Inter's Andrea Ranocchia: A Young Defender with a Big Future

Colin O'Brien@@ColliOBrienContributor IFebruary 11, 2013

MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 10:  Andrea Ranocchia #23 of FC Inter Milan celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale Milano and AC Chievo Verona at San Siro Stadium on February 10, 2013 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

It was a perfectly weighted corner from Antonio Cassano into what can best be described as "too much" space in the Chievo box. With a predatory instinct, Andrea Ranocchia drifted back to fill it, rising above the oncoming Francesco Acerbi to head home an incredible effort from the edge of the area. 

The goal put Inter back ahead, following Cassano's first and the Chievo captain Luca Rigoni's equaliser.

The young defender wheeled away in celebration, but also in relief. Rigoni's score should have been dealt with better, and it was only fate that had kept the hapless Acerbi from heading home when he was clear on goal before that.

In reasserting their control on the game, Inter and the young Ranocchia showed strength and resolve—but it shouldn't be forgotten that they put themselves in that position in the first place.

Defensive frailty has dogged Andrea Stramaccioni's Inter, just as questions about his true potential have stuck to Ranocchia since he made his Serie A debut back in 2009 for Bari. He'd been part of the Galletti squad who'd won promotion and earned admirers during 2008-09. Expectations were raised. 

During the 2009-10 season, he played beside a young Leonardo Bonucci, now of Juventus. Again, his performances were promising.

But there was another common thread during those two seasons for the young defender from Assisi—injuries and dips in form. In two years at Bari, he played less than Bonucci did in one. 

It's strange to see how different the pair's careers have been. 

Bonucci has cemented his place for both club and country, an unmovable feature of both Antonio Conte's and Cesare Prandelli's plans. 

Ranocchia, meanwhile, has faced more of a struggle. 

In each season following his departure from Bari, he played less and conceded more. There were the occasional highs—Coppa Italia success and some appearances in the Champions League—but the signs weren't good. 

Gian Piero Gasperini and then Claudio Ranieri left him on the bench when he wasn't injured, and the few opportunities he got were marred with blunders and poor performances. 

The arrival of Stramaccioni saw more chances, but many wondered if it was already too late for the defender. Then, Prandelli chose not to take him to Euro 2012.

There was no shame in being behind the likes of Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and his old pal Bonucci, but Angelo Ogbonna? The Torino defender is the same age as Ranocchia. He'd been a regular starter for Torino, but in Serie B.

Certainly, Ogbonna is one of Italian football's most highly rated young defenders, but Ranocchia—said his supporters—offered more in the way of big game experience from his time at Inter. And yet, he stayed at home. 

Almost before it had reached its zenith, his star appeared to be on the wane. 

Fast forward to this season. Thankfully for the gifted Italian, his career seems to have turned a corner. This is the first time since his teenage years in Serie C1 when he's featured in more than 20 league games, and there's still plenty left to play. 

He's become an integral part of Strama's Inter, and even if it isn't the most defensively secure line-up in Nerazzurri history, it shows promise. At 24, he can enjoy another decade at the highest level, assuming he stays injury free, and Hugo Campagnaro's rumoured arrival from  Napoli  will worry other members of the Inter squad more than it will Ranocchia. Expect him to be at the heart of Strama's side next season, challenging for honours at home and abroad. 

Likewise, for Prandelli's national team, Ranocchia is coming of age at a time of great promise. The Azzurri have a wealth of youthful talent right now, but the Inter man is the perfect blend of youth and experience on which to build a long-term project. 

He missed South Africa and Poland-Ukraine. Don't bet on him missing Brazil. 




    Madrid's Modric Injured, Doubtful for PSG 2nd Leg

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Madrid's Modric Injured, Doubtful for PSG 2nd Leg

    Managing Madrid
    via Managing Madrid

    Inter Make Contract Offer to Lazio’s de Vrij Worth €22.5M

    Inter Milan logo
    Inter Milan

    Inter Make Contract Offer to Lazio’s de Vrij Worth €22.5M

    via Sempreinter

    Giroud: Wenger Will Be 'Pissed Off' If I Don't Go to World Cup

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Giroud: Wenger Will Be 'Pissed Off' If I Don't Go to World Cup

    James Dutton For Mailonline
    via Mail Online

    Villarreal Defender Semedo Arrested for Armed Assault

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Villarreal Defender Semedo Arrested for Armed Assault

    MARCA in English
    via MARCA in English