectly and I am very happy for them, because these are games that must give you self-belief, let you understand you are on the right path. We already saw fruits of this process last season, we are continuing to see them this term. Juventus were an important reference point, a side that dominated Serie A for nine years, having done exceptional work both on the field and as a club.”

A whole host of players for Inter earned 7 points in the fantasy rankings including Nicolo Barella who was named official man of the match. Barella did lose some points as he was booked late on.

Inter’s next game will be on January 22nd when they take on Udinese away from home. Udinese are in 15th place and have lost 9 games this season and that includes losing their last 2 at home. It will be another interesting game for Inter who will be expected to win. If Milan lose at home to Atalanta then Inter will go top of the league.

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