Italian Serie A: 5 Players Who Are Integral to Inter Milan's Success

Justin HoppeCorrespondent IIFebruary 27, 2012

Italian Serie A: 5 Players Who Are Integral to Inter Milan's Success

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    Since securing the highly coveted treble and losing manager Jose Mourinho to Real Madrid in the summer of 2010, Inter Milan has looked like a shell of their former selves.

    Under The Special One, the veteran club displayed a seemingly unmatched level of discipline, a steadfast ironclad defense, well-complemented by a tenacious counter-attack; but no more.

    The Nerazzurri are featuring their fourth coach in less than two years and are well on their way to their fifth, as The Tinkerman, Claudio Ranieri, has failed to consistently impress despite engineering an impressive eight-game run not too long ago.

    A series of transfer blunders that has seen the more effective players move on—Samuel Eto’o and Thiago Motta—and useless wage-collecting bodies added to the squad—Diego Forlan and Mauro Zarate—have set the once proud club back substantially.

    In the face of Serie A’s reemergence as the most talented and competitive league in the world, Inter’s chances for success aren't too promising, but the Italian giants do possess talented players to change their fortunes come the 2012-2013 campaign.

Giampaolo Pazzini

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    Diego Milito has put on a show of class performances as of late, but take away his three goals from the penalty spot as well as his outstanding four-goal frozen-pitch performance against Palermo, and you see a 32-year-old veteran who struggles with consistency.

    There have been constant rumblings of Milito’s departure over the last two or three transfer windows, but regardless of whether he leaves or not, the future lies with Giampaolo Pazzini.

    Provided with very little adequate service over the entirety of this campaign, Pazzini has not displayed his typical level of sharpness. A lack of confidence has almost certainly rendered him much less clinical in front of goal.

    The Italian international needs a change of tactics, not scenery, and a strike partner capable of playing foil to the poacher—much in the same way Anthony Cassano did at former club Sampadoria—to get the most of him. 

Yuto Nagatomo

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    Diminutive left-back Yuto Nagatomo is at least five years younger than all three of the defenders who play beside him. Lucio (33), Walter Samuel (33), and even Maicon (30) are no longer the same footballers that played under Jose Mourinho.

    Lucio’s tendency to be overly aggressive in both attack and defense has often seen him defeated in the face of his somewhat declining physical abilities, and Samuel has been a “wall” in the worst sense of the word all too often.

    Despite their downfalls there is little disputing that the duo very much remain an effective tandem at the center of the defense; however, the two have constantly been the subject of injuries.

    Andrea Ranocchia has been downright awful this season, and there has yet to be anything seen of Juan—acquired from Brazil’s Internacional during the winter window—to believe the elder players will be backed be quality depth.

    With on-loan fullback Jonathan (Parma) sure to return come the offseason, Maicon’s long-term future in Milan should be questioned if outside interest for the latter still exists.

    Amid a plethora of aging players, Nagatomo will not only be recognized as one of the few entering his physical prime—usually identified as the years between 26 and 30 years old—but one expected to become a legitimate leader of men.

    The day that Javier Zanetti finally walks into the sunset is nigh, and the Japanese must fill his shoes for the sake of the club.

Fredy Guarin

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    Due to injury, winter transfer Fredy Guarin has yet to even star in Milan, but the potential of his impact is undeniable.

    The Colombian boasts an impressive array of talents as a defensive midfielder with the genuine ability to pose a threat rushing forward. Under former FC Porto Andre Villas-Boas, Guarin was at his very best. But this year, he has been underwhelming due to a variety of setbacks.

    The 25-year-old is poised to fill the void left by Thiago Motta with much greater pace and attacking flair than his predecessor, but time has played heavily against Inter.

    Guarin’s youth and versatile skill set will make him a valuable piece of the Inter puzzle, which is sure to go searching for both new direction and leadership.

Ricardo Alvarez

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    Much like Fredy Guarin, Ricardo Alvarez is yet another young midfielder with the versatility to play a number of positions along the midfield. But unlike his Colombian counterpart, the Argentine is more adept as an attacker.

    Possessing the ability to distribute the ball from distances both long and short, the midfielder can also strike from range but will never be much of a scorer.

    Under Claudio Ranieri, Alvarez has shown the ability to play as a trequartista. But with more befitting options such as Wesley Sneijder and the currently on-loan Philippe Coutinho to choose from, it would be wise to have the 23-year-old star deeper in the midfield.

    It's a position where his size at 6’2”, ability to read the game and overall physical skills could prove to be a perfect complement to the more defensive-oriented and aggressive Guarin for years to come.

Philippe Coutinho

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    Following what has been a difficult season in Serie A for Wesley Sneijder, it appears more likely than ever that this will be his last with the club.

    This is not because club management feels that the attacking midfielder’s powers are on the wane, but given the present difficulties of the club, delaying his sale any longer could potentially lead to a dramatic reduction in Sneijder’s market value. The resulting undersell would result in a greatly missed opportunity to add a number of talented yet less renowned players to the club’s ranks.

    Similar transfer tactics were employed through and following the sales of Samuel Eto’o and, to a lesser extent, Thiago Motta.

    After a summer window riddled with rumors of the Dutchman’s impending departure amid inquiries of numerous admirers—most notably both Manchester clubs—there will be no better time than the upcoming summer window.

    If Sneijder were to leave, the return of Philippe Coutinho from La Liga side RCD Espanyol would become monumental. Despite the presence of Alvarez, it is only Coutinho who is capable of replicating the type of creative flair and playmaking ability that made Sneijder so important to the club.

    Having only shown flashes of his ability up to this point with Inter, the experience he would gain on loan would be pivotal in the development of the 19-year-old Brazilian.

    The best has yet to be seen, and the future starts next year.