No one knows how new owner Erick Thohir (left, with predecessor Massimo Moratti) will handle the transfer window.
The January transfer window will answer a lot of questions for Inter Milan. No one knows whether new president and principal owner Erick Thohir will play aggressively in the market the way predecessor Massimo Moratti did, or if he will play things slowly and patiently.
In a November interview on RAI, as reported by Ben Gladwell of ESPN, Thohir laid down a goal of Champions League glory in 2016—the year that the tournament's final will be played at the San Siro. That statement is a possible indicator that he'll be in the "heavy spender" category.
Whoever comes to the team this year will be his very first signing. Fans could be forgiven for not remembering who Moratti's first signing was, but it was a good one. Fans can only hope Thohir's first signing is as successful as Javier Zanetti.
Who might that first signing be? Let's take a look at five men Thohir should look to acquire this winter.
Nainggolan searches for targets against Napoli.
Cagliari midfielder Radja Nainggolan might be the best signing Thohir could make, for several reasons.
Though Chelsea's pursuit of midfielder Fredy Guarin has hit a speed bump, according to Ben Burrows of the Mirror, most still expect that deal to be done, leaving a hole in Walter Mazzarri's midfield that will be difficult to fill.
Esteban Cambiasso is one of the best midfielders in the club's history, but as painful as it is for Inter fans to admit, he is slowing down. He will soon need to be at least spelled and possibly replaced entirely.
The best player to fill both of those holes is Nainggolan. The rumors have swirled around the Cagliari midfielder for several years now, and it seems he's finally ready to leave for bigger things. Football-Italia reported yesterday that the Isolani have received interest from Inter, AC Milan and Juventus.
Juve might be the favorites to land him considering their constant but respectful pursuit of the player, which has drawn praise from team owner Massimo Cellino, as reported by Sky Sports' Nadia Carminati. The added revenue of the Juventus Stadium—which has allowed the Bianconeri to dominate the transfer market in Italy the last few years—is another tick in their favor.
But it may behoove Thohir to give special attention to the player, for on- and off-field reasons. Though he plays internationally for Belgium, Nainggolan was born in Thohir's native Indonesia. His acquisition could open up some important marketing opportunities in the country for the club.
There is competition here, but Nainggolan may be the best singing available for the club, and if Thohir is going to be a player in the transfer market, he needs to make an aggressive play for the midfielder.
Napoli captain Paolo Cannavaro has found limited time on the field this year.
Legendary Napoli defender Paolo Cannavaro has not started the Rafael Benitez era in the best of ways. He's only appeared in four matches this season and seems to be out of favor. His agent described his rapport with his new manager as "negative" in a Football-Italia report, and the Partenopei captain is now apparently open to move to the clubs of either of two former managers—Edy Reja at Lazio and Walter Mazzarri at Inter.
With The Independent's Charles Reynolds suggesting Andrea Ranocchia could be heading to the Premier League, Cannavaro would be a quality replacement with massive experience in Mazzarri's system and instant chemistry with Hugo Campagnaro.
At 32 years old, Cannavaro would be more of a short-term buy, but he would fill a hole if Ranocchia left or add quality depth with big-game experience for a late-season run at the Champions League.
Erik Lamela has had a rough start at Tottenham.
Erik Lamela made a big-money move to Tottenham Hotspur just this summer, but it seems that Spurs are already ready to cut bait on the Argentine.
Lamela was marginalized by former manager Andre Villas-Boas, and with current manager Tim Sherwood employing a high 4-4-2, he may not be seeing much more playing time.
Lamela has agitated for a trip back to Italy this winter, and Charles Perrin's article in the Express claims that his agent is in talks with the Nerazzurri about a loan deal.
Lamela would be a good fit as an attacking midfielder in Inter's attack. He could play in the hole of Mazzarri's 3-5-1-1 or slide out toward the wing. The latter would be a defensive sacrifice, but his dynamism up the field would make up for it.
This is another situation where Thohir would have to show some financial muscle. According to Perrin, Lamela is also being tracked by Juventus, and the Bianconeri have spare part Mirko Vucinic—a player Tottenham has been tracking to replace Jermaine Defoe—to use in the deal.
If he can make it happen, however, it would send Juve a message that he's willing to stand toe-to-toe with them in the transfer market.
John Guidetti has been waiting to break out at Manchester City ever since he scored 18 goals in 17 games on loan at Feyenoord two seasons ago. Low on City's stacked depth chart at forward, the 21-year-old Swede may finally be looking for a way out.
Italy has been posited as a possible destination by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. Both Inter and Lazio are the prime suspects in the report (in Swedish).
Guidetti would probably have to put up with being a move for the future if he moves to Inter, at least in the short-term.
Rodrigo Palacio has a stranglehold on the starter's job in Mazzarri's 3-5-1-1, but given the Argentine's age and the arrival of the Coppa Italia, it wouldn't be a terrible idea to get him some quality backup to rotate in. With Ishak Belfodil probably on his way out on loan for the rest of the season as well—Simon Jones of the Daily Mail reports he's a target for promotion-hunting QPR in England—it would behoove Inter to have options behind Mauro Icardi and the oft-injured Diego Milito.
Guidetti would then become ideal depth for Inter if they secure a European place for next year, when rotating the squad will be essential.
It might not be starter's minutes, but he'll at least see the field, and Inter will own another promising young forward.
Juan Mata has never been in Jose Mourinho's favor.
Spanish playmaker Juan Mata has never been a favorite of Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho. It's looking more and more likely that he'll be moving away from Stamford Bridge, and the Mirror reported in the last days of 2013 that Mata is on Inter's radar.
Ricky Alvarez is currently Walter Mazzarri's attacking midfielder of choice, but if Inter were to get their hands on Mata, he would instantly become an excellent trading chip for another upgrade.
A Mata deal would likely be a loan with an option to buy, but Eden Hazard and Oscar have solidly taken over the lion's share of Chelsea's minutes in the advanced midfield. If Mata wants to play regularly—and make his case for a trip to Brazil with Vicente del Bosque—a move is a must, and Inter would be an intriguing choice. He would be put into the think of a race for European placement and could just turn the tide against the likes of Torino and Hellas Verona.
Thohir will again face stiff challenges for Mata's signature, but if any signing were to signal to the rest of Serie A—and Europe—that he means business, this would be it.