Inter Milan has been the surprise of the 2012-13 Serie A season. In the Serie A preview that I collaborated on with several other top Serie A writers this past August, Inter was ranked third overall (I ranked them fifth on my own ballot). Most writers thought the same thing: Inter would be a good team, but despite their own protestations to the contrary, no one thought that the club would challenge for the top spot on the table, which was expected to be dominated by Milan, Napoli and Juventus.
But young manager Andrea Stramaccioni has taken the nerazzuri on a fantastic run, culminated by last weekend's ending of Juventus' incredible 49-match unbeaten run in Serie A—a win that brought Inter into second place in the league, only a point behind their Derby d'Italia opponents.
Still, Stramaccioni's work is not done. Juventus figures to improve during the January transfer window, particularly in the striker area, and Inter must respond in kind if they want to chase the Italian champions down and regain the scudetto.
What moves might Stramaccioni and president Massimo Moratti make? Let's look at some of the most recent news regarding Inter's possible activity in the January window.
Wesley Sneijder has been a source of constant rumors for the last two years. In his first season in Milan after his sale from Real Madrid, he led Jose Mourinho's team to the Champions League title and was incredible at the 2010 World Cup that summer, winning the Bronze Boot.
Since, however, he's been the subject of constant transfer rumors. Injuries have kept him off the field for much of the last season-and-a-half, and the systems installed by Mourinho's successors have often de-emphasized Sneijder's role. Friction has reportedly developed between the Dutch maestro and Stramaccioni, who has kept Sneijder on the bench despite the player's protestations that he's fully recovered from a groin injury.
Considering the fact that Inter's current run of form has come largely without Sneijder's influence, it may be time for the nerazzurri to part ways with the midfield maestro.
A year ago, Manchester United was hot on Sneijder's tail but pulled away due to Sneijder's salary demands. Given that fact, it seems questionable that the Red Devils would go in for him in January having shelled out big-time cash for Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie over the summer. Man U are one of the wealthier clubs in the world, but they don't have the seemingly unlimited petrodollars that teams like their archrivals, Manchester City, or Paris Saint Germain have available to them.
If David Silva's injury had been more long-term, the Etihad could have been considered a destination for Sneijder, who would provide the Premier League title holders with some cover for the injury in midfield. Silva, however, is back on the training field and may play against Tottenham this week.
Real Madrid floated re-purchasing Sneijder as an alternative for Luka Modric should their effort for the Croatian fall through this summer, but Modric is now wearing Madrd white, so it's unlikely that they would take interest. They do have some injuries to deal with at current but none long-term enough to consider such a big-money move.
Looking on the situation, three options emerge for Sneijder: Either he stays at Inter, he moves to Old Trafford, or is snapped up by high-spending PSG, who never really care about who they spend their money on.
With 18 months left on his deal, French international Bacary Sagna has been unhappy at Arsenal. He has been critical of Arsenal's habit of selling off important members of the team, like Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas. This criticism resulted in a public reprimand from Arsene Wenger.
It's ironic then that the Frenchman could be the next to leave the Emirates—and Inter is said to be a major player.
To me, it seems like a slightly odd move for Inter. Sagna is a right-back, and Stramaccioni has just turned Inter into the latest team to employ a three-man defensive line. Sagna has never moved into the midfield, and at 5'9" he is physically unsuited to play as one of the three center-backs.
PSG (surprise, surprise) is another team that might be in the mix for Sagna's services, but one way or the other it seems that Arsenal is going to keep Sagna at least until the end of this season. Should he come to Milan, it won't be until the summer.
The Italy international has been out for more than a year now. After tearing his ACL in October of last year, he rushed himself back—both to aid his team in their unexpected relegation battle (a battle Villareal would lose) and to be able to play in Euro 2012. He was on the cusp of returning when he injured the same ligament, which resulted in several operations and a protracted recovery.
With the Yellow Submarine now toiling in the Segunda in Spain, they may want to cash in on Rossi, who was one of the game's biggest up-and-comers before his injuries. The former Man U man has been connected with a move back to Italy for some time now, and Inter looks like a likely landing spot.
Fiorentina and Roma have also been reported to be interested. Juventus was a contender before Rossi's injury, but now the bianconeri are more likely to go after someone like Fernando Llorente rather than wait for Rossi to get healthy. Inter has sufficient front-line depth to allow Rossi to completely heal and are in a position to be far more competitive than other Italian teams.
The 26-year-old defender started his career in black and blue, but he has since moved on to Roma and Chievo, with several loan stops in between.
Chievo sporting director Giovanni Sartori has recently had to deny that talks had begun between the Flying Donkeys and Inter over Andreolli.
A defensive partnership between Andreolli and Andrea Ranocchia, whether as the center of a four-man line or as two-thirds of a three-man line, would be a formidable wall in front of Samir Handanovic. Andreolli is set to become a free agent in June, and the Veronese side would probably be wise to move him for some sort of return in January, as they may soon be unable to afford him.
Inter was competing with European Champions Chelsea for the signature of Brazilian wunderkind midfielder Paulinho, but now it looks like his Brazilian club, Corinthians, will be keeping hold of him for the foreseeable future.
Some think that Corinthians signed the midfielder to an extension solely to extract more money from big-money European clubs, but president Mario Gobbi Filho denies this. Paulinho was seen by some in the Inter organization as a successor to Sneijder in the midfield, but this is not going to be a move that is anywhere close to imminent.