For a day this weekend, Inter took over fourth place. This was not supposed to happen. This was the year that Massimo Moratti finally sold the club. This was supposed to be the worst team in many years.
They are unbeaten in six games. The Nerazzurri continue to move forward.
Worst Inter team since... 1993?— Raphael Honigstein (@honigstein) February 2, 2014
Last week, Inter signed Rodgrio Palacio to a contract extension through 2016. It was a modest adjustment, but it was also a reward. The striker is 32, and he has enjoyed the best season of his career. He has 13 goals in Serie A, and he’s tied for second in Inter's assists rankings with five per Whoscored.
But even he needs help. Mauro Icardi is young and he is a finisher, but he’s not a team player, and he rarely tracks back.
So next year is crucial to the growth of this team, and Palacio, at his age, is not the future. Erick Thohir, the club’s new president, could see fit to buy an eventual replacement or at least someone to complement Palacio in the summer. The decision is tough, just as it is to let go of Diego Milito and Esteban Cambiasso.
In comes Javier Hernandez, fourth in line at Manchester United, and Alvaro Morata, the 21-year-old from Real Madrid. Both players offer the traditional qualities of a striker, scoring the majority of their goals inside the box.
Thohir announced on the club's website that "we haven't discussed anything" with Hernandez—nor Fernando Torres for that matter. Morata wouldn't necessarily be cheaper than the Mexican—La Gazzetta dello Sport report that he’s worth anywhere between €12 million and €15 million—but he is a more versatile player. He was prolific with Spain’s youth teams, scoring six goals in the 2011 UEFA European Under-19 Championship and later topping the chart with four goals in the Under-21 edition.
Morata spent a couple of years doing his apprenticeship at La Fabrica, Real Madrid’s youth academy, which produced the likes of Cambiasso, Iker Casillas and Raul. Jose Mourinho brought Morata on a summer tour and gave him a few matches for experience. Morata even got to play in El Clasico.
This season he has only played two full matches—both against Olimpic in the Copa del Rey in December—but the skills are there. Morata is especially good with the ball on his feet, he is much more mobile than Hernandez, and can make his own plays.
He is 6’1’’ and he is untested but he is exactly the player Icardi is not; often running into space and maneuvering through lanes that he sees. In this case, Morata would replace Icardi as the starter and shoulder some of the burden that Palacio carries.
No longer would Palacio have to manufacture his own chances or pull off a ridiculous move—see the goal he scored in the Derby della Madonnina—to win games for Inter. Morata is a creative influence, a strong header of the ball and a threat in several areas of the field.
Much like Morata, Hernandez is not getting game time. Chicharito has scored 57 goals for Manchester United since joining them in August 2010. He is deadly in the box, but it is hard to trace what he does anywhere else.
Chicharito is alive and well inside the six, but we're not sure if he exists outside it. Ninja kick finish to make it 1-0 Man Utd.— KICKTV (@KICKTV) September 25, 2013
He fights for every loose ball. Once, he stepped on the field as a half-time substitute and later won the game for United; scoring on his feet, forcing an own goal, and finally swooping to get his head on the ball for the late winner in a 3-2 victory over Aston Villa in November 2012.
There is also the matter of Mexico, for whom Hernandez has scored 35 goals in 57 matches. He is very much the hope of El Tri, while Morata still stands in line behind Alvaro Negredo, Diego Costa and David Villa to represent Spain at the senior level.
Where Hernandez has the experience, Morata has a wider set of skills. And at Inter, Morata could do a lot of damage with Palacio at his side and Ricky Alvarez behind or across from him. Alvarez runs and crosses and tackles and contributes all over the pitch, and is smart and economic with the ball.
If Thohir wants Inter to play like a team, he needs nimble and resourceful players. Jonathan is already a force down the flank, and Fredy Guarin is rugged in midfield.
Add Morata and maybe Inter could go for something higher than fourth place.